Andrew Reeves

12 Step Lectio Divina

The book Alcoholics Anonymous (the “Big Book”) forever changed how people talk about the human condition. In tackling issues like powerlessness, God and spirituality, the book has prompted more debate— both in and out of the AA fellowship—than perhaps any book in history. It is loved--and loathed--by millions. It is described by its authors as the “basic text” of Alcoholics Anonymous, a written record of what the original members specifically did to recover from alcoholism. It makes very little mention of AA meetings, but instead describes in detail both the nature of alcoholism and the rigorous personal overhauling required to overcome it: the 12 steps. In an effort to be universally appealing, the book avoids advocacy of a specific belief system and makes no specific demands of AA members. It has, ironically, become a polarizing entity in the fellowship that bears its name. As an often righteous and noisy group of Big Book traditionalists grew in the past 30 years, a countering philosophy stressing human fellowship and treating step work as a more or less optional component of recovery became more imbedded. This ideological rift will occasionally flare in AA meetings.  However, Truth is not subjective. Amidst all the noise and tumult, the book sits silently, its message unchanged by debate and anger, arrogance and fear. In the final analysis, it is not our opinions of it that matter, but our experiences with it.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous (the “Big Book”) forever changed how people talk about the human condition. In tackling issues like powerlessness, God and spirituality, the book has prompted more debate— both in and out of the AA fellowship—than perhaps any book in history. It is loved--and loathed--by millions. It is described by its authors as the “basic text” of Alcoholics Anonymous, a written record of what the original members specifically did to recover from alcoholism. It makes very little mention of AA meetings, but instead describes in detail both the nature of alcoholism and the rigorous personal overhauling required to overcome it: the 12 steps. In an effort to be universally appealing, the book avoids advocacy of a specific belief system and makes no specific demands of AA members. It has, ironically, become a polarizing entity in the fellowship that bears its name. As an often righteous and noisy group of Big Book traditionalists grew in the past 30 years, a countering philosophy stressing human fellowship and treating step work as a more or less optional component of recovery became more imbedded. This ideological rift will occasionally flare in AA meetings. However, Truth is not subjective. Amidst all the noise and tumult, the book sits silently, its message unchanged by debate and anger, arrogance and fear. In the final analysis, it is not our opinions of it that matter, but our experiences with it. "Whatever is received is received according to the manner of the receiver. "This statement from Aquinas has been drilled into me in the years of trying to take information from the head to the heart. People at different levels of maturity will interpret the same text in different ways. There is no one right way to interpret the Big Book or any sacred text. How you see is what you see; the who that you bring to your reading of the text matters. Who are you when you read the Bif Book? Defensive, offensive, power-hungry, righteous? Or humble, receptive, and honest? Surely, this is why we need to pray before reading a sacred text! Through our journey of contemplative reading of AA's basic text rather than seeking always certain and unchanging answers, the practice of lectio divina allows many possibilities, many levels of faith-filled meaning—meaning that is relevant and applicable to you, the reader, and puts you in the author's of the Big Book's shoes to build empathy, understanding, and relationship. It lets the passage first challenge you before it challenges anyone else. To use the text in a spiritual way is to allow it to convert you, to change you, to grow you up as you respond: What does this ask of me? How might this apply to my life, to my family, , to my neighborhood, to my culture?

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