Fr. Richard Rohr on the 12 Steps of AA…
Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. – Step Three of the Twelve Steps
Jesus’ version of Step Three is, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him renounce himself [or herself]” (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Matthew 16:24). I am pretty sure that Jesus and Bill meant the same thing—a radical surrendering of our will to Another whom we trust more than ourselves.
The common way of renouncing the self, while not really renouncing the self at all, is being sacrificial! It looks so generous and loving, and sometimes it is. But usually it is still about me. You see, there is a love that sincerely seeks the spiritual good of others, and there is a love that is seeking superiority, admiration, and control for itself, even and most especially by doing “good” and heroic things.
The absolute genius of the Twelve Steps is that it refuses to bless and reward any moral worthiness game or mere heroic willpower. With Gospel brilliance and insight, Alcoholics Anonymous says that the starting point and, in fact, the continuing point, is not any kind of worthiness at all but in fact unworthiness! (“Hi! I’m Joe, and I’m an alcoholic.”)
When the churches forget their own Gospel message, the Holy Spirit sneaks in through the ducts and the air vents. A.A. meetings have been very good ductwork, allowing fresh air both in and out of many musty and mildewed churches.
We have been graced for a truly sweet surrender, if we can radically accept being radically accepted—for nothing! “Or grace would not be grace at all” (Romans 11:6). As my father, St. Francis, put it, when the heart is pure, “Love responds to Love alone” and has little to do with duty, obligation, requirement, or heroic anything. It is easy to surrender when you know that nothing but Love and Mercy are on the other side.
Adapted from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps,
pp. 17, 24-25, 27 (also available as CD audiobook)
Gateway to Silence:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.