When we first start our recovery, we get to Step 1 and we think that’s a scary step – to admit that we’re powerless and our lives have become unmanageable. That’s pretty scary! And even the second step, that maybe there is something greater than myself that I can rely on. – a God or a Higher Power. That’s even scary. A lot of us have a lot of damage in that area.
But, man! This third step! It’s so crazy because we get to a point where we have to take this step. And the step is I’ve looked everything in my life and I know that I’m powerless and everything is out of control, that I need God to restore me to sanity and now … I have to let Him do it. And for me, I don’t trust a lot of people. I don’t have a lot of faith, especially in the first part of my recovery. So, what level of faith do I have in God?
If you get to the point where you’re really going back and forth on that, go back to Step 1, go back to Step 2. Really get the idea that, “I’ve done it on your own. I’ve made a mess out of everything. And I have to turn it over.” This is a step of saying, “There’s a God that knows me.”
I want to tell you a story that really helped me get this. For me, it was years after recovery. But you’re going to find that you keep coming back to these steps as you continue to get them in your heart. I looked at myself, coming off of heroin after ten years on the streets, living a lifestyle that was pretty twisted. For a lot of us, our addictions have taken us to some pretty dark places and, relationally, we’ve brought people into our lives that are a mess, and we’re a mess. So with the third step, you have to believe not only that there’s a God, but that He knows who you are outside of that mess. You have to believe at some point that you’ll end up in a place such as West Coast Recovery Centers ready to take the step to stop using heroin once and for all.
As an example, way into my recovery, I ended up going into ministry and doing all kinds of things and it’s been a blast. I really want to say to you right now that when you start trusting God with your recovery, just be ready for Him to wow you. But anyhow, I was doing an outreach in Russia with some heroin addicts. I love addicts! Because I am one. That’s where I came from. So I was in Russia for six or seven weeks, and I was standing in Red Square! It was unbelievable! Onion dome churches all around and the sun was setting. It’s just this beautiful area and I was just looking around and taking it all in. Coming from my background, it was just incredible.
All the sudden, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Do you remember when you were a kid?” And I looked back to when I was about 14 years old, living in a car, just a really rundown ’62 T-Bird, I think. It was just a rundown car. There were three of us staying in that car that night, and it was cold. It was in South Gate, California. Not the best part of town. I remember, in the middle of the night I got out of the car and I looked down the street and I started to cry and I thought, “Is this going to be my life? Is this really my life?”
All that came back to me while I was standing in Red Square in Russia. And God said, “Remember that.” I didn’t hear a voice, and it wasn’t an audible thing, but it was as if He was standing right next to me. And He said, “Do you remember that?” And I did. In that instant, it was like He gave me that complete memory of how I felt and what it was like being homeless, living with people who exploited children, and all that kind of stuff. It was just not a good situation. And I said to God, “Yes, I remember that.” And He said, “When you were there, I knew that someday you would be standing here.” And I thought, “Shut up! How incredible is that!”
And so when I get to Step 3, I have to know not only is there a God who can restore me to sanity but I’m willing to turn it over to Him and know that He knows me. He has plans for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I have plans to restore you and to give you life and give you a future and hope. I know who I created you to be.” He knows all that, but I don’t. The best I know is all this survival stuff and the things I’ve been taught growing up. I view the world in a certain way and He got to go in and untwist all that.
So in Step 1 we admit we’re powerless. In Step 2, we see that there’s a God who can restore me to sanity. And in Step 3 it’s this: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, however we understand Him at this time. So, I’m willing to turn it over. It’s really tough. I have trust issues. I don’t feel like anybody’s been there for me. I’ve survived on my own. And this step said, “OK. Man! I’m done with that, and I’ll give it to You.”
Stay there as long as you have to stay there in order to get that right. It’s an interesting place to be, to finally say to God, “I’m done!” I’ve misunderstood a lot of things about God. I’ve got to know that God is not malicious. He’s not punitive. He’s not going to fool me or trick me or set me up. He’s not going to play a joke on me. God is not going to ask me to wait any longer than I need to. He really has my back.
When He comes in, as fast as we’re willing and able to surrender our stuff, that’s how fast He’ll go with us. One of my issues took 21 years! I know! I’m so slow. But God was faithful in waiting for me to be able to see it. I kept wanting to take control and go in every other direction. So in this step, you’re willing – just willing – to turn this stuff over. Sometimes we might have to ask Him to make us willing. I just don’t know if I’m capable of understanding what that means. I don’t know if I’m capable of trusting on that level. I don’t know if I’m honest enough. I am manipulative and deceitful and conning in my addictions. I’ve learned to lie to get my own way. And God says, “I want you to give me all of that.” What’s incredible is that He’s so tender with us. He says He’ll unfold it in a way that, even though you may feel some shame, and you may feel some pain, that’s never His intention. He’s not trying to get us to pay for our sins. He’s trying to get us to give it to Him. To let Him carry it. To surrender it to Him until I can start to see the world differently, see myself differently, and see Him differently, and heal.
In the Twelve Step program, there’s a saying that when you come to this step it’s like you’re going in for surgery. Surgery is never fun. It’s never easy. It’s not anything that anybody looks forward to. But if they’re going to cut out some cancer and I’m going to be cancer-free after that, I’ll go to a surgeon I trust and I’ll let him do it. I wouldn’t go in and say, “You know, I have trust issues. So can I cut it out myself? Would you just give me the scalpel and I’ll do my own surgery?” There’s no way! Because as soon as it starts to hurt, I’m going to stop. But God will do it in a way that will be successful and you’ll come out on the other end without all the issues, even it if takes 21 years! Of course, some of them you’ll get right away like I did. Some of them I said, “Yeah, yeah, yea. I have no problem with that.” But some of them I didn’t even think God knew about, and those took longer.
Step 3 is an incredible step. I pray that you’ll get there. Not only get there, but get there with someone. Get people around you to start giving you support. Get a sponsor. Join a group. Do whatever you need to be able to say honestly, “I am turning this over. I surrender. I’m done.” It’s not a sign of defeat. It’s actually a sign of incredible strength. I’ve done it on my own. Someone lied to me. I was never meant to do it on my own. And I surrender.
I love Step 3! You’ll come back to it many times. Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. How cool is that!