August 16, 2023- Quit playing God

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Several years ago, I was a part of a group called the 11th Step Cafe, named for the 11th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous, which centers on “conscious contact with God.” It was a mixed group of church folk, people in recovery, and a few that wore both hats. Mostly, we took time to share our lives with one another: checking in, offering support, being there for the ups and downs. But to help us as we got to know each other, we first read the book Recovery: The Sacred Art by Rami Shapiro.

The book begins thus:

Here is the heart of Twelve Step recovery—quit playing God. […] What does it mean to play God? It means living under the delusion that life is controllable. It means constantly struggling to maintain the illusion that you are controlling it. It means lying to yourself all day, every day, insisting that, with enough effort, you can get life to do whatever it is you want it to do (ix).* 

He asserts that just about all of us are addicted to the illusion of being in control, and I would concur and confess. I should know by now that I cannot control the weather, one’s health, or how another person feels, thinks, or acts. Yet how quickly do I depart from the person (parent, pastor, spouse) I want to be when the unexpected or undesired happens? Spoiler alert: it’s fast.

As our group returned to this concept throughout our months of meeting, we also found we needed some nuance. Sure, we ought to stop kidding ourselves that we are or should be in control all the time, but not to a point where we lose hope of ever having an impact. The image of a boat’s rudder proved helpful in this. We might not be able to control the seas, but we can try to navigate them, guided best by wisdom born of conscious contact with God and asking help of our neighbors. There is no absolute guarantee of safety, or that we’ll get where we want to go exactly when we want to get there, but we can, with God’s help, point ourselves in the desired direction.

Our memory verse this week encourages us to ask for the ancient path, where the good way lies. Though our ancestors were known for their wandering, the stories tell us that it was not without direction. There is a good way worth seeking, and whether we run from it or seek it in all the wrong places, a higher power stands ready to guide us toward those paths. But it certainly helps when we stop trying to control things and dare to ask for directions.

Pastor Jen

* Shapiro, Rami. Recovery—the sacred art: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice. Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2009.