Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The way I learned and studied the prayer at first in AA has the word channel where here it is instrument. As a channel, I could sometimes picture it as something coming from the sky (where God lives, right?) into and out of me. Instrument seems more active somehow, although instruments do nothing but lay there unless they are used or played.
I’m thinking of a specific situation because mornings at work are often my most unserene time of the day. Short staff is the hardest thing for me to be peaceful about work. It’s pretty predictable, for many reasons, that short staff will happen often. I’d like to deal with it better than I do. I know my anxiety and anger can effect other people and most of the people involved in the short staff situation are innocent.
So to understand the people who don’t come to work when they should? To understand the people who try to get the best situation for themselves, regardless of others? To understand the society that doesn’t sufficiently pay for services for people with disabilities, so that there isn’t enough money to provide enough staff, and there isn’t enough money to pay good people well enough to keep them coming back?
This situation challenges my abilities to create the best situation that I can create. Keeping all the needs and all the personalities in mind is difficult, and in the end most people are unhappy with the result. Some people suffer with the result.
Maybe I need a different prayer for this.
God, help me to endure my blessings.
I have been attending AA meetings for over 30 years and I have heard the promises too many times to count. And I did skip over these two, as I’ve been trying to write and comment on them from memory:
That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
I wonder from time to time if the folks who can quote the books accurately and with page numbers set out to memorize that, or if I’m just slow with the process of osmosis.
I have a few thoughts. I don’t think there’s been a time in my life when I’ve felt consistently useless and I’m not much for self pity. In my darkest hours I’m aware I am privileged and blessed.
When my kids were young, I was certainly very useful, but I did call them into being on purpose, so it was only right that I care for them. Since they were young I’ve been working in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities, aka mental retardation, and it’s difficult to be useless there.
I drove a client from my program to another he will be attending soon. His mother is terminally ill, and she has kept him home with her as long as she is able. He has three brothers who love him and are involved in his life, but they do not want him to live with them. He got a placement in a community residence that is too far from my program for him to attend. He’s moved, and now he will transition to the new day program.
I seldom take folks out of our building and it was unusual for me to be driving one on one. I sat him in the front seat next to me because the back is full of dog hair. It may seem like a no-brainer as to where he should sit, and like any adult passenger in my car he should sit next to me, up front.
But I know the back is safer in a crash. And I know how precious this man is to his family. And I know how much trust they’ve put in me and it humbles me. And really, the front of my car is not all that dangerous. I haven’t yet had an accident.
Today I read in Dave Hingsburger’s blog about the trust people put in us. Every day at work I am useful. I know I’ve said to people in the past that it’s nice, at work, to know if they Lord should come for me right then, he’d find me doing something worthy. It’s less certain for me now, that I’m more away from the actual care of the people, but I have a chance to do even more good, and I hope I’m up to it.
I read the blog of a young man who has under two years sober, and he’s often quite miserable. I can’t help but think that part of it is that he spends too much time thinking about how he’s feeling. I’ve never known anyone to do that who ended up healthy and joyful about it.
Today in honor of my supposed promotion at work, my new name on my new credit card, and to thank the kids for helping with Carole’s surprise party, she and I took them to a restaurant for brunch. It was a little more expensive and interesting than we usually choose, and it was good. Last week, my work partner and I heard from our boss that our pay raise and bonus did not make it in time for this pay period, but would retroactively be awarded two weeks from now. We’ll see.
Yesterday, Carole took Nicholas, at his request, to a thrift shop to buy clothes. He said he’d rather get lots of used clothes than a few new clothes for the money, although one day hopefully soon he would be able to afford nice clothes. Nicholas is a senior at a very prestigious university, and I think he’s going straight for his Master’s, which will entail borrowing tons more money. I can’t believe he’s made it this far this well.
Erika came to the house and I drove to the restaurant and back with her. She’s been graduated and working for just over a year, and she’s begun the process to go to grad school next fall. She moved out last Christmas, and shortly,after that, she got a cat. When I told an old AA friend about that she said, “Of course she did, she’s her mother’s daughter.” The picture is of Erika’s second cat, acquired to keep the first company, on a recent visit to my house. The cat made himself quite comfy, and Xandra was very intrigued. We are so so so so lucky that the big black dog does not eat the little cats. Lucky. There was no skill involved in this situation.
