SURRENDER—ST. PAUL NEEDED AA
I don’t understand myself. I do the things I don’t want to do and I don’t do the things I intended to do…. I agree with the Law of God in my mind, but, in my flesh, there is another law at war with the Law of God…. Who will save me?... It is Jesus in the flesh.
Yes, St. Paul and I both need to surrender. These are the first three steps:
1. We admitted we were powerless with our so-called “free will”—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a “free will” decision to surrender our will-power and our lives to the care of what we understood as God—Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
I have finally admitted that the power of my “free will” , in reality, is powerless. I have admitted that my life “had become unmanageable.”
When I wrote the article “Free Will Run Amok” [See 3/28/16 on this website] I had already identified the fact that our common understanding of free will has always been a delusion. In reality, the only thing our free will can sustain is the ability to surrender—the little boy can never sustain his will to fight sleep, but he can always surrender.
In my long life, I have done rather well in living under the delusion of free will. I have imagined that God not only has given me the power to say “yes” and “no” but, I have imagined that I should be capable of sustaining correct decisions throughout the thousands of temptations and situations I encounter each day.
Despite my many successes in asking for guidance in my decision making, I have never had character strong enough to consistently be faithful in living out my principles. I always get worn out trying. One day, without consciously realizing that St. Phillip Neri already had made a practice of saying this about himself, I said to God: “Beware of John, Lord. He will betray you.”
In a word, by attempting to control my life with free will, my life has always been “unmanageable”—more or less. I finally admit that I am defeated. [“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” See 9/29/14 “Beatitudes—The Key is to Mourn.”]
A GREATER POWER
The second step in surrender should be rather easy for me. I am well trained in taking it for granted that God exists and is desirous to empower me. However, I have to work to pay attention. Choosing to stay in my own mind instead of letting my mind be fully aware of and enslaved by reality, I have created my own hell—I have created my own insane world.
Prayer or contemplation continues to help me in the freeing process of awareness. The growing awareness that the power of the Holy Spirit is not only available, but is ALREADY within me, is calling for me to leave the insanity of my self-controlled world.
SURRENDER TO THE CARE OF GOD
A seasoned Christian tells this story about himself. When he first “got saved” at a big church revival, he was determined to let Jesus make all his decisions. He surrendered, and, as they say, let Jesus “take over the throne” of his life.
The man opened his closet the next morning and asked, “Jesus, What tie should I wear?”
He swears that he distinctly heard Jesus say, “I am not your mother!”
Surrendering my free will and my life into the care of God is not a matter of silliness and irresponsibility. It simply means that I no longer have to agonize. I no longer need to “negotiate” with the Spirit over what is best for me.
In most situations, I know what the Spirit would want to do with my life. I know that I don’t need that sugar in the ice cream or that alcohol in the beer to “reward” myself at the end of a hard day.
If I am ever faced with a serious choice and I am not sure which way to go, I simply apply a process of discernment and do the best I can. I know I can entrust my life to the loving care of the Spirit who is bound to take better care of me than I do with my own power.
When I relied on my free will to make decisions, it was always a drawn out power struggle—“Should I?” or “Shouldn’t I?” Now, life is no longer unmanageable and insane—living this way one day at a time.
So, if I may offer my advice to St. Paul, the same advice goes to everyone who wants a life of sanity, is to follow the proven wisdom in the principles of AA and of other 12 Step Programs. Honestly reflect on the first three principle and make a wise decision to surrender you “free will” to the care of God.
© 2019 Rev. John Vogler