When I was a young girl, my Dad’s desk was a place of wonder to me. He had so many treasures in his drawers: a beautiful slender silver letter opener, India ink pens, engineering and architecture rulers, and templates for drawing circles and other shapes, to name a few. Among the treasures were some old yellowed newspaper clippings. One of them was a story that mentioned my Dad.
A famous chess master was coming to town and would be playing against a large number of amateur players at the same time — upwards of twenty, if I recall correctly. My Dad was the youngest chess player to qualify to participate at the age of 14.
Twenty games at the same time! How could anyone keep the strategy for twenty games in their head at the same time, I wondered. So I asked my Dad about it. He said, “You don’t. You come to the board, make the move that most improves your position at that moment in time, and move on.”
I have often pondered that idea, and have found that it is actually an excellent philosophy for living. I am sure that the chess master has a vision for the game — ending in a win. I have a vision for my life, too — ending in eternal life for me and my loved ones. But I can face each new challenge, each move of the adversary, each new day, by making the move that will most improve my position at that moment in time, and move on.
What moves will improve my position? Here are a few thoughts: drawing near to the Lord, growing spiritually, learning to love unconditionally, gaining new skills, learning to trust God, obeying the commandments and living one day at a time.
It is intriguing to me that this philosophy of living is very consistent with my recent post “Living Fully in the Present.” The chess master cannot win the game by living in the past — beating himself up for a bad move or glorying in a previous game. He cannot win the game by living in the future — imagining each move his opponent might make and how glorious his victory will be. He can only win the game by studying the board and making the move that will most improve his position at that moment in time: the present.
What is your vision for your life?
What challenges are you facing right now?
What strategy or moves would improve your position at this moment in time?
What are you willing to do today?
Please share your thoughts about this metaphor by commenting below.
This is Part 4 of my series on Using the Tools. I have described four more tools in this post that I have found useful in overcoming the temptation to use substances or behaviors that keep me from becoming the person I want to be. In the previous posts in this series I have written about the following tools: Prayer and Meditation, Meetings, Service, Sponsorship, Telephone Calls, Writing, Music, Program Literature, Scriptures and Talks, a Plan of Abstinence, a Breathing Exercise, and Going to Bed. In this post I will cover Visualization, God Box, Fasting, and the ARP website. You can see all of the posts that have to do with tools by clicking on “Tools” in the list of categories in the right column on this page. As far as I know right now, this completes the list, but since I embrace new tools whenever someone shares them with me, someday there might be a Part 5!
If you cannot imagine what your life would look like if you abstained from your bad habits or addictive behaviors, it is hard to make a better choice. Kimberly Schneider taught me to say “Who do I want to be in this moment, and what would she do?” I have found that question to be an incredibly powerful tool. At first I thought of someone I wanted to be like and asked myself the question. It helped me to imagine what that person would do in the same situation and then make that choice. Over time, I learned to visualize what I would be like if I developed the habits and qualities I was striving for and this question helped me to make the choice that would be consistent with the person I was trying to become.
When you find yourself worrying or obsessing about something over which you have no control, irritated or annoyed by some large or small quirk or perceived offense, or having to stand by and watch as a loved one struggles with something he or she must master without your assistance, often the most effective thing to do is to make a decision to let go and turn the situation over to God. This may be easier said than done, and making a “God Box” (or “God Can” or “God Bag”) may help.
Write the matter down on a piece of paper and, as a physical symbol of the act of “turning it over to God”, put the piece of paper in the “God Box.” Then, if you find yourself worrying about it again, or trying to take back responsibility for solving the problem yourself, you will have to make a decision: either remind yourself that it has been turned over to God and let Him handle it, or take the piece of paper out of the box and tell God that you are going to work on this one yourself. It is amazing how such a simple thing can make such a big difference. It is also an awesome experience to read back over the slips of paper and realize how well God has handled the things that were so worrisome in the past.
Just to save you some time, let me assure you that it has been my observation over many years of sharing this tool with others that it does not work if you only do it in your mind. You must physically write the problem down on a piece of paper and put it in a container of some sort. Trust me on this.
