During this process of learning more about humility, the most profound result of all was the change in our attitude toward God. And this was true whether we had been believers of unbelievers. We began to get over the idea that the Higher Power was a sort of bush-league pinch hitter, to be called upon only in an emergency.
I’ve been wanting to address the issue of the Higher Power again for some time. I read the words of people who refuse to try AA or Alanon because of the Higher Power concept. Yes, it is Christian-inspired. Yes, it is expected and encouraged that people who are atheist or agnostic come to believe in a power greater than themselves. Yes, prayers which have their roots in Christianity are said at AA meetings. No, this is not a good reason to not give AA a try and possibly lose your life and all that’s important to you. Give it 90 days, and after that, if you don’t like it, your misery will be fully refunded. I promise, people who do not embrace the Christian diety can live long and prosper in AA. It is the concept of a higher power that is crucial. No human being has much power over anything. A human being who feels powerful, like a god, will continue to struggle as this turns out to not be true.
But this blog is my own working through the steps, and I’ll explain it for me. Personally. I do not speak for AA. AA has no opinion on outside issues. I am not AA. I have opinions. And they are crucial to my working through these steps. The next ten people at any given AA meeting will have ideas drastically different from mine. We are individuals. No one speaks for AA.
So I was brought up as a half hearted Lutheran. At times I know my mother has stated out right that she is an atheist. It was some combination of superstition and formality that made her force me to church, Sunday School and confirmation. By the time I was confirmed, I didn’t believe in anything either, and I headed quickly for the door, vowing not to come back.
Yet I know that the time I spent in church or hearing the stories of seeing the religious part of our American culture planted in me some kind of mystical magical something. It may be that when we’re told this stuff is true, as children, we internalize some sense of it. I don’t know. I know I then and still could not interpret any part of the Bible literally. Too much time and too many translations have gone on for me to think I could ever get near the truth. That bothered me as an adolescent, but I’ve made peace with it now.
Something in me, anyway, would call out when I was in terrible trouble. Kind of like the bush-league pinch hitter mentioned above. Of course the more I drank the worse my emergencies got. When I encountered the higher power concept in AA, the prayers, I am very very fortunate that I took them at their word and gave it a try, even though I did not believe and I never intended to believe. I grasped the group as my higher power right away, because they just so obviously were more powerful than me. I hung in. I accepted that one day I might change my mind. I believed I could learn from the experience of others and that is one reason I’ve lived to tell this tale.
It took years. All through the six or so years I drank while in AA. Through much of the beginning of my lasting sobriety I fought and tried and very gradually came to believe.
So how is it now, these many years later? I know I’ll write more about the transformation as I keep writing my story. Now. I have a huge character defect which is intolerance. I try to be accepting of all people as fully people, although I have a very hard time accepting conservatives. There are so many ways in which I just feel that I am right, and they are wrong, even as I understand my very attitude is very wrong.
I can believe and accept that there is or isn’t a universal higher power, a God. I don’t know. I don’t know about the miraculous aspects of the stories of Jesus of Nazereth. I find that his basic message of love is something I want to strive to live by. I go to church. I was about to leave the Lutheran church, and perhaps look into Quakerism, when I met and fell in love with Carole. She was an active Lutheran, and so I stayed. I go to church but I don’t receive sacraments. I’m not sure enough about that aspect of it. I don’t necessarily believe in “the forgiveness of sins,” at least not like it’s practiced in my church. I do not believe that the pastor or any person can know whether or not I am forgiven.
I pray and I say the rote prayers as a kind of practice. I’ve recently been looking for other prayers, and I’ve collected some here on a special page, and I rotate them in the side bar. I believe they help give expression to something within me, and that they remind me of ideals I’m striving for.
I’ve decided that I’d rather make a mistake in this manner. I’d rather live as though there is a God, even if there isn’t, then live as if there isn’t, if there is. It goes along with my psyche to try to live (somewhat) for the ideal of serving others.
So yes, I’ve come to understand that God is much more than a bush-league pinch hitter. The goodness in others touches me so when I’m in an emergency. But this concept and understanding can become part of my every moment. It should inform every moment, and as time goes by, it does, more and more.