Sunday, November 20, 2011

Having trouble turning over your will? I know I am

God I offer myself to Thee...
This is the first part of the Third Step Prayer.  It's a prayer commonly used in Alcoholics Anonymous to complete the third step of the Twelve steps which states, "We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him"(emphasis added).  As normal people, as non-alcoholics we think that we do not need the twelve steps, that they do not apply to us, the founders of AA thought differently.  They said that, "And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all." (Foreword to the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous).  In AA as in Christianity and more specifically Catholicism nothing is ever done alone.  As Christians, as Catholics we are never truly alone.  God is always by our side: He suffers with us, He takes joy with us, He is with us when we are sad, He is always with us.  As a community of faith we have our fellow lovers of God with us that we can turn to our fellow Christians for help.  So we do nothing alone, there is always someone or God with us.  So when I, as an individual, decide to to turn my will and life over to God, to submit my will to His so that I may know Him and His will better, I am not alone.  He is there with me along with my fellow sinners who are trying to align their wills with God's also.  Now when I make this decision, when I take this leap of faith I am not saying that I no longer have a will or life of my own, I am saying that I am it giving my will and my life to God to take care of, because, as a sinner, as a human I make mistakes and when I try and exert my will onto others, when I try to live my life without God I fail miserably.  Without God I am nothing, my will is nothing.  My will, when not aligned with God's, leads me to ever greater sin.  So I turn my will and my life over so that He may care for them, ever trusting that He will provide for me both spiritually and materially.  Knowing that as long as I do not try and bend His will to mine, that as long as I have faith and trust that all will be well.  Now, the fun part.  When the writers of the third step said, " we understand Him." they left room for God to grow and change and for the relationship each individual has with God to grow and change.  When we start out we start out with a small God, a God that someone new to spirituality can understand and as we grow and understand more about God our God becomes larger and as our relationship with Him grows our understanding grows and it is an ever growing cycle.  If our understand of God and if our relationship with Him does not grow and change then we become stunted we are like the child who suffers from downs syndrome who's body grows but not his mind.  So we turn out will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.  The book goes on to say, "Turned our will and our life over to the care of God as we understand Him praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out."  We pray not for selfish, self-centered wants, but for how we can be best be of service to His children and to grow in understanding of His will and for the ability to better be able to discern His will.  In that first line we are offering something to God.  We are giving Him the greatest gift that we possibly can, our will and our life, our entire being.  We are reconsecrating ourselves to His service.  Every day Christ sacrifices himself for us, so that we be saved.  The least we can do is give back to Him what He so freely gave us, life.  We can offer Him our lives so that others might find His love, grace and mercy.  The gift of self is the greatest gift any of us can ever give.  To give of our time, our energy, our God given gifts and talents to others.  By doing this we let go of our selfishness, our me first attitudes and we find the joy that we have lost.

To build with me and do with me as Thou wilt...
Fr. Thomas Philippe talks about being a useless servant.  This is where we become that useless servant.  We have given ourselves over to God to use as He wills, as He wants.  We are saying that we are turning our free will over to Him, our life over to Him so that He may turn us into the fullness of what He has intended us to be.  It is when we resist, when we take our wills and our lives back as our own that we fail to become who He intended us to be.  Psalm 139 says, "And in your book were written all The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them."  When we take our wills and our lives back we are saying that His plans for us are not good enough, that our plans are better.  The plans that God has for us, the days that He has written for us are far better than any we could have planned, any we could ever imagine or bring forth in fantasy.  For while we dream of visiting foreign countries, having a big house, making lots of money and the like God dreams of making us saints.  What could be better than being part of the elect, being part of the communion of saints?  There is nothing that we could ever think of that could be better than what He has planned for us.  We need to be useless servants so that His will may flow through us as river flows through the earth.  We need to be useless servants so that His love can fill us and demolish any impediments that stand in the way of the river that is His will.  Once we become useless servants our lives will explode and be better than we had ever thought possible.  We will see the world and all the beauty that is within it.  Our hearts will burst with love and joy at the beauty that surrounds us.  This can only be accomplished through the the turning over of our wills and lives to God.

