Step 3 of 12: Surrender to Love

He is the Truth Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety, You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years. --W. H. Auden

Step 3: We made a decision to turn over our will and our lives to the care of God as we understand God.

What does it mean to turn my life and will over to God? Experience tells me that this can be problematic. I've seen and heard people claim to be acting in accord with God's will before, and there's no way in hell it was God's will. And isn't it my misdirected will that got me in trouble in the first place? So do we just give up on our will? In a word, NO! There's a good reason that we often look down on people who seem to have no will.

So how do we do this? In short, we don't give our will UP, we give it TO. This "giving to" doesn't just happen. Changing our intentions requires desire and discipline, traits which are born and nurtured in a spiritual direction that only come through ego emptying and meditation. It's a balancing act of action and insight.

Jesus blatantly laid out Step 3 when he said, "If anyone wants to follow me, let him renounce himself" (Matthew 16:4, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Most Christians like the idea of this, but avoid the practice of actual personal denial like the plague. It's what the Buddhists practice and strive for in meditation. To their credit, they don't argue about the personal name given to what/whom they are surrendering either.

Part of the genius of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it also bypasses any need to argue about whose God is best by using the phrase "God, as we understand God." It leads us directly to the God of unlimited love, forgiveness, and mercy. The same God that provides healing. When we consider this, who would want to turn his/her life over to any other kind of God except a loving and merciful one?

So we began this 12 Step process with a realization that we must deny self indulgence because our lives were hopelessly out of control. That gradual realization led us to believe there was hope and restoration in something greater than ourselves. In Step 3 we identify that greater power as the God of love, forgiveness, and mercy and turn our lives over to God's care.

It's the only pathway to healing, but it's also a call to action. More on that after a short break.