OK, as we all know Step Three says: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. And as all of us who have been around a bit know that even though this says “made a decision” it really is a process made up of many, many decisions made over a period of time.
In early recovery we get all ceremonial and maybe make a ritual of step three and we “take" it with another person…a very brave act of considerable intimacy. Later we take it again. And again. Often when life is hard: something is not going our way or when we want something. Spiritual wisdom and spiritual maturity teach us that sooner or later we’re gonna turn it over so why not sooner rather than later. I like to say that instead of waiting to hit the wall I try to take Step Three when I see the wall coming.
So it’s a process and our spiritual growth deepens with each “taking” of the third step. OK. I have taken this step on relationships, money, work, jobs, things I wanted and things I did not want. Like the instructions for praying for others that comes later in the Big Book we are advised to say the words whether our heart is in it or not. So too with Step Three. Turn It Over.
Years ago I learned this trick: when I am in a difficult meeting at work or have some fear of people or outcomes I write this at the top of my agenda or speaking notes: TIO. That’s my secret code reminder that I am trying to Turn It Over.
Earlier this year I heard this from a spiritual teacher: “Give yourself to God. Surrender your whole being to be used for His righteous purposes.” In essence that too is Step Three. I loved the phrasing of that though: Surrender Your whole being...ahhhh there is a kind of relief right in those words, no?
But a new layer of turning it over this year.
I am and have always cared about my appearance. Clothes, face and hair..Oh the search for the right haircut and the combination of cut and color. Superficial you say? Not very spiritual you think? Hold On. In early, early recovery I decided—getting all spiritual and all and having taken my first very ceremonial Step Three at the beach that I was too spiritual for hair color, make up and such, well, yes superficial things. At core I was just into a new kind of sacrificial mode. I was still trying to get good enough for God.
Luckily I had a sponsor who was tall and blonde and stylish and she said, “God does not want you to wear sackcloth and ashes, God loves you, get the highlights back in your hair.” And I believed her! How can you carry a message to others if you look like crap…is some newcomer going to want what you have if you look terrible or dowdy? Bad enough that people think there will be NO MORE FUN after sobriety but that they will have to look bad too? Remember this is attraction rather than promotion.
But flash forward 20 years and I am more or less surrendering work and my art work and my marriage and difficult things I need to do and in most cases the things I want. But most days I’m agonizing over my hair….20 salons later I still can’t find that gamine cut with the highlights that leave me looking pretty and chic and smart all at the same time, kind of like Susan Sontag in a bikini.
So it hits me, I’ve turned over everything else—taken most back on a regular basis but still--so why not how I look? Does that make you tremble? My hair, clothes, my “look” and God knows, what other people think of me or what they see and most important: how I feel about how I look.
OK, at the end of the day—or at the End of Fashion Week-- it’s still not a perfect surrender. I mean the Devil appears regularly in the form of Vogue and the New York Magazine Look Book…but I invite you to consider this: If God really does care, and God knows we like shoes and great hair cuts, wouldn’t he give that at least a teensy bit of consideration?
And besides the true benefit of surrender is peace. Peace of Mind, peace with others and if you are like me, peace with wardrobe and hair dresser too.