Learning from the Twelve-Step Approach

One of the consequences of writing the book I’m currently writing on my conversion from Catholicism to Buddhism and back to Catholicism is that I’m going through my prayer journals for the last decade. The side benefit of doing so is finding all sorts of useful stuff I’ve somehow lost consciousness of over time. One has to do with the first three steps of the Twelve-Step approach.

During a time that I was particularly frustrated with some core issues that kept popping up for me – my self-judgment and harshness with myself and my feeling that I needed to be in control of things – my spiritual director suggested praying the first three steps each day:

First, powerlessness. I am powerless in my ________. In my case, powerless over my need to be in control or powerless over my tendency to judge myself too harshly.

Second, I have come to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. I believe God can bring healing to this place….to this core woundedness.

Third, I make the decision to turn myself and my life over to the care of God. I will turn this over to God. It is my decision to let that happen.

I took his suggestion and prayed the steps over a period of days. I can’t say I’m completely “cured” of these tendencies. But I did find the approach helpful in softening some of the attitudes that were causeing my difficulties. So I pass on the suggestion in the hope that you will find it a useful one.


Who Do You Say I Am?

In today’s Gospel from Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples, “who do you say I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” But his answer is somewhat overshadowed by his next comment. When Jesus explains to his disciples how he must go to Jerusalem and suffer and be killed, Peter objects. “No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Jesus rebukes Peter, calling him Satan and an obstacle. “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Aren’t we at times guilty of the same mistake Peter makes here? Although it is we who are created in God’s image, so often we attempt to mold God into our image. We have our own notions of what God should be, how God should act. And we can get a little indignant when God doesn’t follow the script we have created for him…when God’s way is not the way we would have chosen. Especially when God’s way is the way of the cross.

A simple thing, but one that often is quite difficult for us: Let God be God. Accept that God is God, and I am not. And accept that God’s ways may not always be easy for us to fathom.

Use Me as You Will

I recently came across a wonderful parable for surrendering to and accepting whatever God has in store for us. It is a nice follow-up to the podcast I posted yesterday about Mary’s yes and her model for us. It is a story about a majestic bamboo tree that

“stood tall and proud in his Master’s garden. Because the Master came to admire it every day, the tree felt happy and wanted. One day, the Master told the tree it was needed for a special purpose and would have to be cut down. The bamboo tree felt angry it cried for a long time. But because it knew the Master wanted to use him for another purpose, it bowed and said, ‘Take me, Master, cut me down and use me for whatever you will.’

“The master took the bamboo tree and cut it down, slashed off all its beautiful branches and leaves, cut it in half and tore out its core. Then he laid the tall tree on the ground, joining it to a clear stream. The water ran from the stream through the tree’s hollow channel onto the rice fields.

“When autumn came, the fields looked magnificent, full of beautiful yellow rice that became the nurturing grain for many people. The bamboo tree saw this and became happy again. In its health,  it was beautiful and glorious; in its brokenness and humility, it became more glorious as the channel of life for many people.”

Saying yes to God involves letting go and trusting that God has a plan, which may not look very much like our plan.  When we say yes to God, anything is possible. 

Take me, Lord, and use me as you will.

(I found the story along with one account of its lesson here.)