These 12 Steps are not a one-and-done deal. You don’t do one step, then move on to the next. They’re more like steps to a dance: 1-2-3, 1-2-3 over and over until it becomes a rhythm of life. Admitting we are powerless over some particular thing that has a grip can bring tremendous relief in that first moment of letting go. But admitting powerlessness must become a way of life to experience the fullness of God’s Kingdom Life.
Step 1 – “We admitted we were powerless over out addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”
So how does that work? It’s really a practical posture of humility. “Serve each other in humility, for ‘God opposes the proud but favors the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). If we daily focus on giving up control, on resigning from playing God and trying to run the universe according to our will and our ways, then we become free to experience God’s power in our powerlessness. We get free of “self-centeredness” and can be “God-centered” and even “other-centered” more and more. We can be more and more like Jesus.
But how does this work practically? With unmanageable symptoms, it means being aware and honest with God about our inability to “muscle out different behavior” on our own. If you struggle with looking at porn, or shopping yourself into more debt, or alcohol, or drugs, or whatever—it’s maintaining a vigilant honesty that “I’m powerless to change myself.” You keep short accounts with God and yourself so that the subtle pride of “I’m all better now” does not sneak up and sabotage you.
“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (I Corinthians 10:12-13). He will show you a way out as long as you stay humble and keep admitting your need. As soon as we bow up in pride thinking, “I’ve got this,” then be careful ‘cause you’re about to fall.
Admitting powerlessness is the same thing as humbly seeing the truth about ourselves. That’s why it must become a way of life—it’s living in reality—where God lives! Truth is we do not have power over most things—even our feelings, our moods, our reactions, our hormones, our spouses, or our employees (you can reward and punish employees but you can’t control the important things like motivation, integrity, excellence). You can’t control how all of life goes ever, and you can’t control how most of life goes most of the time.
Admitting powerlessness as a way of life opens the door to living humbly dependent on God and humbly interdependent with others. That’s what it takes to love. You can’t love God while wrestling for power with God. You can’t love God if you’ve got to be God. You can’t love others if you can’t realize that you need others. Powerlessness is humbly living in reality.
Reality is you and I need God. You don’t have control of when or where you were born, how most of life went growing up, how to keep your heart beating or your immune system fighting, and you don’t know when you’ll die. Reality is you are not independent—you need God. Some people fight this reality until the bitter end, but that’s the sin disease that keeps us all trying to play God. Admitting powerlessness frees us to live in reality with a God who loves us and wants to help us without overpowering our free will.
Reality is you need others. You don’t have the ability to survive without others—you are interdependent—that’s reality. You light the stove because others supply gas to your house. You cook the food you got at the store because others grow your food. You turn on the lights because others produce electricity. We need each other more than we admit. Admitting our powerlessness over so much that we take for granted is simply living in humble acknowledgement of reality.
Daily admitting powerlessness is living in reality. Reality is where we can find freedom from the pretense that keeps us stuck. Then we can truly be free to love God and others.