Relieve me of the bondage of self...
We ask God for so many things.  We ask Him to give us worldly things, to help us with our problems, to give us that perfect boyfriend or girlfriend.  We ask Him for so much for our self.  We rarely, if ever, ask for others.  We rarely ask that those who do not who God's grace, love and forgiveness that they may know them.  We do not pray for those mired in sin that they may know forgiveness.  We do not pray for those who do not know God to know Him.  We rarely ask that others may know what we take for granted.  Here is where we ask God to take away our bonds.  Selfishness and self-centeredness are accomplices to sin in our enslavement.  Sin is the is the chain that holds the bonds together, while selfishness and self-centeredness are form the bonds themselves.  We sin through our selfishness.  Our selfish nature blinds us to the pain and suffering of those around us because we are so concerned with our perceived pain that we do not see the homeless man on the street who is in far more pain than we are with our homes and cars and material comforts.  Yet that man will give his only blanket so that someone else may have warmth or give his meal to one who has not eaten in a week while he himself may not have eaten in a month.  Our selfishness stunts our ability to give and to be of maximum service to our God.  So we ask God to remove that burden so that weighs on us so heavily; the burden of self.  Once that burden has been removed we are able to be of maximum to service to our fellow children of God.  By being of service we are able to experience true joy and happiness.  It is through giving of ourselves, through emptying ourselves out totally for Christ are we able to receive all of His gifts.  It's only by losing everything that we are able to gain the greatest of all things and our inheritance; the kingdom of God.  By being rid of self, by asking God to rid of us the insidious disease of self He is taking our largest cross from us and allowing us to fully see the beautiful world that He has created for us and to see the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters.  Relieve me of the bondage of self.

That I may better do Thy will...
Once God has rid of us self we are now better able to do His will.  We have had the voice of self taken away from us and we are now able to hear the that little voice of God more clearly in our heart.  Once we can clearly Him we will be better able to do His will, but every step of this prayer is a choice.  Even once we have been rid of self we can still choose not to do His will, but our own thinking we know better how to server Him and His children than He does.  Instead of taking our will back and using our new found clarity as we see fit we should leave our will and our life in God's care and allow Him to guide us on how best to care for His children.  If we listen God will instruct us on how to be of benefit to Him and His children.  The entire purpose of this prayer is to let God take care of us and to learn to let His will be our will.  Now, is not the time to stop, but to push forward so that we may know the fullness of His glory.  With self gone we may now start the process of learning to discern His will for us.  We no longer pray for selfish things, but instead to know how to better serve His children.

Take away my difficulties...
So now we ask, "Well, I've gotten rid of self what other difficulties do I have?"  The answer to that is many.  First of them being pride.  We may find ourselves too proud to serve the poor or to clean a shelter or do the smallest of tasks.  After all we have much to be proud of so why should we lower ourselves to doing menial tasks such as cleaning?  We should because that is what He is asking us to do.  God does not command us as we have free will, so He simply asks.  Sometimes the best thing we can do is help our neighbor take our the garbage.  That simple act of kindness can mean more than donating money to the local agency that helps the aged.  So we must be rid of our pride so that we can do both the smallest task and the largest.  We must be willing to do whatever He calls us to do.  We must be rid of our pride, we must be stripped bear before we are truly able to abide in His home and before He is able to truly abide in us.  He must be allowed to decorate His surroundings to His liking and we must allow Him to do so.  This is a frightening proposition, to allow someone else to decorate what, we consider, our home, but have faith He will decorate to your liking.  All will be of such beauty that you have never seen and you will fall to your knees is adoration at what He has done.  Pride is the hardest difficulty to be rid of as we believe we deserve to be proud of all that we have done, when the truth is we have done nothing and God has done everything all we have done is to allow Him to work though us.

That victory over them may bear witness to those that I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life...
Once we have been rid of self and pride we can claim victory.  Though it is not us that has the victory it is truly God's victory and that victory is shown in the way we live, the way we talk, the way we walk on His path.  Everyone can see the change that has come over us, the light that shines from us.  Through our recovery from self, from being who society deems we should be, we bear witness to all those around us by being countercultural.  By caring more for others than for self, by showing the power of His grace and love.  Our happiness, our sincere smile tell everyone that we have found true peace and true serenity by dwelling with in His castle.  By our very presence in the world we bear witness to all that He has done for us.  It is our responsibility to be an example every day of the power of God in the life of one person.  Our simple, quiet witness of a life lived in service to God and our fellows is the best witness we could ever give to the power and the love that God has to offer.  That silent witness is us living His way of life, living the way God intended us to, living as Christ did by being of service to our fellows, to the lowest of the low.  We love the prostitute who knows no other way, the woman hurt by abortion, the child who beats others because he himself was beaten, the homeless man on the corner with no hope.  By being of service to them we give them hope and show them there is a better way.  We bear witness to all that Christ can do in our lives.

The Third Step Prayer

God I offer myself to Thee
To build with me and do with me as Thou wilt
Relieve me of the bondage of self
That I may better do Thy will
Take away my difficulties
That victory of them may bear witness
To those that I would help of
Thy Power, Thy Love and Thy Way of Life

In Christ our life,

Thomas Catherine

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