So when I talked to Erika she was saying how she agrees with me a lot about football. I hate it, and she’s not at all fond of it. Also, with election day next week, she shares my politics. That just floors me. Nicholas and the used clothes (something I urged on the kids since they have been grown, at least), Erika and the sports and the politics. Maybe all that lecturing I did had some effect. Maybe!
As much as I know I must pause here and enjoy this time, I also know it will not last. The woman who spoke at my meeting last is about to have baby, with 17 months sober. I told her I had 16 months when Erika was born, and all the moments of sobriety I had to live through to make it to this day were much more than worth it.
Many of us had strong logic, too, which “proved” there was no God whatever. What about all the accidents, sickness, cruelty, and injustice in the world? What about all those unhappy lives which were the direct result of unfortunate birth and uncontrollable circumstances? Surely there could be no justice in this scheme of things, and therefore no God at all.
I was at a meeting last night, and the topic was “Life on Life’s Terms.” Several people expressed the sentiment that “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
I don’t believe it. I don’t see it. I take the evidence of crazy, broken, starving, suicidal, abused neglected, suffering people in this world as proof that people do indeed get more than they, or any human, can handle.
I don’t know what this text is going to go on to say about it. I think that ultimately the program of AA says that we are all human, and the human condition is one of frailty. When horrible, awful things occur, it is our acceptance of the awfulness of the world that will enable us to go on. Maybe some of us drank because we couldn’t accept that awful things happen to good people. That “God” (or the universe? fate? karma?) gives us more than we can handle. At times.
- Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.
- No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.
13 But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.
These, I believe, are where the saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle” comes from. “The way out,” to me, has been and continues to be the program of AA, including the texts and the people. Without the program I may certainly have gotten “more” than I could handle. So it is, I think, with unfortunate alcoholics who can’t benefit from the program.
Last night, someone said that out of every tragedy she has suffered, something good has come. I do believe that at least that is possible. If nothing else, I gain the ability to keep someone company in their misery if I go through something terrible, and maybe much more.
But she went on to say that what she has experienced and lived through and benefited from proves to her that she can handle whatever the future holds. Again, I don’t believe it. I see people, most especially old people, decrease in their ability to handle what life brings, even in the program. I don’t think aging is particularly kind to anyone, and seeing what’s ahead frightens me to some degree.
The important point for me is that none of this makes me so frightened that I can’t continue, or so disheartened that I want to abandon the program. Awful stuff can and does happen. People are broken beyond repair. That is not my reality today. A number one tenant of the program is that all I have is today. Another bible verse tells me not to borrow trouble from tomorrow. The program tells me not to project.
I honestly hate self-seeking and being the center or attention, or receiving too much attention at all. So a program that tells me not to seek myself fits me perfectly in that aspect.
Most self-seeking, I think, makes me think I’m either better than or less than. I seldom think of myself in terms of “I’m just like everyone else.” I mean I do think that, but it’s really as a discipline of AA that I do that. It can be automatic but it’s very intellectual, not at all emotional. When I think of myself emotionally, I pretty much think about things that are good, or things that are bad.
I have to think about myself in terms of a moral inventory and a daily inventory. I have to be very careful not to totally disparage all therapy as self-seeking pop psychology. Because I think so much of it is. When I see unhappy people who could work or contribute sit around and be depressed or constantly think about themselves and their depression, I think there is no other way for them to be but depressed. And I don’t mean that about people who have legitimate, disabling mental or physical illness, although I think that most of those people also need to have meaningful, contributing activity.
Lots of my prejudices shine through here, but it’s actually progress for me to understand I should not dismiss all therapy out of hand.
I left work early today because I have an appointment tonight, and because I was able to. My work partner and I have officially been granted the job and title of co-supervising our program, just not the money quite yet. But you can’t do what we do for money. There just isn’t any.
Indian summer is here for two days, the weather people say. It’s cheeringly warm and sunny and I’ll spend lots of time with the dog in the yard before I leave tonight. I’m working five days this week and every week till near Thanksgiving. All is mostly well at work and at home and even the weather is good. The weekends are bit hectic but really full of luxury problems. The trip to Hawaii is in the works, as is Nicholas’ graduation. I don’t know if he’s going to stay in school for a Master’s right now, since financial aid is not forthcoming for that. Erika is applying to grad schools and I don’t want her to move away. Again my problems, if any, are of the luxurious kind.
