Have you ever momentarily experienced in your meditation a time of absolute serenity and peace? All trains of thought have stopped. The world around you is non-existent. It is tranquil and quiet within. All is well with your soul.
You try to hang on to it as long as possible but, the phone rings, the kids scream, and the dog barks. Poof! It’s gone. That brief, unearthly respite was a God moment. For a mere second you and the God within were in communion. This mysterious indwelling essence became the Lord of your life on the day you made sobriety the top priority of your life.
We alcoholics are not unique in this discovery. Many before us, many who are not addicted to any behavior or substance have also known the God within and have fully experienced the pure joy and peace of inner communion. Buddha and his followers, Jesus and his followers, Muhammad and his followers all exercised the mysticism of an inner experience of meditation and contemplation. The Kabbalist Jew in his esoteric practice also embraces mysticism.
This has nothing to do with his God, her God, the church’s God. This is your very own, very personal Higher Power which has no need to be translated by religionists or theologians. You don’t need dogma or faith creeds or a list of “thou shalt and thou shalt not” because it is within the deepest recesses of your soul’s being that the God of your understanding can be found.
Faith in this inner God experience of the mystics does not negate or diminish the presence of spirituality that is enjoyed by worshipping with others corporately in the church, the mosque or the synagogue. This time of singing, prayer, and teaching only enhances that which we know within. However, we can experience an exhilarating freedom when we understand how and where to find a personal God of our understanding. Scriptures which we have learned and known for a lifetime come alive with new and deeper meaning. Our journey is no longer hindered by questions concerning the right pew in the right church with the right congregation worshipping on the right day of the week preaching the right gospel with the right Bible, Torah or Koran in hand. That spiritual experience which is deep within is always right.
“To thine own self be true.”
Perhaps one of our greatest challenges in life is walking that mile. We have endured painful obstacles in promoting a healthy family atmosphere. We have worked in jobs that were nothing more than a weekly paycheck. We have served our country to the best of our abilities only to be spat upon and denigrated. We have given beyond expectations and then been told “that’s not enough.” We have sacrificed personal comfort and security in vain attempts to be the people we thought we ought to be.
Yes, we are good people; no, we are GREAT people. None on earth can dispute America’s generosity and charity as shown through numerous relief agencies and private funding of world need. Good will is synonymous with the United States of America.
Yet, individually, many of us are unwilling or spiritually unable to walk a most difficult mile. We are quick to point out another’s deficiencies, to make judgements, to take inventories and absolve ourselves from personal responsibility for that person’s well-being. We no longer value our role as the keepers of brothers. Ego and self promotion are the founding principles in our lives. Perhaps we have always been this way and only now in our condensed, sardine can society it is more obvious.
How much more effort and sacrifice would be required of us to take that most difficult mile, the one walked in another man’s shoes? We have all heard this bit of wisdom; some say it’s American Native folklore. But what would happen when, instead of condemning a man for his behavior, we could change places with him, envision our behavior in his situation, consider what we would do given his circumstances?
Even then, when we have walked that mile with him and our attitude remains harsh, our HP takes us to another principle of his Kingdom. Forgiveness, for most of us, is just as difficult but, equally necessary.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others” is a fundamental tenet of our fellowship and for anyone who seeks a ‘clean and serene’ life. As recovering brothers and sisters we believe our HP has forgiven our lifetime mess and continues to forgive our human nature while we continue in His service. To deny forgiveness to others is akin to denying that God has forgiven us, that our sins were too great to be forgiven even by the most awesome and omnipotent power in the universe, and that his example of forgiveness is not applicable in our lives. When we don’t forgive, we are rejecting the power of HP to transform our lives.
We do not aspire to perfection. Growth is our objective. Let’s be willing to walk that difficult mile with our brothers and sisters and then extend the forgiveness which our HP has accorded to us. For most of us this is the most difficult mile we will ever walk. But, it can also be the most beautiful, enlightening experience of a lifetime.
“Father, we honor in holiness your name; we seek your kingdom as we yearn for your will in our lives. Let it be here within us that you dwell. Give us spiritual food for this day. Forgive our trespasses and guide us to forgive our brothers and sisters just as you have forgiven us. May our fellowship with others in sober living and our love for You keep the temptations of alcohol at bay; protect us from our demons. We recognize and revere your omnipotence and power which is everlasting. Amen.”
