The second step of the 12-step recovery program is
“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
In the great scheme of recovery, this step is often treated as a minor one. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of action involved. Yet it is not only a cornerstone of the remaining work… it is also a highly valuable belief for people that are not in recovery. Particularly for those on a spiritual journey.
Taking this phrase in pieces,
“Came to believe” implies we previously were unbelievers.
“a Power greater than ourselves” assumes we recognized we are not God, but need God
“could restore us to sanity” is the kick in the head: we agree that we have been (or acted) insane
I have met few individuals who readily agreed they had been insane but the rest of us usually come around. Eventually. “Insanity” is the term we reserve for people who commit inexplicable acts (addicts, criminals), for those that are obviously not right in their thinking (other drivers), for a certain subset of humanity who suffer from a mental instability (politicians).
OK, sure. According to Merriam-Webster, insanity is defined as
- a severely disordered state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder
- unsoundness of mind or lack of the ability to understand that prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or that releases one from criminal or civil responsibility
- a: extreme folly or unreasonableness
b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable
Insanity = unreasonableness.
In that definition, virtually all of humanity has been insane at some point since we have all been unreasonable for at least a minute.
Exhibit #1: the toddler throwing a fit on the floor of the grocery store is not reasonable.
Exhibit #2: that spouse throwing a fit about <virtually anything> is not being reasonable.
Exhibit #3: the boss/spouse/co-worker/fellow-commuter demanding their own way is not being reasonable.
Exhibit #4: any person that defies the order, wisdom and authority of one with higher standing (i.e., a police officer, a judge, an employer, God)
You can’t see it but I’m holding my hand up in the air. Each of these is a real-life example of my own insanity. Guilty. I have been guilty of insanity in the 1st degree.
Perhaps these are not true of other people… “normal” people. If not, then we have a serious epidemic of abnormality in our societies. In the last month I observed a mom in a minivan roll through a stop sign during rush hour (kids in the backset), a man driving around with small children in the front seat – with no seat belts, an adamant co-worker declaring they know better than the management that is running the company, and my personal favorite: me, realizing I had spent the last 5 years in an dysfunctional relationship with my calendar. Insanity.
Maybe that bit with the calendar doesn’t sound so bad but for a man like me, it became unreasonable a long time ago.
See, I had a thought back then that I just needed to be better at time management. So I began scheduling time for my activities. My calendar kept me on track, on schedule, on point. Over time, that (good?) idea transformed into a crammed-full schedule of activities and tasks that left me tired and stressed, and silently blaming others for me not having enough time. Sure, even I can see that in hindsight. Please don’t judge me: I had a small case of insanity. But I’m better now, thanks for asking. 🙂
This situation came to a head recently; God showed me I had developed the habit of putting my scheduled calendar activities ahead of… well, everything else. The calendar had become the master, and I was the disgruntled slave of a system I had created. And I had nurtured a resentment about it for approximately 3 years. (I’m not the sharpest tack in the box).
But enough about me. The unreasonableness that human beings bring to their relationship with God is also insanity. Paul, my favorite biblical character (and fellow rebel), was a good example of unreasonableness when he was known as Saul. In defiance of the God he claimed to serve, Paul spent quite a bit of time and energy persecuting followers of Jesus. Because, well, Paul believed he knew better than God. Unreasonable, wouldn’t you agree?
Haven’t we all been a little guilty of believing we knew better than God, at some point?
Either God is God in all His Godness, which includes omnipotence and omniscience. Or He is not the greater Power we need in order to be restored to sanity.
At a significant point in my life, I firmly cast my vote for the former, based on nothing more than my life-or-death desperation for some sanity. The unreasonableness of my life, at that time, was the vehicle that drove me to God. I do not claim to be completely “normal” today. But, like Paul and so many others, at the feet of the Redeemer I came to believe He would restore me to sanity. And, little by little, He is. He will do the same for anyone desperate enough to believe.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV