I have a dear friend who has many qualities I admire. Whenever I complimented her, she shrugged it off. When I pointed this out to her, she said, “I guess I don’t believe you when you tell me good things about myself.” I’m hoping she’s learning to believe me. Years ago, I had a similar mindset toward God. When I felt the Spirit whisper of Heavenly Father’s love for me, well, I sort of believed it. When I prayed, I felt God telling me that I was a good and acceptable person–but I still had a hard time believing. I honestly thought God loved me because He had to—kind of like a parent who feels obligated to love his or her child. However, as I learned to trust God, I learned to believe all that He taught me–including all the good stuff about me. Why are so many of us able and willing to believe the bad stuff about ourselves but not the good? Surely, our parents, culture, and notions of perfection shape our sense of self. But we can learn to re-process and reshape our self-definition to a truthful, not distorted one.
The LDS Twelve-Step program helps facilitate this process. Step Three states, “Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ” (p. 13). The key here: decide. I made the conscious decision to believe God as He revealed to me the true aspects about myself–the good and the bad. I learned (and continually choose) to trust and believe what He says about me. And I still struggle as our culture and others make continual attempts to define and tell me who I’m “supposed” to be. Through the Spirit, I know which definitions to accept and which to disregard.
Obviously, “trusting in God” involves many other themes besides self-definition–too many themes to cover in this post. Nevertheless, the Step Three chapter asks some compelling generic questions applicable to any personality, mindset, or behavior pattern. Since transformation is a continual process, the Twelve-Steps manual offers the following questions to help us start and continue in the process:
- What prevents you from allowing God to direct your life?
- How can you gain the courage to keep trying until you are free of your burdens?
- How strong is your willingness to yield your heart to God instead of yielding to temptation and/or addiction in the moment you are tempted?
- What keeps you from “crying mightily” (Mosiah 29:20) to God for deliverance according to His will?
- What has kept you from seeking this kind of deliverance in the past? (pp. 15-18).
Applying these questions to our lives can be a terrifying experience. And that’s ok. The unknown is scary—even when the unknown means our ultimate deliverance. Even though our negative mindsets and behaviors make us miserable, at least we know what to expect: misery. However, if we can learn to feel “comfortable” in our misery, we can also learn how to feel comfortable in our success. The Twelve-Steps manual observes:
At first our efforts were anxious and halting. We kept giving the Lord our trust and then taking it back. We worried that He would be displeased at our inconsistency and withdraw His support and love from us. But He didn’t. Gradually we allowed the Lord to demonstrate His healing power and the safety of following His way (p. 14).
Like any skill, this mindset takes practice. But if we continue to metaphorically water our flowers rather than our weeds, eventually the weeds will die–and the flowers will thrive. We aren’t helpless and we aren’t hopeless. We need to recognize this lie for what it is: Our resistance to change.
Ready to move over and let God drive?