As introduced in the previous posts, over the next few days I’m going to take a walk through each of the 12 Steps, examining each one for its pain relieving qualities. As you read today you may want to keep in mind some painful aspect of your own situation and think about how Step 2 might bring relief.
Rx #2 Hope – Step 2 Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health. (AA Step – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.)
In Step 1 we address the pain of pretending to be “fine,” or pretending to be powerful enough to handle things if, heaven forbid, we are not fine. We become honest about the truth that we have problems (addiction, addicted loved ones, or any other problem we feel hopeless to resolve). We recognize that we are powerlessness to solve these problems by ourselves, and we admit that our lives have become unmanageable. The humble honesty we develop in Step 1 brings us much needed relief, but more is needed. Step 1 helps us come to terms with the truth that we need help, but where do we turn?
Step 2 is the Lord’s prescription for the pain of feeling alone and without power.
After taking Step 1, those with experience in recovery told me it was important to move on to Step 2. The divine prescription for the pain of being alone and without power to solve our problems is hope—not hope centered in ourselves or others or in any particular outcome, but hope in and through Jesus Christ alone. The instructions for this medication are “Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health” [or sanity].
The Picture of Resistance
When my mother was a little girl she was required to swallow down a spoon full of dreaded cod-liver oil every morning before heading for school. Good grief! I don’t know who I feel sorriest for, my mother or her mother. Now days we sweeten up children’s medicine, but even so, when I’m asked to care for a grandchild currently taking an antibiotic, I feel a certain amount of dread. It brings to mind all the mother /grandmother medicine moments of the past—trying to deliver medicine with as much gentleness and patience as possible, but oh, the great resistance. I have tried to disguise it by cleverly mixing it in their breakfast. Of course, with the first taste the child rejects it all together, leaving me not only with the problem of medicine undelivered, but breakfast ruined. Countless times I’ve had to resort to squeezing their little cheeks so their clenched baby mouths will open, then getting the spoon or dropper barely inside, praying for success, only to be greeted with gags and the greater part of the medicine spilling out of the mouth and down the chin, with all that sticky, usually red, for their own good stuff ending, not in the blood stream where it can do some good, but under their quivering chin and on the only pair of clean PJ’s in the diaper bag.
I think maybe in my own way I’ve put up a childish fuss when it comes to receiving the Lord’s medicine. You’d think I’d be desperate to do whatever it took to exchange the despair of being alone with no prospect of progress, for hope. Why would I resist? Why did I spit out or reject my need to “come to believe that the power of God can restore me to spiritual health?” Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I felt like I’d been a believer all my life? I was a believer, but obviously there was something missing. There was some kind of a disconnect between me and the help I needed. As I approached Step 2 I had to take a close look at each word of instructions on the medication labeled Hope. These are some of the things I discovered:
“Come to believe…”
First of all, I didn’t want to “come to believe.” Coming to believe sounded like something that would have to take place over time. My tendency was to want what I wanted when I wanted it. With Step 2, the Lord seemed to be asking me to be willing to grow in my belief in Him and in my understanding of all the blessings this developing belief can bring, not in a moment but little by little. He was asking me to be patient with the process of coming to know Him. That has not been easy for me. “Coming to believe” sounded like the description of something I had been frustrated with all my life. I have always longed for the kind of witness I thought everyone else was receiving, the big moment in time when the Lord would reveal himself to me so that I might live with a sure confirmation of His reality the rest of my days. But it didn’t come like that. Believe me, I know that yearning for the BIG spiritual event and only having eyes for God in the spectacular does not engender hope. This grand expectation is instead the source of a kind of profound spiritual loneliness.
Today I am learning to be happy and quite content with the direction to “Come to believe.” Today I keep my eyes open for the Lord all day long and I am sure to see Him. I will see Him in all the little things of life. I will see His hands. I will see His fingerprints all over my day. Today my belief will grow. It will be greater than it was yesterday but not what it will be in the future. “Coming to believe” is powerful pain medication.
“Come to believe that the power of God…”
In Alcoholics Anonymous there’s a saying that goes something like this, “In order to recover, I had to fire my old God and find a new one.” Well, I wouldn’t say I had to fire my old God, but I sure had to get to know each member of the Godhead better. I had been taught from the cradle that my Heavenly Father and Jesus loved me. I don’t remember ever being angry with Them, confused at times maybe, but not angry or disbelieving in any way. I simply was uncomfortable around Them. I imagined to myself that Heavenly Father and Jesus were like serious distant uncles of great authority and I was an awkward young girl who wasn’t ever quite sure how They felt about me.
I knew God had power. After all, He created the earth and stars and roses and elephants and babies. I also knew He had power to help me with certain kinds of things like earaches and passing a test if I had truly studied for it or finding my keys. —You know what I mean – good girl problems.
This was my confused understanding of the plan. I knew that my job was to keep the commandments, and that in the scriptures Jesus says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Maybe that was it. Maybe I didn’t love Jesus enough. If I somehow loved Him more I’d be able to keep all His commandments. Jesus’s job was to suffer for my sins so I wouldn’t be punished for my sins. This was completely contingent upon my ability to make myself perfect (repent sufficiently). Jesus’s job was also to die so I could live again, with Him again, or not, depending on how I did with the repenting unto perfection part of the plan. The job of the Holy Ghost was to try to keep me on track mostly by being with me and helping me to know what to do. This was contingent on whether I was already being good and was worthy of His help. If I was “bad” He went away.
My tangled understanding boiled down to this –I have a problem, but in order to receive the Lord’s help I need to be really, really good. The problem is that being really, really good IS my problem. Now that’s a problem!
Now these are not things I was taught, but what I thought. Whether this view was the result of a childish misunderstanding or the tendency of my natural (separated from God) man self toward pride and perfectionism, I cannot say. I only know that my old view of God led me around and around in a very painful cycle instead of down a progressive path toward my eternal home. I needed the Lord’s help in order to become more righteous, but I continually felt unworthy of receiving help because I was not perfectly righteous.
My new and much improved understanding of God is that He loves me and wants to help me with anything that is keeping me from making progress. My problems aren’t too big or too bad or too small. Not only does He want to help me, but He can. A big part of putting an end to this painful damning cycle and receiving hope was to understand the doctrine of grace and how it connected to the doctrine of repentance. I studied the definition of grace and repentance in the Bible Dictionary: I was taught that because of Jesus Christ’s Atonement (His suffering in the garden for my sins and His death on the cross) He has been given power by my Heavenly Father to help me.
Grace: It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.
Repentance: repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined. (See LDS Bible Dictionary)
As I pondered this new understanding I felt the Spirit whisper, “Nannette, what good work could be more important to Jesus than helping you be good more continually?” Jesus can actually help me do what He asks me to do. Now that’s Good News! When I took Step 1 I let go of pride and admitted that my best efforts had been expended. I took Step 2 by turning my heart to the only One who could help me make real lasting progress. Renunciation of sin is the “voluntary surrender or putting aside of sin” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). I could repent! I could humbly admit that I had come to the end of myself. I could turn to Jesus Christ and surrender. I could pray for power to change, not my power but His!
“Come to believe that the power of God can restore you…”
In my study I learned that Jesus wants to do far more for me than plead my case at the last judgment. He wants to restore me. He wants to help me change. He wants to redeem me. To redeem is to “make good the defects of” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). If I go down to Utah Lake with instructions to redeem the lake my mission will be to make it clean. Redemption is Jesus’ job, redemption of people, redemption of me and of you. He wants to do everything in His power to make us clean. Not just “all mankind” but you and me, individually. He is not on a distant star, sitting on His throne, tapping His foot, watching to see if I will choose the right. He wants to be involved! He has paid a heavy price to be involved.
“Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health”
And what will be the result of His work in my life? Spiritual health. Jesus has the power to help me become spiritually well. The Great Physician Himself has purchased this power with His own life. What does recovery from addiction have to do with spiritual health? Everything! My addiction is what I turn to, habitually, that’s destructive, instead of turning to God. And why would I turn to something destructive instead of turning to God?—Because I am spiritually unwell. This lack of spiritual well-being is the result of being separated from God. We all were. That was what the Fall was all about. Separation. Spiritual death. Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are unified in their desire to help me overcome the pain of separation with the joy of reunion. Taking Step 2 is becoming willing to cooperate with them in the planning and carrying out of a spiritual reunion, my reunion with them. Addiction recovery is primarily about recovering our relationship with Them. That’s why people without addictions read the Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing and say, “Well I think everyone could use these principles.” They are right. Every mortal has experienced the Fall and feels the pain of separation. Every living soul is in need of being recovered or redeemed, no exceptions.
After much study and practice I have truly come to believe that I can turn to Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost He will use the power Heavenly Father has given Him, because of His Atonement, to restore me to spiritual health, or the ability to think and take action with the complete soundness of mind and body that can only come through my restored or recovered relationship with Him.
Likening the words of Nephi unto myself I can take these words personally and so can you, “…wherefore, [I] shall come to the knowledge of [my] Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that [I] may know how to come unto him and be saved. And then at that day will [I] not rejoice and give praise unto [my] everlasting God, [my] rock and [my] salvation? Yea, at that day, will [I] not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine? Yea, will [I] not come unto the true fold of God?” (1 Nephi 15:14-15)
I testify that “that day” can be this day. In Step 2 I surrender to the fact that this transformation of my relationship with God is not going to happen overnight. I become willing to experiment with the truth that the power available because of Jesus Christ is real. I concede to the truth that I don’t have to be perfect to receive it, but that as I receive it I will be made perfect. Then I watch, I pray, I study, and I practice believing until I do believe. What I discover is that this in not nasty medicine that I have to hold my nose and gag in order to get down. It is not only good medicine, but it is the only lastingly effective medication for the pain of feeling alone and powerless. Lehi describes it as, “most sweet, above all that I had ever tasted” (1 Nephi 8:11). It is unlike all other medications for pain the world has to offer — you can’t overdose. In fact you can never get too much of it.
By Nannette W. Posted Monday, October 31, 2011
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