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We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. – Step One of the Twelve Steps
I am convinced that the spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous, as it was first called, is going to go down as the significant and authentic American contribution to the history of spirituality. With inspiration from the Holy Spirit, Bill Wilson and all the other founders rediscovered the core teachings of Jesus and formed them into a program that could really change lives. It is a spirituality of imperfection, in contrast to Western Christianity’s emphasis on perfection, performance, and willpower.
I believe Jesus and the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are saying the same thing but with different vocabulary:
We suffer to get well.
We surrender to win.
We die to live.
We give it away to keep it.
This counterintuitive wisdom will forever be avoided, until it is forced upon us by some reality over which we are powerless—and if we are honest, we are all powerless in the presence of full Reality.
Both the Gospel and the Twelve Step Program insist that the experience of powerlessness is the absolutely necessary starting point for transformational healing. This is perennial wisdom. Jesus called it the way of the cross, and he told us to follow him on the downward journey into powerlessness. It is there where we will find what is real, what lasts, and what matters. Through the crucifixion, Jesus showed us that powerlessness is the way through. It is not the end, but truly the beginning.
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