A week or so ago, our senior pastor Dave Workman mentioned the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in his weekend message. The timing was fascinating to me. My faith has largely grown out of my experience with AA, and recently I felt a prompting to go back and explore the roots of that faith once again. As a result, about a week before Dave's message, I began reading what's known in AA as the "Big Book" which outlines the 12 Step program.
The 12 steps:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
One of the things AA taught me is that living a lifestyle based on eminently spiritual principles is ultimately extremely practical. Prior to AA, my concept of spirituality was that it was "out there," "other-worldly," and "unpractical." The people I knew who were into spirituality also typically adhered to strange diets, dressed funny, and/or used it as a cover for dabbling in hallucinogenics. AA was the first place that I learned spirituality could be approached in a relatively practical manner, within a program that promised results if approached with willingness and honesty. It provided an on-ramp for me to a spiritual journey that continues to grow more wonderful every year.
It is no surprise to me that the 12 Steps contain within them several of the spiritual disciplines that we recently explored in the Strong Challenge. Prayer, meditation, confession and service are all specifically mentioned. These are all things that, as you engage in the 12 Step program, you begin to do daily and they quickly become part of the fabric of life. Perhaps one of the brilliant stratagems of AA is that "steps" can seem far less intimidating than "disciplines" when trying to get someone else to do something they are already not inclined to do.
The 12 Steps are not easy at times. Because they are spiritual in nature, you never really "finish" them. We as human beings have an endless capacity to muck up our lives again just after we think we've gotten them all cleaned up. But I am extremely grateful to have the spiritual foundation the 12 Steps provided for me, a foundation I can return to every time I need to begin again. Which is pretty much daily.