I am reposting an earlier post from the old friday600 blog that is a good jumping off spot for something I want to discuss today.
First, the original post.
The missing preparation
It has been pointed out to me more than once (let’s just say a lot more than once) that I tend to over-think the Program. I thought about that a lot. But at the risk of confirming what everyone already (rightly) believes, I would like to share something.
It occurred to me pretty early on that there was a definite structure to the Steps, something that may have been unconscious to the writers but jumped right out at me. Here’s a chart that I would like to use as the basis for this post.
|Honesty (fact-finding)||Open-mindedness (preparation)||Willingness (action)|
|Step 1 (admitted)||Step 2 (came to believe)||Step 3 (made a decision)|
|Step 4,5 (made an inventory, admitted)||Step 6 (became willing)||Step 7 (asked)|
|Step 8a (made a list)||Step 8b (became willing)||Step 9 (made amends)|
The first nine Steps have a recurring set of actions that line up almost perfectly with the three essentials, Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness. Let me start by explaining each of the columns:
- Honesty: These are Steps which are all about fact finding, soul searching, reflection, etc. They are inward processes that are necessary in order to move forward at each stage of the Program. In Step One, we “admitted” that we were powerless over alcohol. Or as it is stated elsewhere, “We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics.” This is our first attempt at self-searching. We later extended this in Steps Four and Five to an examination of all our defects with an admission of them to God, ourselves, and another person. Then in the first half of Step Eight, we again took stock of the harm we had done others. In fact, the Big Book says we already had this list, that we had made it in the Fourth Step.
- Open-mindedness: These Steps are all about changing our way of thinking in light of what we have just discovered. They all describe an inward process of preparation for the action to come. Step Two is about changing our thinking about whether or not AA can actually work for us, if a Higher Power can in fact restore us to sanity. In Step Six, we take the information we have learned about our defects and shortcomings and seriously consider if we are ready to give them up, to be changed in ways we can’t predict. The second half of Step Eight confronts us with the very difficult task of forgiving others who have harmed us and receiving forgiveness for the harms we have done them.
- Willingness: Finally, we are called to take specific actions. We “make a decision,” we “humbly ask,”we make amends.” These are actions that we are now fully prepared to take, without reservation, knowing that we are doing the will of our Higher Power.
It has been my experience that people get hung up by trying to go from Honesty to Action and neglect the very essential process of preparation that comes between. I believe “Easy Does It” is an admonition to focus on the middle process, the preparation needed to really take the right action. And it is the process that is at once the most beneficial and the least practiced aspect of the program.
Why bring this up now? Today is the First Sunday of Advent, a time of inward preparation as we look forward to the Lord’s coming. It happens again in Lent as we prepare ourselves for the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. Raised in an Evangelical Protestant home, the concept of a liturgical calendar was pretty foreign to me. But it has become a great source of discipline and focus for my disordered spiritual life. And I think it verges on being a universal principle. The Lord Himself went into the desert for forty days in preparation for His earthly ministry. Likewise, John the Baptist preached a gospel of repentance and conversion in preparation for His coming.
Is it possible that part of our problem in fully internalizing the truth of our Christian faith is that we take too little time to prepare the soil? Does the seed of God’s word fall on unprepared ground?
So as we look forward to the joys of Christmas, take these next few weeks to meditate fully on the unimaginable fact of our Creator taking the form of a human infant so that we might one day share in His divinity. And when that joyful night arrives, let our hearts be fully prepared to receive the unspeakable Gift that God is offering us.