by an anonymous South Bend Professor
The Oxford Group rediscovered the original evangelical message, that we receive power to resist our own self-destructiveness through developing an immediate personal contact with God. And furthermore, Kitchen said, in what sounds at first like paradoxical language, we must surrender to obtain power and A.A.’s today say, “Surrender to win.”
Forming a clean contact with God—does no good unless He knows that He can trust us with that power. God will not give it unless He knows we can be trusted. He will not give us power to use just as we wish, but only as He wills, and only for as long as we surrender our will in absolute obedience. If we admit we don’t know His advice and then decline to take or follow God’s guidance as it is given, we might just as well continue to blunder along “on our own” from the very beginning. Surrender (what A.A. was later to call the third step) was not some kind of theoretical decision, but a way of acting (daily actions) that had to be carried out at a concrete level through the course of our daily lives.
We receive guidance from God only in matters affecting our behavior, not other people’s behavior. This is very important. It is not my job to act as though I were some kind of special agent of God whose function is to bark orders at other people and lay down rules for them and tell them “how God wants them to behave.”
So for example, instead of telling his wife to watch her tongue, Kitchen said, he had to watch and control his tongue, following God’s directions and using God’s power to restrain his desire to speak critically and harshly and meanly to other people. The Oxford Group, just like the early A.A. people, understood the importance of the teachings of the Letter of James in the New Testament, and the warning given there that some of the worst sins we human beings committed lay in the things our tongues said to other people (James 3:6-9):
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire,
And the tongue is a fire.
The tongue is placed among our bodily parts
As a world of iniquity;
It stains the whole body,
Sets on fire the cycle of nature,
And is itself set on fire by hell.
For every species of beast and bird,
Of reptile and sea creature,
Can be tamed and has been tamed
By the human species,
But no one can tame the tongue—
A restless evil,
Full of deadly poison,
With it we bless the Lord and Father,
And with it we curse those
Who are made in the likeness of God.
Whenever Kitchen found himself getting angry at his children and shouting at them in fits of temper, he had to realize, he said, that there were still elements of personal selfishness in him which he must surrender to God and ask for His guidance. To be continued…