When we need more spiritual power than we seem to have, the best power source available to us is the Lord – through His power of the Atonement, or grace. Brad Wilcox says, “…Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source… Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch.”
A very effective way to humble ourselves so that we can receive more of that power is fasting. When we fast we are deliberately putting our physical needs aside and acknowledging our need for and dependence upon God. This helps us to humble ourselves, get in tune with the Lord, and become more willing and able to receive his power.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has developed a wonderful Addiction Recovery Program website with many features and great content for the support of those who are trying to overcome addictive behavior. It also has a section for family members and loved ones and another section for priesthood leaders. There are videos of people who have found recovery, telling their stories. There is content that discusses the nature of addictive behavior from a gospel perspective. There are podcasts of twelve full LDS 12-Step recovery meetings – one for each of the steps. If you haven’t been to an LDS Addiction Recovery Program meeting, or if you need a meeting and there isn’t one available when and where you need it, listening to one of those podcasts is a great option.
I have listed seventeen tools is the four parts of this series. Which ones have you tried?
Which ones that you have not tried sound interesting to you?
Will you commit to trying them? By when?
Which tools work best for you?
Write about how using the tools helps you to make better choices when you are stressed and/or tempted.
Step 3 of A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing talks about trusting in God. It is easy to talk about that theoretically – how important it is to do it, why we should, how silly it is to doubt Him, etc. Actually learning to do it is another matter. Letting go of the things we want so desperately to control and turning them over to God can be hard! Here are a few tools and techniques that have helped me learn to “Let Go and Let God”. I hope you find them useful on your own journey.
Writing uses a different part of your brain than just thinking or speaking. When I write out my thoughts and the feelings of my heart, my mind slows down and I am able to discover thoughts and feelings and ideas that might have been too fleeting to capture any other way. If I write about my desire to let go of something and my reluctance to trust that the Lord will take care of it to my satisfaction, I can often find the willingness to let it go.
Sometimes I just stand in the middle of an empty room and imagine putting whatever I am trying to let go of in a bubble resting in my open palms. Then I lift my arms and visualize myself giving the bubble a little push up to send it on its way toward the Lord’s outstretched hands. I see him receive my bubble and embrace it and I know that it is safely under His control. I know it sounds hokey, but try it. It really works for me! This works particularly well when what I need to turn over to Him is another person, usually someone who is making choices that concern me.
I have a box that I call my God Box. (Some people have a can instead, because, after all, God “CAN”.) When I find myself obsessing about a situation or a person and I know I have done everything I can do to resolve it, I write it down on a piece of paper, date it, fold it up and put it in my God Box as a physical representation of having turned the matter over to God. The next time I find myself obsessing about it, I have two choices. I can either take it out of the box and tell God that I decided to take it back, or I can remind myself that I turned it over to Him and let it go. One amazing side benefit of using the God Box is that when I put something new in it I get to go back and reread all the old papers. Doing this reminds me of what a great job He did with all those other things. In fact, He did such a fabulous job with some of those things that I don’t even remember what they were!
By the way, a “virtual” God Box does not work. There is something about physically writing it down on a piece of paper and putting it in the box that is just different and more effective than doing it in your mind.
It is not that unusual, in the Church, for people to fast and pray for something they are concerned about. However, many times we use this tool as a way of “counseling the Lord”. In other words, we know what outcome we want for the situation and we try to control it by telling the Lord what we want Him to do. We may even add the obligatory “if it is thy will” or “nevertheless, thy will be done” to the end of our prayer as we begin our fast, but I wonder how often we really mean that.
I am going to suggest a slightly different way of using the tool of fasting. When I have a situation that I know I cannot control and that I have done everything I can or should do about it, I will fast and pray to understand and accept the Lord’s will in the matter. In this way, I invoke His help in letting it go, and turning it over to Him.
In which areas of your life do you need to do a better job of “letting go and letting God?”
Of the tools listed here, which you not tried before, feels the most comfortable to you?
What will you do today to try a new way of learning to let go?
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.