“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” – Psalms 1: 1-2
Struggling with spirituality? I started meditating upon a rote prayer. Rote…rote…rote…That is right. It gets so disgustingly rote in my life lately. I haven’t drank since last September and have been going to a handful of 12 step meetings. Yes, I am outing my anonymity…if you don’t like it, that is just too terribly bad. Usually some AA Nazi gets a stick up his/her ass and can’t bear it that I could give a shit who knows whether I drink or not.
There are good things that happened during the last months, for certain. However, the longer I remain in AA, the worse my spirituality suffers. Yes, you heard me correctly. Before I get into my latest insights I have to explain myself a bit. First, the concept of the 12 steps is to get a person to go out and proselytize to other addicts who are drawn to AA by “attraction” better known as your wrecked existence at the time. That selfless action keeps an addict in service and centered on their problem. This will be wholeheartedly frowned upon, but all those “higher” level selfless virtues Jesus calls us to, get, somehow, swept under the rug. Justice, chastity, purity, charity (the pure love of Christ), beauty, creativity, knowledge, real truth, obedience to anything other than the program, piety, respect, etc. etc. get lost. Right now there is a clarion call going out among people working the steps that all of these things are present in the program. They would be right. Problem is, that is the only place these things are fostered. Even when we “take the steps into our daily lives,” it is not about cultivating these virtues in a larger scale. It is about dealing with our own daily bullshit.
Second problem. To do this deal of getting sober, there needs to be buy in. How can one program fit for all of us? We are not all of us. We are one of us. We are not unique. We all can relate because we are all the same. How many times have I heard an “old-timer” bemoan a newbie as suffering from “terminal unique-ness”. So, the idea is that if we believe we are unique we have all these excuses for why on earth this program won’t work for us. “I am different, don’t you know?” What is my problem with this. It goes against my spiritual beliefs. It violates them. It violates my intuition. I don’t know another institution or group in the world that demands this, but whatever. I get it, there are certain characteristics that define addicts. Not clear that this extreme language is necessary.
Third problem. The insistence that the smarter you are, the less likely you are to “get it.” It is ubiquitous and I know why, it is easier to see through the crap. You have to check your brain at the door in a way that, for me, wrecks my contact with God. The more I get into a place that I can talk to and feel God, the more I move away from the 12 steps. It is becoming a big problem. The discussions cannot question the 12 steps to any 12 stepper because their “life depends upon it.” That is, their life depends upon the maintenance of this construct. So the second you get deep…or want to have a heated discussion about random stuff that is “higher level,” or want to do something that “triggers” the addict, the walls go up like deja vu in a matrix movie. All the windows are suddenly bricked over.
So…I say the 3rd step prayer and the 7th step prayer every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY. I was told in September that I must do it if I wanted to stay sober. I did, so I did. Today, I did some deep meditation on these prayers and where I am at is…yuck…
3rd Step Prayer:
God, I offer myself to Thee – To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
I must say that I miss the Jesus and Mary chain in my daily life and prayer. I miss the way I communed with my higher power. Today, my God, literally screamed this analysis at me. So, here it is.
I started thinking about being relieved of the bondage of self. Jesus was born relieved of the bondage of self. He is the King of Kings and my Lord and Savior particularly because he emptied himself. He is the Christ and as the Christ is totally and completely relieved of the bondage of self. So too for the women. The virgin…
- My soul doth magnify the Lord.
- And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
- For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden: For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
- For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his Name.
- And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.
- He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
- He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.
- He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
- He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel :
- As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.
- Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;
- As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.
Mary emptied herself to be filled with the Spirit of God.
The question becomes, what does being relieved of the bondage of self look like? Something tells me, not like what I see around the clique-taculous rooms I’m in. I was so critical of the worldly churches I was attending. Yet, at the end of the day, ostensibly, the idea is that you look at the supreme example of being relieved of the bondage of self, Jesus, and try, as a community and on an individual level, to emulate the example. When I contemplate losing myself to find eternal life, relying upon a HP garnered through a 12 step program inherently limits God. How? For that we have to look at the other prayer I say every morning.
7th Step Prayer:
My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of me, good and bad.
I pray that You now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to You and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do Your bidding.
Directly in the prayer we are asking God to take all of us. Good and BAD….yes BAD…We always pray that we are willing for God to remove all of our character defects. However, that is making a huge assumption if we are to believe this prayer. That is, according to this prayer we are not praying for God to remove all the BAD. We are only praying for the removal of character defects to the extent that God can or cannot use us. My gut tells me that it is not what we commonly think. What parts of us God uses…when God can use us….If God is using us…is not what I think it is. It is not what our significant other thinks it is of me or, likely of himself. It is not what our parents or our children think. Nobody knows when and how God can use us except God. I am not God. You are not God.
Second, the prayer speaks particularly of use. How are we useful? How do we measure our usefulness to God. Am I to believe that my usefulness to God hinges upon whether or not he will take away this or that character defect? That is worth a thought…hmmm…Can God only use me to His glory? Are their character defects that actually aid in my usefulness? It also begs the question. If I am not to be certain things so that God can use me (I still can’t get over this concept that I, a mortal, a sinner can know among what conditions God operates)…What things should I be so that God is eager to use me?
The next thought that came to my mind in my meditation was that it wasn’t use only but also love, the very amusement and friendship with my God, the energies of the Universe, whatever you want to call it. Use was a small word but okay…that too. “Use” is so much easier when I am connected. In fact, for me, it is all about being connected. This is a HUGE problem because I feel EXTREMELY connected to God and the Universe and it is not in expected ways. That is fodder for blog 2 in series.
Perhaps, we grow through a rich variety experiences. Bad is part, character defects are part, grief, death, dark is as vital as light, maybe moreso for growing faith. Did Jesus not have to have to be nailed to a cross and visit death so that he could rise again for us all. Even Peter’s character defects of doubt were used by God to prove our Christ. Remember the cock crowing three times. Constantly, throughout the gospels, Jesus uses the unusable. Jesus uses the woman being stoned. He uses the lack of faith and anxiety of the apostles in the boat. Not only that, but despite Jesus’ admonitions of “Get thee hence, Satan,” Those very same people went right on being themselves. Mark can’t get over saying “immediately.” Is his world filled with that tension of immediacy? Peter, Martha, heck…every single person but Jesus, are human and have character defects, aplenty, and continue to be used by God. And….despite, or maybe because of, these character defects, are able to connect to this higher power.
If we wish to take things up a notch and start seeking to do what Jesus said to do in the Good Book, we can crank it up. Read the Sermon on the Mount. Try to understand the stories and parables. Investigate the words of God, all of them. I am a Christian. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe God can be shown in any way he/she/it wants, it just means I am a Christian…a Pagan, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.. Christian. When I am knee deep in scripture, I am in. I am connected and practicing the things Jesus tells us about. This place is not for the faint of heart. We hear things that we don’t like. We hear things that don’t make sense. We hear things that don’t have easy answers. In the land of the spirit, magic abounds and the more I can be engrossed, the more I am connected to that place of God and goodness.
I think the next level is when I mirror my actions on Jesus. Yet, I cannot even get there until I have gone the path of doing, I shutter to say this…, not what AA tells me to do but what scripture does, what God does. Those things are the things I need to be nose deep in daily. Again, I need to be true to myself. Only then do I have a shot at peace amidst brutality, wisdom in chaos, healing, and grace.