My apologies for taking a couple of days more than I said to post this. Between Easter, church cleanup and helping out a friend, this past weekend was pretty packed. But here it is…
This is where I’m going to get a bit personal. For me, Step 3 was a struggle of trying to decipher what in the world Step 3 required to get past it. I tend to look at things in a linear and compartmentalized fashion. But what I’m really guilty of is over-analyzing every situation. So it comes as no surprise that this not only took a while to get past, but I learned many lessons from the struggle to understand.
Read and study the scriptures daily, pray at least twice a day if not always, attend and be active in church.
Those of us who have been members since childhood will remember this pat answer-to-all-questions saying. But for me, that was way too simple. So much so, I ended up in my Bishops office as well as my Stake President’s office asking the same question; “There has to be more to it than that, is it really that simple?” Both looked straight into my eyes and both said the same thing; “yes, it is that simple.” HOLY COW! But that wasn’t enough. I had to go months more before I believed. I worked in my head all kinds of scenarios, rules, commandments but as far as action, it all boiled down to just this; read, pray, church. And this is why it was such a problem for me; I wanted my faith proven before I acted. I wanted the sure thing before I jumped it. In reality, that’s not how it works.
In all the scriptures, there is one theme that connects all the characters; they had to act on their belief before they were rewarded with the blessing. They had to exercise a certain amount of faith before they received the miracle. And so it was with me.
Once I began to read the scriptures daily, pray morning and night and attend church regularly, I found my resolve to be sober strengthened and my strength to stay sober increased to a point where I was either going to take the next step, or give up. And that was to turn to God and ask him not to help me, but to take from me these desires and compulsions. And you know what, He did. But with one caveat: I need to continue to read/pray/church or, in other words, continue to act on my faith or I would fall back into old habits (of which I did many times).
And that falls right into the other thing I learned, that to turn the care of my life over to God, I but needed to do one thing:
That’s it. No more complicated than that.
In all the 12-step groups I’ve been to, the third step is always a matter of controversy and consternation. There seems to be a reluctance to understand that it is this simple and I attribute this to one thing; the addict’s lack of wanting to relinquish control. It’s scary and disconcerting to give your care to someone you cannot see. But that presents a question, “so me controlling my life, how has that been going thus far?” At the time, not so hot. So I took the plunge and worked towards that goal of giving the care of my life over to God. In reality, it was a multi-year long process. But when I finally understood and went to God with the right request, the result was miraculous.
I can honestly say that so long as I to the simple read/pray/church, I do not have a desire to act on my addictions. Furthermore, even though I don’t have much because I lost a whole lot, I am happy.
I will end this foray into Step 3 with this lesson I learned:
The Atonement is real.
As I worked Step 3, the utter change in my attitude and the huge change in my being just cannot be done alone, here, as a mere mortal human being. There are evil thoughts and ideas that have disappeared, habits that have changes and rebelliousness that are no longer. All this cannot be explained by going to one too many sessions with my shrink but only by the miraculous power of God to take all this away from me. What I’ve seen of others and my own experience holds this to be true to me. And why not? Christ spoke of how easy His burden (commandments) is and how He stands ready to take from us the pains of life:
Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
When I talk about the simplicity of Gods commandments, well, compared to the torturous life of addiction and sin, the life of living God’s commandments is much preferred, if not desired. The following scripture is one that had really touched me during a time of questioning why I was going through what I was going through:
D&C 101:1-9 Verily I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted, and persecuted, and cast out from the land of their inheritance – I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions; Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels.
Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified. Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances. They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble. In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.
Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy.
I found it interesting that The Lord compared the chastisement of the prophet Abraham to what the early pioneers experienced. It leads me to believe that we all, righteous or not, experience the same chastisement or “testing with a lesson” so to speak. Understanding this made all the prophets of the scriptures and today much more accessible and human to me. They most likely did not have to deal with addictions, but what they had to deal with was and is just as perilous to them as it is to me. It’s not only how we deal with them that matters, but to whom we turn to for the strength to not only get through it, but to whom we turn to with the faith of who can lift it from us.
But I hasten to add that my experience has taught me that faith and submitting myself to God means trusting God and accepting his judgment of what we are in need of. I know that I, like so many others, will never have my addictions taken away from me. But I also know that if I continue to do my best to strive to learn and keep the commandments from God, my addiction will not rule over me. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians says it best:
2 Cor 12:7-9 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
It is the same with me, you, and everyone else. That the Adversary will be there to buffet us, but in this, we remember God and Christ and it is with working out weakness that we come to the glory of God.