Back in 1989 or1990 (it predates when I started my Excel running log, so I don’t have the exact date on tap) Ethel – who, at the time, was just Kim, not having gotten the rest of her names – went with a bunch of our friends on a white-water rafting trip on the Ocoee River.
She came home with a T-Shirt that said “Paddle Or Die!” – it wasn’t this graphic, but this is the idea:
The notion, see, is that once you get on the raft, everybody has to paddle together, following instructions as to which direction to paddle, or the raft will hit the rocks too hard or capsize.
You don’t get to decide not to paddle in the middle of the river. You can’t get off the raft, and you can’t get out of the river – you’re going downriver. You’ll either go on the raft, or in the water, where if you don’t drown, you’ll break all your bones on the rocks.
Paddle or die.
I’ve lately been using this as a metaphor for the Third Step.
STEP THREE: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him
A lot of the time, in meetings, I hear people talking about “taking our will and lives back”. That’s a curious phrase – it sounds, to me, like more folklore.
There are a couple of reasons for why I don’t believe that we can “take our will and lives back”. The first is the simplest – it never, ever, mentions anything about this in the Big Book.
To me it seems that the Big Book, being a manual designed to give me precise instructions on how to work the Steps of recovery, is verbose on milestones – almost every action Step has “promises” which really means “this is how you know that you did it right”. And many of them have warnings – saying “don’t do this” or “if you do this wrong, this bad thing might happen”.
Never, ever, at all, in any way, does the Big Book ever say anything at all about us getting our wills and lives back – or being able to take them back. It just ain’t in there.
Secondly, there IS a warning at the end of the paragraph with the Third Step prayer on page 63:
We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.
Not too long ago, Ethel and I were considering getting a radio-collar fence for the husky pups; living in a condo, we don’t have a fenced yard, and we were tired of having to put them on long leads every time we let them out to go potty. We wanted to be able to just open the door and let them out.
In reading the write-ups on the most promising product, it sounded okay, but the cost seemed quite high – however, then I saw this line in the “returns” policy:
“If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it within 45 days for a refund of your purchase price.”
Oh, okay – gee, that’s easy. No reason not to try it, right?….No real risk….so we ordered it, and it didn’t work for us, and they refunded our money most riki-tiki.
Notice how the website did NOT say – “Think well before ordering this product, that you can, at last, abandon yourself utterly to keeping it and losing your money“.
The Big Book is telling us that, when we do this, we are abandoning ourselves utterly to Him. No return policy.
We think of the First 100 as early members of Alcoholics Anonymous – but they weren’t. They didn’t have the name “Alcoholics Anonymous” until AFTER the book was written. In the early days, most of them were members of the Oxford Groups – a Protestant evangelical group. And the instruction is to say this prayer with another person.
“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” – Matt 18:19
There’s a belief there that asking for this to be done means that it will be done. Couple that with the fact that what’s being asked for is, indeed, God’s Will, and it’s a slam dunk.
So I don’t believe that we can “take our will back”. The way the model works for me is this – once I say that prayer, with somebody else, understanding it and meaning it, then it’s cast in stone.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I can’t believe that I can still run my own life; but, again, I sorta suppose that trying that, after I’ve made this decision, means that those events are nothing but teaching opportunities 🙂
But I hold the belief that once we do this, we then are in God’s hands. He’s going to help me work the Steps if I do that. If I “decide” that I’m going to do something else, that’s just fine too – because He’s going to keep pushing me back to a path towards Him. What looks like my “decision” to not do it is just another part of the plan.
Perhaps, before I do this prayer, there might be random chance in my life – but once I take the Third Step, random chance is no longer a factor. Now I’m being taken back to God – helped and supported, or kicking and screaming, but I’m going to God 🙂
It’s like the Ocoee River – as long as I’m on the shore, I can dither and waffle and hem and haw – but once I get in the boat. I am going down the river. I might follow the guide’s instructions and paddle correctly, and have a ball and yell with my raftmates and wave joyously to the people I see on the shore as I pass.
I might balk at the guide’s orders, maybe only following the ones that I want to follow. It won’t go well, but I might get to stay in the raft.
Or maybe I decide not to listen to the guide, and think that it’s okay if I throw my paddle down and just try to hold on to the handle. This might get me thrown out of the raft – and who knows? Maybe my life jacket will keep me afloat long enough to get back into the raft in the next calm spot.
Or maybe I’ll drown, or bash my head against a boulder, and die.
It doesn’t matter – I am still going down the river. God’s Will will be done in me, even if I’m not alive for it.
Paddle or die!