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!)
You might ask, when reading these precious words in the A.A. Big Book, where do these words come from? I’m referring to, “Thy will be done.” I was recently reading about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Ever my example, Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22: 41-42) I learn here that it’s ok to pray for what I would like to see happen but can I, will I surrender the outcome? Am I willing to trust God for His will to be what’s best for me and my for my fellows?
“Thy will be done” implies trust. I will wait, I will trust in Your way! I never liked the words, “Thy will, not mine, be done.” These words were ever some of the scariest words I knew because I didn’t trust God. But, I’ve prayed for a while now, “Help my unbelief” (for step 2) and “Help me to trust you more” (for step 3 so that I could ‘turn my will and life over to His care’) and it’s happening. What an amazing peace comes from practicing the pause, not rushing into doing things my way. Waiting and pausing, asking for ‘Thy will, not mine” to be done because I choose to trust You is a good place to be.
About living in the pause; the 12 & 12 says some powerful things about restraint of pen and tongue and it all begins with practicing the pause. We compulsive eaters, drinkers, fighters and what ever compulsion you live with, we are told:
“Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint. this carries a top priority rating. When we speak or act hastily or rashly, the ability to be fair-minded and tolerant evaporates on the spot. One unkind
tirade or one willful snap judgement can ruin our relationship with another person for a whole day, or maybe a whole year. Nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen. We must avoid quick-tempered criticism and furious, power-driven argument. . . we should train ourselves to step back and think. For we can neither think nor act to good purpose until the habit of self-restraint has become automatic.” (12 & 12 Pg. 91).
This is where I am in my recovery. I’m so tired of saying, “I’m sorry” because I didn’t pause, practice ‘restraint of pen and tongue’, or wait. How can I listen for God’s leading if I’m so busy running my tongue that I don’t give Him a chance to take the lead and direct my path?
“It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, Oh Lord! Standing in the need of prayer!” Help me to ‘Slow Down’ (I wrote that in my twenties and I’m still asking!) Please remind me today with every door I pass through, with every ‘Hello!’, with every phone that rings, to think, “pause, ponder, and Pray!” I’m willing; and Lord, ‘Thy will be done!”