The question I should have asked when I dropped into AA was, Is there a difference between step 3 and salvation for a Christian?
Initially, I didn’t ask that key question. Did you? Those of us who have a religious affiliation, can’t help but read the first three steps and filter the wording through that formeR set of beliefs. I say former because no matter what I believed or what I thought when I got ready to seriously take the Steps, I was building from there. We cannot stay exactly in the same mindset if we’re to expect progress. The Steps call for change, for healing, for the hard work of self-examination.
The steps were listed on a banner in the room upstairs at the club. I remember reading them as I was waiting for the meetings to get started. I thought, Step One, Two, Three–check! Now, what the heck is Step 4 about?
I thought I came into the rooms on Step 4. The other 3 were a mere formality since I had a systematic theology in place and had a ‘relationship’ with God already. I had no questions about those first 3. Did you?
If you did, then in some respects you could be more honest than I could be. I was dishonest to the extent that I was lying to myself. It doesn’t matter how unintentional. I was not honest. I got so sidetracked with defending my view of God that it has taken me years to get back to those initial steps and really look at them. The whole Higher Power and God of Your Understanding irritated me. This self-righteous attitude did little to keep me sober and probably became irritating for others who had to listen to me expound on my beliefs.
I already “knew” God and I could give you chapter and verse documentation on my salvation. I say my beliefs led to my dishonesty because I continued to lie to myself about my need for reforming the basic life view that landed me around the tables.
I knew the difference between justification and sanctification, but it got a little blurry in the practical application for me. For some reason, I was not conforming to the image of God. My reflection of His image was becoming more and more diseased. I was at a dead end. In fact, I was just wanting to come to the end of life period. Hold on. Was I ready to come to the end of self? No. Not when I first read Steps 1 to 3. Thinking I knew it all was probably my biggest hurdle to the program.
In reality, the self-willed Heidi was so bereft of any God-like characteristics that I could no longer deny my false self, my hypocrisy, my barren life. My life had become as fruitless as a dried up, diseased and worm-eaten lone apple tree. Time to chop it down.
Being convinced we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do? The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. ~Alcoholics Anonymous, 2012, p 60.
I previously posted my overly dramatic Step 3. So much more work is necessary. That was the breakthrough–the beginning. It is only now that I realize I need to take a really honest look at those initial Steps if I want to keep growing.
PS: I would imagine coming into the program with other belief systems might also lead to assumptions for those first 3 Steps. What is your reaction?