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April 19, 2015
GracePoint Gospel Fellowship Church
New City, New York
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!
For over thirty years, I have focused on the words serenity, courage and wisdom when praying this prayer, just as this picture highlights the same words. How about you? But there has been a shift in my thinking of late. The key word has become change! This word is the crux of the matter for me! I needed to change. Let’s consider what the A.A. Big Book tells us about change; this word is used in a profound way and helps to define ‘Recovered’ and what that looks like.
From the moment I first heard the word, “Recovered”, I wanted to go there! I wanted it so badly, it was like a splinter entered my skin. I wanted to live free, be free; to be set free! I was in a prison of sorts, I know that if you’re a “normee” (a normal eater) you think, “That’s weird! What is she talking about?” I don’t expect you to understand. But for all those who have struggled with addiction, you understand! From the start, for some reason, I considered ‘recovered’ a place to go, to reach; a trip that I must take! An island in the sun where I could walk free of the non-stop compulsive thoughts that swirled around my head about food and my next compulsive bite. And if I wasn’t thinking about food, I was thinking about what you and everyone else was thinking about me and worried, restless and irritable and so discontent with life. There was no peace. My mind was a back ally and so, I used food to get numb. Bill W. used alcohol. He, too, was in a quagmire, and it was of his own making too. His mind, like mine, was sick. How many walk around in this condition. I was one of the lucky ones who woke up. How many are sound asleep and have moments of lucidity from their stupor, be it ice-cream or gin? I’m not saying that eating ice cream is bad, but it was my drug of choice.
When I think about going to a far away land, I think about the many changes I will be confronted with: a different monetary system, a different language, a different time zone and even the need to change my watch settings and sleep patterns: a different culture and way of doing things, a change in how I drive, whether it’s on the opposite side of the street and/or cars with a change in the location of the steering wheel. When we put ourself in a strange place, a strange land, we have to acclimate and make changes, to grow and work with new circumstances. This is the essence of the changes that are required to become well and live in the land of recovered. This is what is required to get on the straight road as opposed to the crooked path we’ve been on! When Bill sees how his friend Ebby has changed, he says, “I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil.” (Pg. 12-13) Could it be the land of Recovered that he spoke of?
Pause, Ponder, and Pray!
“No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” (Twain) When I was younger, I remember thinking, ‘the idea of waiting on God’ is, for me, not a happy place to sit. I’m impatient and impulsive so waiting and pausing requires energy and even, concentration. Does anybody like the waiting room? “As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves, many times each day, ‘Thy will be done’.” (A.A. Big Book Pg 87)
Breaking this down, I see a few important steps that lead to “Thy will be done” and an honest surrender of our will to do God’s will; a good solid trade for an infinitely wiser will, God’s will! Here are the steps to this piece of the puzzle:
1. Pause: this indicates not just a slowing down but the action of stopping! I’ve hit the pause button many times on machines. I haven’t hit the button on my lips as often as I should have. “We pause when agitated or doubtful…” There’s no better time to pause than when upset as the words spoken can be damaging and can’t be taken back!
2. Ask (Pray): this indicates prayer. We ask God for the right thought or action. Here is the turning point where instead of doing things impulsively or seeking an outcome that I willfully want-impatiently doing what I want, I turn, I ask God. Wow! This is new territory for me.
3. Remind myself (Ponder): Hello! Your best thinking got you here! Why not try something new; God’s will. Reminding myself is remembering or pondering my past and the many times I’ve tried things my way!(For more on pondering, see BB Pg. 10 and Pg. 56) and What an opportunity to do things another way; pausing gives me time to stop and practice conscious contact and pray and then listen for a possible different way to respond or act. I’m not running the show anymore! I’m not playing God and I’m not the director of my life. I fired me! I’m choosing to stop running the show.
4. Say: “Thy will be done.” White flag flying high, I surrender.
It’s interesting that sixteen years after these words were written, the coauthor wrote another book (The A.A. 12 & 12, 1952) and said almost exactly the same thing! “In all times of emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say:”God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done.” (12 & 12, Pg. 41)
So much is said in the A.A. writings about the importance of guarding our mouth and the words that come from our tongue. We are warned over and over not to fight or argue (they are talking about what we do with our words!) On many of the pages of the Big Book, we are told, “the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the victor only seemed to win. . . ” (Pg. 66). “And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone, even alcohol.” (Pg. 84) “Argument and fault-finding are to be avoided like the plague.” (Pg. 98) And “. . .we have stopped fighting anybody or anything. We have to!” (Pg. 103) This is why we have to practice pausing. We have to! What I mean is, I have to! It takes practice because my mouth has always been like a car in gear, ready to run! But i’m refining the changes that are so needed. I’m practicing the pause! (It’s like practicing the guitar; it takes hours of practice!)