Believing something is true and placing your faith in it are completely different issues. This is important to us as addicts, because we are asked to put our faith in others, in a 12-step program, and ultimately, in God (or as some say, a Higher Power) to recover. It’s easy to see the evidence of those things working in someone else’s life and believe in them… in theory. But completely turning “our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him” (step 3) can feel very threatening. There’s a story I heard once to help illustrate this point:
There once was a crowd gathered on one of the rocky ledges at the top of Niagra Falls. A famous acrobat stood before them, pointing to a tightrope which had been suspended over the crashing water from one side to the other. He shouted to the crowd over the sound of the crashing torrent, “Do you believe I can walk all the way to the other side and back without falling?”
The crowd knew his reputation, so they cheered, “Yes! We believe it!” So, the man carefully made his way across the falls and back again.
After their applause died down he asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can safely cross this rope while pushing a wheelbarrow?”
“Yes, we believe it!” the crowd exclaimed. So, the man took a large garden wheelbarrow, slowly crossed the falls and came back again.
Some men started to fill the wheelbarrow with bricks while the acrobat asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can cross with the wheelbarrow full of bricks?”
The crowd was going crazy. “Yes!” They shouted.
So, he wobbled his way slowly across the rope and back. Then, he dumped out the bricks and turned to the people once more. “Do you believe I could do it with a person in the wheelbarrow?”
“We believe it!” they all cried.
He calmly answered, “Get in.”
Would you get into the wheelbarrow? Even though there was solid evidence that this man knew what he was doing, I’m betting that if we had been in that crowd, most of us would have taken a step back and broken our eye contact with the acrobat.
That is the difference between belief and faith. To stand safely on the rocks beside the falls, proclaiming your belief in something that has no effect on you is one thing. To have the faith to step forward and curl your body into the wheelbarrow is quite another. Imagine that ride. You would have absolutely no control over whether or not you made it safely to the other side. In fact, interference from you would likely put you in more danger of falling.
It sounds ridiculous to turn our will and lives over to someone, anyone, else. The thing we fail to see, though, is that we’re in the wheelbarrow one way or another anyway. When we try to run our lives on our own power, caught up in the jaws of addiction and obsession, it’s like we’re kneeling forward in the wheelbarrow, trying to pull ourselves across the falls with our hands. Meanwhile, our disease is like a mighty wind that gusts into us this way and that, doing its best to fling us to our watery deaths. Because that is what your addiction wants. It wants you dead.
The course of our lives as addicts is like crossing from one rocky ledge to the other. Would you rather try to your way from inside the wheelbarrow all on your own, or would you want to have the flawless master guide you safely to the other side? As scary as it is, I know what I want my answer to be today. What’s yours?