We went to a wedding last Saturday and so didn’t make our home group meeting. I was going to go last night if I got out of work on time, but I got stuck there and so didn’t go. I plan to try again Friday, and I definitely will make the Saturday meeting this week. I’m just including that detail because I think that sometimes people wonder about how oldtimers manage it. My schedule isn’t for everyone, but it works for me. I will not, ever, if I can possibly prevent it, drop out of AA or stop going.
From Mark 9
21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23” ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
For a long time, I have used the verse “Lord, I believe! Help Thou my unbelief” as a sort of meditation. It is in the book I found while I was panicking about flying, the one I took on the planes and the one I need to find again for the planes. Although thinking about it just now, I’ve decided to re-collect some meditations for that occasion. So I looked up what came before those lines and this is what I found.
I understand the logic behind “I do believe, help me believe.”
I understand that we have a different understanding of illness than they had in Jesus’ day. I know human beings will not know the true nature of things that occurred during that time, during my life time. Maybe people in the future will be able to see the past. Everything is not possible for him who believes, or at least no one who believes at the level I have personally witnessed. I know people who have claimed miraculous healing, perhaps brought on by belief and prayer. Maybe that did happen for them. I don’t get to know.
Was the father saying that although he did believe, if he didn’t believe enough to allow the miracle, he wanted to believe enough?
I believe I can get over my fear of flying enough to fly comfortably one day. I do not believe I will be supernaturally spared from being in a plane crash, just that experiencing a crash is highly highly unlikely, and that if I do die that way, there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t want to spend another minute of my life being afraid of this!
Help Thou my unbelief. I have concrete evidence in my life that believing the people and the program of AA transformed and saved me.
To certain newcomers and to those one-time agnostics who still cling to the A.A. group as their higher power, claims for the power of prayer may, despite all the logic and experience in proof of it, still be unconvincing or quite objectionable. Those of us who once felt this way can certainly understand and sympathize. We well remember how something deep inside us kept rebelling against the idea of bowing before any God.
This was certainly me. From the time of my first meeting to the time of my last drink, six years passed during which I attended AA heavily and had some short periods of sobriety. It wasn’t until I had failed again and again and just about couldn’t function that I tried prayer at all, as part of my last resort.
Many years ago, I got in trouble at work for something I had said. Now “trouble” isn’t really the best word to describe it, but I got “talked to” because I had said the wrong thing. I work with people who have mental retardation, and my supervisor had to tell me that I had said the wrong thing at a meeting. I took that hard. Obviously I’m still hanging on to it.
Also many years ago, The Daily Word had a meditation about doing the wrong thing and getting past mistakes. I kept it and applied it to that situation. I still do. It’s still hard for me when I do the wrong thing.
Sometimes, it’s hard to admit I’m wrong and I’ve done the wrong thing. Sometimes, it’s hard to apologize or even be sorry, even though the thing was wrong. Sometimes, it’s hard for me not to beat myself up and apologize and apologize and apologize.
Carole and I, along with another couple, are planning a trip to Hawaii in May. Most of my thoughts about this center on flying and my fear of flying. But really, I don’t like vacation. I like to see certain things or spend time doing certain things but I don’t like leaving home and my stuff and my job and my animals. I don’t hate it so much that I don’t want to go, and I actually do want to go or, more precisely, I want to have gone and be back.
Part of my coping strategy has involved not participating in the planning of the vacation, and I describe it like participating in the planning of your surgery. Some people want to participate and some insist on participating. I would like someone to wake me up when it’s over.
So I’ve been very minimally involved in the planning of this Hawaii trip until yesterday, when the plan tickets were purchased. Last night, it occurred to me that our son, Nicholas, is a senior in college and might be graduating in May.
In my defense, Carole and I were both under the impression that he was not going to graduate but was going straight to a Master’s without graduating but still, his plans were never final, and we should have thought to check.
As soon as the tickets were purchased my planner kicked into gear just a little bit and allowed me to wonder about this. This morning I talked to Nicholas and he is indeed graduating in May, during the time that we would be gone.
So now the arrangements have to be changed and I don’t know how much that will cost. It was so unnecessary and I should have checked a long time ago and now people will have to go through expense and trouble to make it right.
And now I’ve sent the other couple flowers and spoken to all the people involved and as far as I can tell they are all annoyed but OK with it and with me. Now I have to stop apologizing and start doing better now, which I am. I’m not going to disengage because of my silly self-serving fear. I release the past and I live in the now.