Perspectives – The Patriarchs of Genesis; Our Companions in Experiencing a Higher Power

Richard D. Grant, Jr., Ph.D.

Richard D. Grant, Jr,. Ph.D., is a psychologist who had a private practice in Austin, Texas, for over 40 years. With Andrea Miller, he is the author of Recovering Connections, a book which combines recovery, Christianity, and Jungian psychology. He is very interested in The Twelve Steps corresponding to Biblical stories.

New companions are one of the greatest blessings in recovery.  There is a new basis for relationships in shared brokenness, making amends, and belief in a Higher Power.  This was also the recorded experience of people in the Bible, whose stories have been told down through the generations.  People from the Bible would feel quite at home telling their story at 12 Step meetings.

The earliest record of Hebrew faith encountering a Higher Power is recorded in the Genesis stories of the patriarchs.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob responded to an invitation from a iH Higher Power who promised them and their descendants a greater life. The sequence of stories of these three patriarchs in Genesis seems to offer a remarkable parallel to the “story” of the Twelve Steps in a person’s recovery.  The Patriarchs’ story of faith seems to follow the same “story” of 12 Step recovery.  All these Biblical characters are male, because that was the literary tradition of the time, but their stories have much to offer both male and female experiences of recovery.  In offering companionship to those working the 12 Steps, Abraham seems to be the companion for Steps 1-3, Abraham/Isaac the companions for Steps 4-6, Jacob the companion for Steps 7-9, then all three in combination in Steps 10-12.

Steps 1-3: Abraham

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives have become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.

Abraham was called out of his ordinary life by God to begin journey to a Promised Land. 

      The Lord said to Abram: “Leave your country, your kinsfolk and your father’s house for the land that I will show you; I will make a great nation of you.  I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you shall be a blessing” …. Abram went away as the Lord had commanded him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.  (Genesis 12:1-9)

According to Jewish mythology, the man Abram was an idol-maker in Haran when God first spoke to him.  Abram was asked to leave his traditional, familiar life to begin a new relationship and a journey.  He “came to believe” as Paul says in later writings, “and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  (Romans 4:4) Abram turned his life and his will over to the care of this God, as he understood God, and began a journey.  God made Abraham a promise, an irrevocable covenant, to bless him and give him a Promised Land, and to make him father of a great nation. For a person in that time, the promise of many offspring was the equivalent of eternal life through offspring, and the promise of a great nation of offspring represented abundance almost beyond imagining. 

In Steps 1-3, a person is confronted with dysfunction and powerlessness, thereby questioning and leaving what is familiar—literally, the patterns that we learned in our “father’s house.”  And a person is never too old to begin recovery, remembering that Abraham was “seventy-five years old when he left Haran.”  We “come to believe” and are led into unfamiliar territory, trusting that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to “sanity,” whose root meaning is “wholeness.”  We turn our lives and our will over to the care of this God, one day at a time, because of a promise, just like Abraham. 

Reflection questions:

Steps 1-3: Abraham

What part of my “country,” or “my father’s and mother’s house” do I have to “leave” to begin recovery?  What “idol making” do I have to leave behind?

What excuses have I used for not beginning or continuing recovery?  “Abram was seventy-five years old…”

What did I understand as the personal promise God made to me as I began recovery?  Has my understanding of God and the Promise changed as I worked through recovery?

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