Sunday, September 02, 2007

Knuckle Under

The last couple days have been one of those glorious moments when serenity and joy wash over me, for no particular identifiable reason. I've just felt good and happy. It's such a wonderful gift from God, to be willing to turn my anxieties and fears over to Him, and simply enjoy His grace like a walk in the sunshine.

Not that people and events around me are particularly going my way. In the middle of divorce and custody games, doing my best to help my 5-year-old adjust to spending nights with daddy, and his mom's unpredictability, while he deals with starting kindergarten next week. On top of which, the company I work for is coming apart -- the CEO was removed by the board this week, putting the medium-term independent existence of the company (and therefore my job) in doubt.

My response was interesting to observe. On one hand, there was one brief episode a few nights ago that I got the "fuck-its" and started thinking that a twelve-pack was a really good idea. (I didn't act on it.) Not a big deal, I get that now and then -- confirmation, if anyone is in doubt, that, yup, I'm still an alcoholic. I look at these urges as signals that I'm off-center, out of focus. Usually when I'm "off-center" it really means I'm putting Phil's will at the center, rather than seeking to align my will with God's will.

I realized that I was merely irritated with God's timing. I already have my hands full, Lord -- dealing with my job and career aren't on my schedule for another few months. I also realized, to my astonishment, that my irritation did not escalate to full-blown resentment toward my company, my boss, my wife, my son, the clerk at 7-11 or other innocent bystanders. Not even toward myself or God, my two favorite targets of resentment.

And I ended up just feeling good. I even filled out a prayer request card at church for the acting CEO, that God will guide him, and grant him wisdom, courage and integrity.


I'm leading a step study, and so have the privilege of working the steps again myself. We're on Step Three, and I credit this step working on me for my strangely serene response to my circumstances. Until recently, I've looked at Step Three as telling me, "The party is over. There is no more fun any more. You have to give up all the stuff you want to do, and knuckle under to the demands of what God requires of you. It's time for obedience to the stuff you don't want." But my experience over the past three years is that, yes, I DO have to give up "what I want," but the outcome is not slavery and misery, but freedom and joy.

There's a popular Christian song that I now see as a marvelous Third Step prayer:

I'm trading my sorrows, I'm trading my shame...
I'm trading my sickness, I'm trading my pain.
I'm laying them down
For the joy of the Lord.

When the Third Step suggests that I make a decision to turn my will and my life over, all it is asking is that I let go of the sorrow, shame, sickness and pain that Phil's Way demands I carry around. The care of God as I understand Him is nothing less than accepting the amazing, radical gift of freedom and joy that He has been offering me all my life. Step Three is not, as it turns out, a demand and requirement to be an obedient slave who will be punished for stepping off the straight and narrow. It is an invitation to conform myself, however imperfectly, to the person God desires me to be -- and God wants me to be happy, joyous and free.


At 9/04/2007 01:27:00 AM, Blogger Teresa Finney said...

Thank you for your advice over on my blog. One did you find my blog? So nice to know SOMEONE reads it at least some of the time. Thanks. :)

At 9/04/2007 04:50:00 PM, Blogger Phil said...

Thanks for your comment, Teresa. I followed the links to your blog via your comment in Scott's online meeting.

I'm very free with my advice, since I'm an oldtimer of over 30... uh, months. Almost invariably, the person who most needs to hear and follow my advice is me.

Keep coming back, Teresa, there are a lot of terrific, supportive sober folks in blogtopia!

At 9/06/2007 09:17:00 AM, Blogger Namenlosen Trinker said...

Hang in there, Phil. Keep doing what you know you need to.

BTW, your polls are broken; I keep getting the message, "Sorry, we were unable to find the page you are looking for" at


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