Tuesday, October 13, 2009

“The God Thing”

There are so many amazing benefits of the Program, I’m almost hesitant to single one out. If I were to, though, I’d have to say the concept of a God of your own understanding has to be one of the best. A lot of people come into the rooms feeling that God abandoned them, or that religion is a load of crap, or some variation of the theme that the power greater than us is nonexistent or at best irrelevant. It’s my experience that nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ve heard people say from time to time they don’t believe in God. I look at them, smile a little, and ask them to tell me about this God they don’t believe in. They say he’s judgmental. They say he only cares about certain people and not others. They say he’s vengeful. They say he’s indifferent. When I hear these comments and others like them, I chuckle and say, “Yeah, I don’t believe in that God either.”

It can be tough to believe in a higher power that is loving and compassionate. Most of us, when we come into the rooms, have virtually no concept of what those things are. If we do, our concepts have been twisted by the sick insanity of the disease. We think love is the drunk father who shouts at us and punishes us for things which aren’t our fault and that we had no part in. We think love is the abusive partner who beats us or berates us, always apologizing later. We think compassion is the mother who worries constantly, catastrophizing about things she has no control over while telling us our own concerns are unimportant. Learning about real love and true compassion takes time.

And time takes time.

This is a spiritual program. The disease of addiction is a spiritual malady. It’s a disease of the mind, body, AND spirit. Our mind tells us that we need something external to be okay, to belong, to be worthy of love and acceptance; our bodies tell us we will die without it. It is our spirit, though, that withers beneath it all. When we use, we cut ourselves off from the spiritual. It might not seem like it. Altered states can seem very spiritual. I’ve spent many hours thinking I was having a spiritual experience. I look back on those times, now, and I’m pretty sure I was just high.

The true genius of the program, though, is that it encourages us to find a God of our own understanding. This makes perfect sense to me. We are all individuals. Each of us has our own unique perspective on life and the world we live in—why should our understanding of the power greater than us not be every bit as unique as we are?

Many in the program use the rooms and the people in the program as their higher power. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. We share our deepest selves in those meetings and receive love from the others in them. We experience the healing that comes from revealing who we are and having it affirmed, not shit on. When we are low, we can go to a meeting and feel better. When we are teetering on the edge, itching for a fix, we can call others and ask their help. More often than not, the person we reach out to is there for us in a way that is above and beyond anything we could have expected.

Go to meetings, get a sponsor, and get a God. If you don’t have one, you can borrow mine.

The God of my own understanding is beyond my understanding. I believe in an infinite God. Like the Gnostic Christians of the first and second centuries, I believe that God is not something external and separate, but something internal that is in us and in everything around us. The native Americans believe that everything has a spirit. These two concepts are far more similar than disparate. The God I believe in is all-encompassing, that is to say, that God is everything and everything is part of God. I even harbor a minor resentment about the use of the ‘G’ word because to use any one name or concept to describe my higher power is to put limits on something which I feel has none.

More than anything, though, I know that I am not God and that I cannot truly know for certain what God thinks, feels, wants, or doesn’t want. I know that, while I might have the occasional glimpse or flash of understanding, more often than not I am truly in the dark when it comes to the greater plan. I am okay with that. There have been far too many times in my life where I was certain about something and it turned out I was wrong. I am perfectly okay with not being one hundred percent certain on this issue. It is my personal opinion that this is what true faith is—acceptance in the absence of certainty.

It is not crucial to say ‘yes’; it is, however, important to stop saying ‘no’.

How do you let God work in your life? How do you learn about what that higher power is like for you? Like so much else in the program, the answer is simple: you ask. If you feel silly praying, start your prayers by honestly admitting that is how you feel. If you want to know what God is like, ask to be shown. If you are unwilling to learn, ask for the willingness to be willing. Start with the acknowledgement that you don’t—and can’t—know everything. It has been my experience and the experience of countless others that the more willing you are to let your higher power work in your life, the more it will.

I was at a meeting once and heard someone share about how they were afraid of a particular thing happening. They mentioned how, before they came into the program, they might have prayed to God that this thing didn’t happen. Now, they pray that if this thing did happen that God would give them the strength to get through it. That is the program at work. You don’t ask God to do what you want, you allow God to work in you, through you, and in your life. You live one day at a time with the faith that, while sometimes you might not get what you want, you will always get what you need.

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