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Step Three: Lessons In Recovery


I don't know about you, but I love to learn. I don't always love the process of learning, or that sometimes we have to do it 'the hard way', but I have come to learn (see what I did there?) that in the long run, I'm usually grateful for the experience.

That being said, a few weeks ago, I was intentionally looking for something new to learn. Something to challenge me and help me grow.

Admittedly, I was a bit surprised to find myself drawn to working through The Twelve Steps, yet that’s where I landed.

I didn’t choose the steps as a response to any out-of-control addiction in my life. Although I’ve seen firsthand the devastation addiction can cause and the incredible healing in recovery programs like The Twelve Steps.

I’ve also been around long enough to know that at deeper levels, we’re all in “recovery” from something (or someone) and we all have our own unhealthy coping mechanisms we turn to in order to change the way we feel or numb our discomfort and pain.

I’ve found clues to mine by hearing myself utter phrases like “I need some chocolate/shopping/junk food,” etc., more than occasionally and in relationship to stress or pain. Sometimes the clue is when I realize I’ve lost an hour to social media because I’m avoiding something. Again.

Coping mechanisms can be anything really; substances, food, shopping, exercise, work, TV. And yes, even hyper-spirituality. The list is seemingly endless. Even ‘good things’ can become a problem when used for the wrong reasons.

Whatever it is, we all have that thing(s) that perhaps needs to be examined for what it really is. But, sometimes, its something less conspicuous and therefore more difficult to examine.

Like a need for control.

This morning, I am working on the Third Step. Have you ever read it? If you haven’t (or if you have, but forgot what it says), it goes like this:

“We made a decision to turn our wills and lives over to the care of God.”

Anyone else feel a tension rise while reading that?

Just me?

Maybe, read it again… this time with a bit more personal inflection.

I made a DECISION to turn over MY WILL and LIFE to the CARE of God.”

Feel it that time? Yep. Me too.

Now- admittedly, I do pray for God to “take control” of my life; to guide me, lead me and to be The Lord of my life. I pray for Him to take control because I know He often needs to pry my vice-like grip from the very things that need His interventions the most.

But The Third Step say we “made a decision...”. By definition, that’s entirely different than God taking control.

The actual definition of decide says “make a choice; resolve; determine.”

No one is taking. We are giving.

And when we’re talking about handing over our lives and wills? Intentionally? Well, that is much, much harder.

As I read the Scripture text for today’s step work, God- in His abundant mercy, reminded me that even in the act of “deciding” to give Him control, He is right there with me.

Part of the text for today is Matthew 11:28-29. Do you know it?

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heaven burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

I get that at first read it may sound like more work. I mean, after all, it talks about ‘taking on a yoke.’ For me, that conjures up visions of farm animals tirelessly plowing through fields connected to one another.

But, If we peel back a layer and look a little deeper- we find it’s not about making our workload heavier, it’s about making it lighter.

If we’re paying attention, it actually says it right there in the text. It’s less about "putting on a yoke" or "bearing the burden". It's really about being connected.

I like the way The Life Recovery Bible puts it in their commentary:

“Taking on a yoke implies being united to another in order to work together. Those who are yoked together must go in the same direction, by doing so, their work is made easier.” (emphasis mine.)

It’s paradoxical, I know. To manage our lives, we must stop trying to manage them alone. To gain control we must release it.

Counter-intuitive; like everything else in God’s economy (to gain life you must lose it; to be first you must be last; a day is like a thousand days; the list goes on.)

So today, I will embrace the paradox. I’ll take my next step with fresh eyes, recognizing that by taking His “burden” I will lighten my own. And I will try not to learn this lesson the hard way. I will remind myself that I’m turning over my will and life, not just to His control, but to His care. Which will always be better than my own.

(I highly recommend The Life Recovery Bible. It is a wonderful resource, not only as it pertains to The Twelve Steps, but also has a wonderful topical appendix in the back offering scriptural references to countless topics like accountability, procrastination, marriage, business, transformation, guidance and a whole host of subjects; too many to mention here. Dr. Gerald May’s book, Addiction & Grace is a wonderful addition to any self-improvement library, particularly if you have loved ones, or you yourself struggle with addictive behaviors.)