“The Seventh Step is where we make the change in our attitude which permits us. with humility as our guide, to move out from ourselves toward others and toward God” (12×12 pg 76).
Life has a tendency to not always go as planned. Ego shouts, “How could this happen to ME!? Don’t you people know who I think I am!?” Coming to terms with life on life’s terms is never very easy. In step 6, it’s easy to say, “Hey, God, these are things I don’t like about myself so you can just go ahead and take all that away.” Step 7 is when we realize that just because we don’t like something about ourselves, that doesn’t mean God made a mistake by making us that way. I can look at my tall, thin, blonde sister and say, “Okay, God, I’m ready to have you make me less short, round and mousy,” but that’s me playing God – the complete opposite of humility. It is my own fear and insecurity which is telling me that I am imperfect just the way I am.
I’ve been thinking about Michael J. Fox recently. He’s got a new TV sitcom coming out this fall based on his life. I grew up totally in love with Alex P. Keaton on “Family Ties” and absolutely loved “Spin City” as I got older and more political. Back to the Future, Teen Wolf, Doc Hollywood, The Secret of My Success… oh yes, I grew up in AWE of this little powerhouse of a man. And then one day I was no longer a child and Alex P. Keaton was suddenly the face of this horrible, degenerative disease for old men. To me, on the outside, living my own life, his acceptance and embracing of his disease was immediate and loving. Little did I know that he struggled with it for 7 years before he even came out about his diagnosis.
About a year ago, I was in one of those wonderful meetings where we’ve got Big Books and dictionaries open and we’re examining the real meanings of the words used and developing a deeper understanding of the steps. At some point in that meeting, we redefined the seventh step as something to the effect of “patiently enduring, without provocation or resentment, the shrinking of the ego which blocks us from God’s will.” So many times, we think of step 7 as asking God to poof away those things we don’t like just like he was Aladdin’s genie. The point of the seventh step, though, is the exact opposite – “Who am I to say what parts of me are useless for God’s purposes?”
Our 4th step inventory isn’t just a grudge list and a list of sins; it’s a searching and fearless moral inventory – we learn who we are and what we have to work with. In the seventh step, we look back at that list without judgement. Yes, we’ve got things there we’d rather not look at, but these are OUR things, nonetheless. As much as I may want to be tall and thin like my sister, I have to accept that God isn’t going to rearrange my genes because I say “pretty please.” It took Michael J. Fox 7 years before he could even admit to the public that he was struggling with Parkinson’s. That’s 7 years of trying to tell God He made a mistake.
Humility happens when we stop trying to tell God that He’s wrong. The seventh step strips away our ego and aligns us with God’s will for us as we are. How does that saying go? “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” Today, Michael J. Fox is still my hero because he’s a fantastic example of 7th step in action. This link will take you to a great article about Fox’s struggle with acceptance, getting sober, and his book Always Looking Up. Too, the Bible has no shortage of stories about people who felt called to deny themselves, pick up their crosses and follow God (Matt 16:24). People like Paul:
“I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God” Acts 20:19-24 (NLT).