Step Twelve – “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Morning Prayer for today can be found here. Since tonight is the Eve of the Epiphany, today is the 12th day of Christmas.
Thank you for joining me in these reflections on praying the Daily Office and practicing recovery; I hope you have found them useful.
Having had an awakening
The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O LORD my God. (Jonah 2:5-6)
Step Twelve begins with a recounting of the previous Steps and of our progress to date. It’s a little longer than the previous chapters in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, but I invite you to take a few minutes to read it.
Among other things, you will find that “alcoholics” are mentioned no more than 20 times in 20 short pages. The Twelve Steps are basically human wisdom about living by spiritual principles, though for us the essential starting point was a crisis brought on by our drinking.
It mattered little whether we had sat on the shore of life drinking ourselves into forgetfulness or had plunged in recklessly and willfully beyond our depth and ability. The result was the same—all of us had nearly perished in a sea of alcohol. (123-24)
Today, “we begin to practice all Twelve Steps of the program in our daily lives so that we and those about us may find emotional sobriety” (106).
Carry the message
As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. (Eph. 6:15)
The A.A. meeting that I attend each week opens with the Serenity Prayer and a moment of silence.
Then different people read three key texts: the Preamble, “How It Works” (the chapter from Alcoholics Anonymous that lays out the Twelve Steps), and the Twelve Traditions.
The last reader finishes with a “Responsibility Declaration”:
I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that, I am responsible.
The first part of “Twelve Step work” is to be willing to serve any alcoholic who still suffers. After all, we are people who are in recovery, and we have something that the alcoholic needs, so we must be ready to share that knowledge humbly at any time.
Many of the people I know “in the program” are truly generous with their time and talent in the service of others. My sponsor, for example, attends several meetings a week with the several people he sponsors at any given time. He also brings A.A. literature into the jail and prison system and arranges for newly-released prisoners to find a meeting close to home.
Just so in every church I have served, which is full of people willing and eager to go the extra mile in order to make visitors feel welcome, to reach out into the neighborhood with invitations, to feed the people who come several times a week for a meal, to teach classes, to visit the shut-ins.
The list of ways that we extend our hands to others is nearly endless.
Practice the principles
Now comes the biggest question yet. What about the practice of these principles in all our affairs? Can we love the whole pattern of living as eagerly as we do the small segment of it we discover when we try to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety? Can we bring the same spirit of love and tolerance into our sometimes deranged family lives that we bring to our A.A. group? Can we have the same kind of confidence and faith in these people who have been infected and sometimes crippled by our own illness that we have in our sponsors? Can we actually carry the A.A. spirit into our daily work? (111-12)
In an earlier post, I shared a couple of occasions when I realized that recovery practices — especially admitting fault promptly — were not just about alcoholism but about a new way of living.
Like other membership groups, A.A. and the church alike run the risk of turning inward.
If the church doesn’t connect Sunday with Monday, we go back into our daily lives and act no differently than those around us. If we attend lots of meetings but stay “in the rooms,” we may still be out of control in our daily lives.
Just like the song “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” we might sing that “They’ll know we are recovering by our sobriety.”
Just as the point of the Daily Office is not to check another prayer task off the eternal to-do list, neither does attending meetings alone secure any benefit for us. Both of them are examples of the “maintenance of our spiritual condition” that keeps us on the path of sobriety in our daily lives.
We pray the Daily Office not only to be in relationship with God, but also to equip us to see God at work in the world around us and to see Jesus “hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison” (Matt. 25:31-46).
We attend meetings not only to share the company of those who understand our problems, but also to help us live lives that are “sober and upright” in order to draw into our fellowship those who are still suffering.
A Prayer for Mission
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)