Atonement Application Program - Step Three: Trust in God

Key Principle: Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Step 3 was one I had been dreading. I am a pretty determined person. I have plans for my life. I have goals and dreams. I tend to take things into my own hands. I am a bit of a control freak. Giving up my will sounded terrifying. I don't have the kind of trust in God other people have.  I questioned whether I could do it.  What if I say I'll do His will and then don't do it? What if He asks me to do something I don't want to?  I feel like I hardly know Him.  Can I really trust Him?  Does He really love me and have my best interests at heart?

The thing is, I do want to do God's will, at least sometimes. I try to keep the commandments - that's His will. I try to serve others - that's His will. I would like to be a force for good in the world and make a difference - that's His will too. At a high level I want to do His will. But when you get into the little details, it can get a lot less appealing. Changing my plans to do something He asks me to do. Asking me to get out of my comfort zone. Asking me to do something inconvenient.  To do something I don't want to do.  To give up my to do list. That is where the struggle is.

As I worked up the courage to take this step, I did a lot of journaling and reading online about others' thoughts about and experiences of giving their wills to God.  Listening to a playlist I made about submitting to God provided a way for the Spirit to assure me that yes, I could do this.  And eventually, I did.

So far the problem hasn't been so much Him asking me to do things I don't want to do, but more of having no idea what He wants me to do.  I pray and listen and don't get any ideas.  It's a little frustrating.  I kind of feel like if I've made this commitment, I should get some instructions!

John Pontius recommended keeping a notebook with you and writing down all the good actions that come to your mind during the day, then recording whether you did each one and what the outcome was. I've tried that but have yet to really learn much, and I'm not sure it's that accurate.  I can't spend my whole day doing every. little. thing. that comes to mind.  My brain is perfectly capable of thinking of good things on its own, thankyouverymuch.

I've been reassuring myself that it isn't until step 11 that you actually start praying and meditating to know and follow God's will.  My hope is by the time I get there, I'll be more capable of knowing what He wants me to do.  It's frustrating that you commit to giving your will to God in step 3 but don't actually start doing it till step 11, but I guess if you don't commit to giving your will to God, you'll never make it through the rest of the steps!

Forgiving myself: Debating with Jesus in my brain

After attending several Addiction Recovery Program meetings with my addict friends, I was surprised to find out that we had more in common than I thought.

Step 9 is Restitution and Reconciliation.  You're supposed to make restitution to everyone you harmed because of your addiction.  The week we covered that step, when it was my turn to share, I talked about how, like them, I've also done things I don't think I can ever make up for.  I've apologized multiple times but my apologies have never been acknowledged.  I've gone out of my way to serve this person I hurt.  I've done everything I can think of.  One of the guys who shared after me said that he knows what's it's like to feel that way, but you have to move on and forgive yourself, even if the person you harmed hasn't forgiven you.

I'm not on step 9 yet, but today I've been thinking about this idea of forgiving myself.  I know you're supposed to forgive yourself.  But I have plenty of arguments about why I shouldn't!  In fact, I ended up imagining a little debate with Jesus where I argued in favor of not forgiving myself:

Me: I'm having a hard time forgiving myself for __________.

Jesus: Why?

Me: Because I feel like I can never make up for it.  Like I need to suffer for it and always remember what a terrible thing I did. Like if _____ is still suffering the effects of what I did, I should still be suffering.

Jesus: Why should you suffer?

Me: Shouldn't I?  I did something terrible.

Jesus: But you wish you hadn't.  You repented of it.  Repenting doesn’t mean suffering endlessly.  It means changing your heart.  Your heart is different now, isn’t it?

Me: Yes.... I would never __________ again.

Jesus: See!  You’ve changed!

Me: But am I allowed to move on with my life if _____ hasn’t?

Jesus: Absolutely!  There’s no requirement that the person you hurt must forgive you in order for you to forgive yourself, or even for Me to forgive you.  And, by the way, I have forgiven you.

Me: Even though what I did to _____, I essentially did to You?  Even though You felt all that?  How can You forgive me for __________?

Jesus: Because I love you.  Because I understand who you are and what you went through that influenced you to act that way.  Because I want to extend to you as much mercy as I can.

Me: <crickets>

Jesus:  Do you believe My atonement covers all the sins in the world?

Me: Yes...

Jesus: Then why do you believe that you have to suffer?  Why isn’t My atonement isn’t enough to cover what you did?

Me: I deserve to suffer because _____ had to suffer.

Jesus: And at what point have you suffered enough to stop suffering?  At what point have you atoned for what you did?

Me: <crickets>

Jesus: You don’t think you’ll ever suffer enough.

Me: <guilty as charged>

Jesus: (smiling) Perfect.  My atonement covers that!  It covers infinite suffering. Because I love you, I suffered for you so you don't have to!  If you keep suffering, then what are you saying about what I did?  Why should both of us suffer when only one of us needs to - and I already did it?

Me: Are you sure it’s okay to move on? It's okay to stop beating myself up about it?

Jesus: It’s okay! I forgave you years ago.  Please!  Forgive yourself!  Move on!

Me: (pause) I should have known better than to debate with You.  You always outsmarted the Pharisees.

Jesus: (laughing) That's one of the benefits of being omniscient.

Me: <rolling eyes>

Jesus: So you're going to let go of it, right?  Put it in the past?  Stop beating yourself up?

Me: Right.

Jesus: (smirking) I knew you'd say that.

Me: <facepalm>