Friday, July 6, 2012

“Seek and Find”

On the radio yesterday was a story that (among other things) talked about Catholicism in 16th century Spain. Apparently, prayer was a very specific thing at that time. Meaning, prayer wasn’t just saying whatever was on your mind. It was: do these specific actions, say these specific words, in this specific way in this specific place, etc. And if you did that perfectly, then your prayers would be answered. Very different from my own understanding of what prayer is, and the understanding of what prayer is to be for those of us who work the program.

We don’t seek the Christian God, specifically. We don’t have a set of doctrine that we follow. There aren’t rules laid out for us about how to make conscious contact with the power greater than ourselves. We aren’t told what God is like, we are encouraged to make contact and build a relationship with the spiritual ourselves. We are to develop our own understanding of what that force is and what it means to us.

My concept of ‘higher power’ is that everyone’s understanding of it is legitimate. What some people call God, what others call Gaia, and what still others call Allah, these are all different understandings of a power greater than ourselves. All of them are valid. I take exception to those who, when they talk about their higher power, add the catchphrase, “who I call God” because they always seem to say it with a twinge of attitude. As though someone who doesn’t call their higher power ‘God’ is inferior. As though their understanding of a power greater than themselves is the ‘right’ one. Please. I don’t care what you call your higher power. It’s none of my business. Your understanding of it is yours, not mine.

The program doesn’t tell us what to believe. It doesn’t tell us how to worship a higher power, or even that we have to. The program doesn’t tell us how to pray or how to meditate. What it does do is teach us to seek the spiritual. It leaves the method up to us.

This is an enormous amount of freedom, and can be both a blessing and a curse. Some people prefer rules. Some people prefer being told what  ‘God' is. Some people thump the history of the 12-step program’s roots in Christianity and insist that it IS the Christian God we are taught to worship. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard members say that the Big Book was written to bring people to God.

Maybe, in a sense, it was. But I disagree. In fact, I take great exception to that way of thinking. Because it runs ramshod right over what makes the 12-steps so huge, why I happen to think they work. The 12-steps aren’t about believing a certain way, they are about exploring belief. Don’t get me wrong; the Christians have a number of very applicable, helpful, truthful sayings. ‘For every step we take towards God, he takes a thousand towards us’ comes first to my mind. But I would amend that statement, generalize it. As we seek the spiritual, it finds us.

Seek. That is what the program teaches us. Explore our relationship with the power out there greater than ourselves. Find our own understanding out there about it. Pray in our own fashion, in the way that is meaningful to us and that allows us to find the greatest communion with the spiritual. There is something out there. What it means to each of us, our relationship with it, is for each of us to decide.

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