Monday, February 25, 2013

What an AA Meeting Taught Me

I wasn't exactly expecting to learn anything. And yet, here I was, having a group of alcoholics teach me something very powerful about the position of my heart. I think one goes through life and typically elevates himself over those he deems "lower" or "less-sanctified" than himself, but as usual, I had forgotten one is never more than a few steps away from the worst person he thought he'd never be. And there I was. Taking advice from the people who had taken those few steps into darkness. Because, in the end, the light of truth shines most brightly in utter darkness.

By this point, you might think that this is a post about me coming clean about alcoholism. Close, but no cigar. (Ooh, two controversial substances in one paragraph!? Oh, the humanity.) No, I was simply attending some Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as a part of my Psychiatric and Mental Health nursing clinical rotation. But, apparently, God had more in mind than me just checking off some required clinical hours.

If you don't know anything about AA, I'm either really glad that you don't have a problem with alcohol, or I am really sad that you haven't heard of how you can deal with it. It's an amazing program that goes way past the cliche of, "Hi, my name's _____ and I'm an alcoholic." Granted, the downside is that it's not a Christian program, but it does help people out of some pretty dark times, if only for a benefit in this life.

The integral core of AA is something called The Twelve Steps. If you want to read all the steps, check it out here (they're legitsauce), but for the sake of this post, I'll just talk about the first one.

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable."

As I was sitting there, staring at the big "Twelve Steps" poster, it suddenly struck me that you might as well throw out the word "alcoholics," and slap a big, 'ole fat blank right there. Because, if we're really honest with ourselves, I'm pretty sure we're powerless over everything. Over our next breath. Over getting to work safely. Over living to see our grandchildren. But, if we're gonna take the next step and be painfully honest, we are utterly powerless over our sin. Over lining ourselves up with how God wants us to be. Over communicating the marvelous, glorious praise of Christ.

Now, look, I had always understood that. Somewhere in the sticky lobes of my skull, I understood that I was powerless. But for some reason, this past week, in an AA meeting, I realized how weak I really was. And I find it no coincidence that this is the same week that I was given the opportunity to tell my story in front of a crowd of a few hundred people.

God smacked my smart-icles and showed me that I have no message to give. That I could not communicate how great He was. That I could not even begin in any way to help people unless I am doing so in the grace of God's mercy.

And so, I tell you, my readers, I have no tale to tell you that will perk up your ears to wisdom. Anything you read here will not be able to change your heart. If you so happen to be moved by these pitiful words of mine, know that it is not the words themselves, but Christ Himself reaching down into your life. I think this is the reason that 1 Corinthians 2 says,

"This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words."
And for that, I praise the God of both the alcoholic and the arrogant.


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