Friday, February 17, 2012

From Slavery to Promise

Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess...


Deut 11:8

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.   It is the first principle of geometry, if I remember correctly.  It is one of the purest examples of rational logic: a scientific truth, a scientific proof. It makes perfect sense.  Anyone who might suggest anything else would have to be crazy.

When one starts on a path of "recovery" one must set aside all of one's rationales and systems of logic, one's reasons and meanings and soapboxes, all for one simple truth: my life is unmanageable.

My emotions are out of control.

My habits are unhealthy.

My thoughts take me places I do not want to go.

Paul put it this way:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  Romans 7:15

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  If I see what I want, what I want to do, who I want to be, why don't I just do it?  Why don't I just walk it?  It's that simple, right?  It's that logical, that rational; it makes perfect sense.  Yet somehow, we're all just a little bit out of control.  Something in that equation just seems to be a little bit unmanageable because we don't get what we want, don't do what we want, don't become who we want or think we ought to be.  And even if we do, like Paul, we discover that our righteousness is actually dirty, filthy rags, having a form of goodness or godliness but lacking something vital.

Hmmm.

When one starts on a path of "recovery" one challenges one of the most basic principles of survival by admitting: I am powerless.

What if the only way to get what we want, to do what we want to do, to be who we want to be is to be ... powerless?

"In short, when God's light breaks on my darkness, the first thing I know is that I don't know, and never did."  ~ Rowan Williams

It seems a little counter-intuitive.  How can being powerless to do something actually be the way to do it?  That is not a straight line at all.  That has got to be crazy.

Or perhaps the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line after all.  The notion of recovery proposes something absolutely insane; it suggests that the only way from point A to point B is by going to C.  And here's the catch: you don't know what or where point C is, but it doesn't necessarily seem to have anything to do with point A or point B.

Conundrum.

Insanity.

Yet how sane is it to do what you don't want to do and, instead, to do what you hate?

Recovery teaches us that the only way from point A to point B is to...

Take the 1st Step and call our unmanageability (however large or small) what it is: Unmanageable.  We must name the good that we want to do and do not do; we must name that which we hate that we do.  And we must admit that, if we had the power to do what we wanted to do and avoid that which we hate, we would have done it already.  We must admit our powerlessness.  This is called reality testing, or getting in touch with reality.

Then we must take the 2nd Step and accede that our only hope, if we are powerless, is for a power outside of ourselves, a power greater than ourselves, to help us. If we are all there is, there is no possibility for change.  We are trapped.  We're condemned.  We're hopelessly ensconced in this narrative of doing what we don't want to do.  We're powerless. And I use "we" intentionally not just to indicate a group of individuals but to also indicate community as a whole.  If all we have is others, we're just as trapped, just as hopeless, because others fail, too.  Community isn't enough.  But, if there is a power greater than us ... if there is God ... well, then the only way from point A to point B is to ...

Take the 3rd Step. Seek God.  Call out to God.  Talk to God.  Ask God.  Listen to God and be willing to hear what God has to say.  Hang out with God.  Accept God's help.  Some people call this sort of thing a relationship.  And it is.  But it's not just any relationship.  It is a relationship in which God is God and you are not.  God is the power greater than you.  God is the only one who can help.  So in this relationship, the characterizing feature is a kind of giving yourself to God and God doing something in and for you that you are not able to do in or for yourself...


What community cannot do...
What society cannot do...
What money or prestige or success or perfection cannot do...

What education and intelligence cannot do...

Do these steps sound familiar?

The shortest distance between point A and point B is "12 steps," steps that take you to point C, a place you do not know and cannot fathom but that somehow gives you the power to do what is good and refrain from what is hateful (Jer 33:3, Acts 2:28). And isn't that what point B is, after all?

At least, that is what I have found as I have walked the path of recovery.  I have found that when I try to get from point A to point B by going the way that seems direct, the way that seems best to me, I never get there.  Or I get there and it's awful.

There is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death.  Proverbs 14:12, 16:25

But if, instead, I take the path of 12 steps, I find this strange thing happening.  I find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and ...

What's that last one?

Self Control

I do what I want to do instead of what I hate.  I walk in self control.

Who knew that self control involved giving up control?

That's just crazy.  Everyone knows that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

There is a land of promise; it is a land of milk and honey, a land with pools of water, a land that bears fruit in and out of season.  It is unlike the land from which you have come, the land of your slavery ... slavery to shame, to isolation, to sin; slavery to the way that seems right to you, that is the only way you know, the way that produces death.  It is a land with cities you did not build, wells you did not dig, vineyards you did not plant.  To take this land, you seek God and you  follow God's path, step by step.  This is the way  from point A to point B.  This is the way from slavery to promise.

Paraphrase of Deuteronomy 6:10-12, 8:6-9,  9:6,  11:8-12, Proverbs 14:12, 16:25

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