Maybe its just me, but after the final Candlelight Christmas service is finished, the last relative has gone home, and all of the gifts have been unwrapped, there I find myself staring the New Year right in her shiny, best-intentioned face. I’m the Ebenezer Scrooge of New Years. I loathe the pressure to make a resolution. Phrases like “goals for the year” or “Paleo Diet” make me feel short of breath.

Its not that I don’t get on the New Year’s bandwagon with everyone else. As I write, we have three healthy cookbooks on their way to my house. I plan on reorganizing my 7-month-old daughter’s nursery this week. The reason New Year’s hits me so hard is because I know I’ve failed before I’ve even begun. And that fact paralyzes me. I know that this time of year does not have the same impact on everyone else. I have dear friends who are making wonderful resolutions. They plan on reading more or living in the present. I admire (and am frankly envious of) their positivity. Its just that I know intrinsically I am quick to sin and slow to change. So doing New Year’s the right way sounds like climbing the Mount Everest of selfhood. Thanks, but I’ll just hang out at base camp with some hot chocolate and my fat pants.

GiaBlog1This annual soul challenge came with some relief for me this year. I have finally starting reading John Z.’s Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody. Do not let the subject matter fool you. Drunk, sober, teetotaler, or the occasional White Zinfandel Bunco Drinker, will all benefit from this amazing book. With humor and remarkable vulnerability, John walks the reader through the 12 steps of AA and explains how to use them in your life. Whatever self-help nonsense you are reading right now (or think you should be reading), put it down. Read Grace in Addiction instead.

I knew enough about AA to be ready for the 1st and 2nd steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

It was the 3rd step that hit me like a ton of bricks:

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Now, I would consider myself an evangelical Christian. I know there are all sorts of church programs out there that claim to make us turn our will over to God. I’ve even tried a few of them out. But I’m not sure any of them work from the same vantage point as AA. As John Z. explains Step 3…

The truth is that when the ability to let go finally arrives, it will come from frustration and exhaustion rather than virtue. While this may sound pessimistic, it is not. The primary obstacles to letting go are the now familiar problems of selfishness and our delusions of grandeur. Being rid of these is deflating, but accepting the truth of our own limitations in in fact immensely life-giving and freeing.

Reading about Step 3 has helped me to understand why this time of year can feel particularly rough. Just when I have welcomed the Christ child into the world, the bearer of my sins, the balm for my own anguish, I pack him away in a box marked “Christmas” and start professionally organizing my pantry. I’ve come to think that Step 3 spoke to me this year because Christmas and New Years feel so diametrically opposed. A week after I have sung O Holy Night and fallen on my knees at the wonder of Jesus, Miss New Year 2015 comes strutting into my head with an agenda of self-control and Living My Best Life Now. This year, I’m telling her to go home. She’s drunk.

Look, I know I’ll be doing the same cleaning and planning that the rest of the world indulges in this time of year. But I’m going to need the manger to stay out for a while. I need to be reminded of who he was and who I don’t have to be. I’m not ready to go this year on my own volition.

“God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always.”

-The Third Step Prayer from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous