“Made a decision to turn our will and our life over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
Ouch! That’s where the rubber really hit the road for me. “Are you crazy?!” I thought. I was instantly assaulted with scary images of religious zealots doing absolutely insane things just because their leader said so. It’s a step that I had a lot of problems with, for quite a while. It was only my conviction that giving the OA program a try was a good thing that helped me roll my eyes and try my best with this step.
Here are a few things I wrestled with. One is the idea of turning my life over. That was an entirely negative thing for me. Might as well jump out of the window, I thought. Once again, what helped was listening intently to what others said about this topic. I remember distinctly one meeting about 3, 4 months into going to OA. I heard something that encouraged me to share my misgivings about Step 3. I was so relieved that I didn’t just have to rave about how much I loved program, how wonderful the steps were, how I knew I was saved forever! I could actually talk about my problems with the steps. So I did at that meeting, and afterwards someone walked up to me and shared with me how she had had similar problems, and how she had dealt with it. I am still very grateful for that.
So admitting that I was afraid of the implications of Step 3 was what helped me open up to it. (A little like saying “I’m powerless” gave me access to a Higher Power). Gradually, through mulling this step over and over in my mind, I came to the conclusion that there was no reason for me to have ONLY the image of the religious zealot in my mind. There may just be other images, other stories! I remembered a close friend of mine, for whom his grandmother was his saving grace. She was a very busy farmer’s wife who had had a rough life with World War II. “But she always made time to disappear in the outhouse for a quick quiet prayer,” my friend would tell me. That dedication to spirituality had always impressed me deeply, especially since I knew what a great role this woman had played in my friend’s life. It was an image that could replace that of the religious zealot.
Step 3 also went hand in hand for me with Step 2. The more I allowed my Higher Power to truly be “the God of MY understanding” (not the God/Gods I had assimilated through my upbringing), the easier I found it to trust that God. A God who did not use sarcasm, who was truly interested in me, who was not too busy to bother with me because She/He/It was working on More Important Matters – that was a God to whom, maybe, just maybe I could entrust myself.
I don’t know how many years it took until I finally noticed the “care” part of this step. I had been so busy struggling with my fears about the “turning over” part that the “care” just hadn’t registered. Having had a childhood where it was necessary for me to be an adult way before my time, where I got lots of rewards for being super responsible, this idea of being cared for just wasn’t on my radar.
But finally the penny dropped. I was supposed to be cared about, cared for! Ever since then, I carry around in my head the image of being “in the palm of His hand”, from one of my favourite songs.
Then there is the “decision” part of Step 3. I find I have to make that decision over and over again, every day, sometimes a number of times during the day. “Oh, right, I need to turn that over.” An OA elder for whom I have a lot of respect (and who has led WTS steps here) has this little saying that he needs to remember that he’s “just another bozo in the back of the bus.” I find that image incredibly freeing. Really, I’m not such a great bus driver in my life. My Higher Power, on the other hand, really knows what they’re doing. So why not let my Higher Power do their job, and I get to relax and look out the window. All I need to do is not interfere with the bus driver.
Here’s a lovely Step 3 prayer, by Dr. Bob (a little abridged):
"God, please take over the management of my life and everything about me. I am making this conscious decision to turn my will and my life over to Your care and am asking You to please take over all parts of my life.
Please, God, move into my heart. However You do it is Your business, but make Yourself real inside me and fill my awful emptiness. Fill me with your love … and make me know Your will for me. And now, God, help Yourself to me and keep on doing it. I'm not sure I want You to, but do it anyhow."
Oh, how often I’ve said that, in my own words: “I’m not sure I want You to, but do it anyhow.” There’s a part of me that’s still kicking and screaming, that still wants to drive the bus (the part that insisted I “try” some of the Easter leftovers today, for example), but I know, with absolutely certainty, that I want God to take over my heart anyway.
The Big Book segments that are associated with Step 3 are on pages 58-63. They are probably some of the best-known parts of the Big Book. Here are some words from pages 62 and 63:
“… we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most Good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our own little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.”
(Never mind the paternalistic language. I can overlook it; hopefully you can, too)
Aaah, my little plans and designs! Scheming, planning, fantasizing – those were things that I used to spend so much time and energy on. I don’t have to do that anymore. I am so grateful for that.
Now it’s your turn:
“Made a decision” – How do YOU make that decision? When?
… “to turn our lives and our will …” What’s an example of your will? Can you give an example of where you’ve managed to turn your will over?
“:… over to the care of God as we understood Him.” The care! Can you describe that care?
And talking about describing. I noticed that I mentioned a lot of images here. Maybe you have some images, too, that help you with this step? Or some stories, metaphors?
Optional: Read pages 58-63 in the Big Book. What speaks to you? Why?
Top of Page
My reflections inspired by your shares …
On the God Of My Understanding
I just want to share once again how crucial it was for me to know that this is MY interpretation of Higher Power, and no-one else’s. Perhaps that is because I have a very eclectic approach to spirituality, which has raised eyebrows elsewhere. I don’t want to see any eyebrows raised in my OA family, that would feel too unsafe. And my safety is your safety – whatever your spiritual approach is – traditional, agnostic, obscure, whatever - I don’t want your HP, your philosophy or your practices dismissed or questioned, either. Of course, in most situations, the best way to deal with that is to practice a certain anonymity when discussing spiritual matters. When referring to them, I’ve heard people use turns of phrases such as “in my spiritual tradition,” (as opposed to “in XYZ religion”) or “the gathering that I attend regularly” (instead of “at my church”). I often also try to be neutral when I refer to Higher Power and not refer to Higher Power as he/she/it/them. Tradition 1 speaks of Unity. Being respectful and inclusive regarding spiritual matters is a wonderful way to practice that tradition, and it has been a great blessing for me. In this context, I remember again the historical nature of the Big Book. Even though for us today, it has paternalistic overtones - for the times that it has been written, it was quite revolutionary in its religious tolerance and acceptance. Referring to God as anything but Him just was not “invented” yet ?
From the Big Book, in the appendix about spirituality:
"Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual concepts. He can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial.
We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable."
On sharing and inspiration and service
You know how it is – you go to meetings, and they’re all really good, and you always get something from them – and then once in a while one stands out more than others, and you go, wow, that was sooo good. I feel that way about the shares for Step 3. I’m actually going to take them and put them in a little package that I can look at over and over again. An ex sponsor of mine often said that “when you open your mouth at a meeting, HP falls out.” Which is why it’s so very important that we share. It’s a form of service. Whatever you say, your share is service. Just seeing a name on the email list that I haven’t seen this week tells me, “there is one more person who understands what it is like to be an overeater, there is one more person who shares my story, there is one more person from whose ESH I can learn.” As OA’s founder Rozanne S. says
"I put my hand in yours and together we can do what we could never do alone! No longer is there a sense of hopelessness, no longer must we each depend upon our own unsteady willpower. We are all together now, reaching out our hands for power and strength greater than ours, and as we join hands, we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams."
The Twelve Steps