One of the most important principals of Alcoholics Anonymous is to let go of the things we can’t control and let God take the reins. In most things in life, the more rewarding a discipline the more difficult it is to employ, and this concept is no exception. Many times it is tough to determine exactly where “our part” ends and where “God’s part” begins, especially considering our innate ability to fool ourselves into believing what we want to believe combined with our disproportionate obsession to be in control. In my own life I have found that “practice makes perfect” and the more frequently I give in to this idea, the more I see things work out, which in turn builds my faith and confidence in God, allowing me to let go a little bit more the next time.
The analogy below helps me understand the concept of “letting go and letting God” in a less abstract manner. Indeed, the only difference here is the relationship between surgeon and concerned parent fails to capture the true gap of understanding and capabilities between our Father in Heaven and his children on earth.
Let’s say your child has to have a major life-threatening operation. Over many days, weeks or months you have tirelessly but efficiently been to dozens of doctor offices and hospitals for appointments, testing, discussions, and more testing. You have prayed and asked for others to pray as well. Perhaps you bought books or read online about your child’s condition and maybe even sought a second medical opinion. Up to this point you have done everything you believe you can do, but in the end surgery is required and that day has now arrived. The surgeon tells you to make sure you have your child get plenty of rest, have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, and be at the hospital by 6 am.
The next morning you arrive and after some time, they call your name. Soon they wheel your child back to the operating room and your heart sinks as you see your whole life whisked right by you. Your very existence seems now to depend on the outcome of this event and worse, it is in the hands of someone you hardly know. You question whether that surgeon is really up to the task. Does he realize what is at stake here? What if he had a bad morning? With all his other patients, does he even know how much is riding on him coming through for you? And now, for the first time since this painful journey began, there is nothing you can do. It is out of your hands. And the undeniable truth is, there isn’t anything else you can do, except…
But if you are like this alcoholic you are driven to do more. Your heart races as you wonder if you can sneak in and find a window to peer through just to see what’s going on. Maybe you can tap on the window and get the attention of the surgeon and get a reassuring thumbs up. If we make it that far, why not go in the operating room just to offer help; maybe you could hand them fresh towels or wipe a brow or offer words of encouragement. Certainly this surgeon would benefit in knowing what the outcome must be and you could list out the ramifications of what happens to you should he not complete the task successfully. If things don’t go according to your plan, you would be right there to grab the scalpel yourself and elbow your way through the surgical team to complete the work on your own.
Despite our best intentions, it is easy to see that all we can do at this pivotal time is screw things up. And even though deep down we know this, there is something about us alcoholics that makes us struggle with turning over control, and therefore our fate, into the hands of any other entity, whether that be a surgeon or God.
It becomes clear in this example that doing more than we have been tasked to do will negatively impact the results we so desperately hope to see. And in real life, that same axiom applies. The minute I begin thinking my job is to play God or “help him” with his work; that I can somehow improve the outcome by meddling in areas I have no control over, I begin to alter the natural flow of God’s will and His ability to orchestrate the appropriate course for my life.
In all of our struggles in life, to the extent that we are able to differentiate our part from God’s, does God’s will for us have the breathing room to succeed. And if God’s will succeeds, then we succeed as God always works towards good, even though that “good” is sometimes not abundantly evident under the microscope we tend to view our lives.
“Letting go and letting God,” when practiced daily in all our affairs is the elixir that allows peace and serenity to settle over us and in us, soothing our battered hearts and our calming our restless minds. It is what gives us the strength to maintain continuity of purpose when the world around us seems to be falling apart.