On a very cold, wintry, January night of 1981 a 34-year-old man entered the parking lot of the Episcopal church in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The lot was empty of vehicles as it was a Thursday night and the man, although early for his appointed meeting, sat for a few minutes in his vehicle contemplating the events of the past few weeks and what he anticipated to happen that evening. Not normally timid or shy, he was shaking, not from the weather but from anxiety over his decision to take a life-changing direction that would be so vastly different from any other of his life’s experiences. It was an extremely difficult choice to make but, he knew he had come to a dead-end. More often than he cared to admit, suicide had become an increasingly favorable option and he was absolutely terrified of where his mind had been taking him.
Psychoanalysis had helped, counseling had helped, well-meaning family members had tried to help but, the feelings of despair, self-loathing, and worthlessness continued to haunt him. In the darkness of that church parking lot he battled the urge to run, to wage the struggle alone just as he had faced so many other hurdles in life, or to maybe, finally, find the courage to end it all.
Why were no other people here? Was he too early or was the meeting cancelled? Did they not know how desperate be had become? He already believed he was not worthy of anyone’s concern and now it was being proven to him. Nobody was showing up for his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Yeah, the world really sucked and he was the world’s biggest fool for believing anyone cared.
It was 7:30 o’clock, time for the meeting to start and the church was dark, the parking lot was still empty. From his car he could see just one doorway to the social hall where they were supposed to meet. A light hanging over the doorway barely illuminated the walkway up to the door. It was cold, dark and desolate. Shivering, he shifted into gear and decided to leave, maybe stop for a beer at a nearby pub. It was a stupid idea anyway. How could a bunch of whining ex-drunks sitting around a table commiserating over not being able to drink anymore…how could they help him?
Ready to pull back onto the street, he looked back one more time to the lighted doorway. Standing there under the light, shoulders huddled, pouring an icy mist from his nostrils was a man beckoning him to return.
“Lord, where did he come from? He wasn’t there just a second ago.”
“Hey, my name is Tom,” the voice said as the angel walked toward my car. “I think you’re probably at the right place. The meeting’s at 8:00 o’clock. C’mon in, I’ve got the key.”
Lord willing, January 22nd of 2017 will be my 36th sobriety anniversary. I can even today see Tom standing in that doorway and I remember the details of my first meeting, the people who were there, and most of all, the immediate realization that, just as Tom had said, I was at the right place, and indeed he and AA had the key to personal liberation and a life victorious over the demon alcohol.
My name is Larry and I am an alcoholic. On that cold night nearly 36 years ago I had two doors before me. In one door stood my angel beckoning me to be bold and courageous in pursuit of recovery from alcoholism. The other door questioned by whose power did I believe a drunken wretch like me could survive even one day without alcohol. The darkness in that door told me I was unworthy of anything other than the hell of addiction.
Do I believe in God’s amazing grace? You betcha.
Dorothy Day said, “The only way to live in any true security is to live so close to the bottom that when you fall you do not have far to drop, you do not have much to lose.”  From that place, we can be used as instruments of transformation and liberation for the rest of the world.
Bias from the BottomTuesday, January 17, 2017
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
This wisdom from the lady journalist simplifies the greatest challenges of our day. For most of the world, security interprets itself as a mad scramble to the top by whatever means necessary, no matter whose toes we must tread upon, no matter how many children starve as a result of our ambitions. We are conditioned from childhood upward, viz., the competitiveness of little league baseball and football. We are fed the ‘American dream’ and are left to feel inconsequential when that dream eludes us. Even our religious institutions substitute for the teachings of Jesus Christ the command to ‘pray hard, live right, and get ahead’.
Christianity lost its balance and direction centuries ago when theology and dogma were elevated over honesty and humility, when preachers no longer exhorted from the pulpits the love story of Jesus, and when differing faiths were demonized and persecuted.
Looking to the bottom makes sense of this world’s dilemmas. It resonates within my own heart. Finally realizing and accepting that the top offers no security, that there is no security to be found in materialism and worldliness, a man overcomes the fear of having ‘nothing’. And then the heart can receive the goodness, the compassion, the brotherhood which our God intended for us.
Janis Joplin had a good heart but was miserably misunderstood. From “ME AND BOBBY MCGEE” she tells us:
“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”
And, baby, you ain’t nothing if you ain’t free.