Series Two: Blog Fifty-Four
Step 3 is not only difficult, but it is daily. This morning I woke up groggy from a restless night of sleep. I wiped the blur from my cataract-covered eyes and contemplated the day. There’s a long list of stuff that once it is done, I will forget but until then it will eat at me, nagging for completion. This blog is one of them.
When I ask myself how will I ever get this stuff done, where does the creativity come from, or what if I don’t complete my list, I am faced with surrender and turning it over to God. A simple little brain transaction. Yet, I must say there are times that this transaction has been the hardest thing in the world for me to do.
I can be so willful. As a matter of fact, I have relied upon willfulness to get me through most scrapes in my life. In truth, I have depended upon willfulness to create most accomplishments and recovery achievements in my life. Willfulness got me through college and two graduate degrees. It was the grit behind working 27 years and missing only 1 day of work. My God! willfulness has been my go-to throughout my entire life.
There is a distinct difference in willfulness and willingness. There is a flexibility and openness quality to willingness. Willfulness can be hard and rigid. It describes a firm grasp and stubborn determination. Willingness promotes an attitude of fluidly embracing and letting go. It is a necessary quality to face yourself about what needs to be done in any given moment. Willingness looks through the grit and grind in willfulness and embraces the grace to face life as it is. It is willingness, not willfulness that is needed to turn things over to God.
This is where the rub is for addicts. Honestly, there are many times I want to be God and willfully hammer out what I want done and control the result I foresee as necessary. I can dress it up with willingness language later!
I have discovered that when I don’t turn things over to God, I don’t listen. I don’t listen to my body. I don’t listen to my thoughts or my feelings. Willfully, I become headstrong. I just barrel my way from one life scenario to the next. I clutch willfulness when I am afraid that I will lose something that I am not prepared to live without. Willfulness promotes panic when I don’t want to face the realities that I want to avoid, like old age. It is my illusion to think I have to be in control in order to be safe. Think about this! Everyone wants to be in control of themselves- bodily functions, thoughts, feelings and actions.
Willingness leads to surrender which helps to make meaningfulness from what is. Turning it over to God is the secret to serenity. Rather than seeking and grasping for life and its meaning, willingness provides a pathway for meaningfulness in life to come to you. Willfulness blocks the path. Willingness allows for meaningfulness to flood your soul with richness—Nice words but hard reality. It’s like the guy hanging from the lone branch jutting from the wall of the Grand Canyon begging for God to help him. He hears the voice of God tell him to let go and he replies “is there anyone else up there?” Letting go of control is so difficult yet so daily. Sometimes letting go seems like certain demise and even suicide.
Step 3 is about utilizing willingness to melt through willfulness in order to turn your life over to the care of the God of your understanding. Here are some considerations around “turning it over to God”.
Get clear about your values. You won’t turn it over to God if you are not clear about what you value. Vagueness about values triggers willfulness. In the moment you clutch and grasp from a place of panic and fear because you have not clarified what you value most. You can easily hold tightly to perfectionism and overlook mere progress. Once clear about what you value, the pathway to letting go and turning things over to God becomes more clear.
Practice humility and call a friend when in need. Most of us wrestle with willfulness alone. However, when you pick up a phone and reach out to someone, clearly sharing your struggle of not being able to let go, you break the power of silence because you have asked for help to peel your fingers away from the firm grip of willfulness.
Create a safety net. Cultivating support will hold you accountable to surrender and will hold space for you when you struggle with turning over things to God. Letting go to God is daily. You will have days when you are not at your best. A heart surgeon once told me that when he has a difficult day, he lets his team know and asks for them to look out for him. Humility helps you create your own safety net.
Face the worst case scenario first. It can help to let go when you choose to assess your situation and the different possible outcomes. Choosing to look at the worst-case scenario and truly working to let go of this possibility can help you walk back to the reality of where you are and what needs to be done. If you can come to terms with worst-case outcome, it can help you let go in the present moment. Preparing to let go of trying to control a worst-case outcome is not buried in negative thinking. Rather, it shifts from a death grip focus of I can live in the presence of worst-case outcome to if I can face the worst-case conclusion then I can be willing to face the here and now and every other possibility. I have found that this approach can help to shift from willfulness to willingness to turn it over to God.
Practice acceptance and presence when facing difficult and less-than-ideal circumstances. You are not perfect and do not live in a perfect, ideal world. You will face frustration, disappointment, and discouragement in your every-day life. Hang in there with the practice of acceptance of what is. Condition yourself to be present in the here and now. Being grateful in every moment of struggle will take the strength you have and make it more. Acceptance is a result of shifting from your willful headstrong position of control to willingly turning over your struggle to God and inviting its solution to come to you rather than you fighting for the outcome you think you must have. The result is equanimity and serenity in the present moment.
Step 3 is a challenging process to undertake on a daily basis. Yet, it can also be liberating and can release the power of creativity that can resource you in every struggle you have in your recovery life.
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