Thursday, November 3, 2011

getting personal

For the past week or better, I have been doing some theological reflection about how I understand the divine. I came to the conclusion that I don't seem to have a god that has a personality or personhood. That seemed fine until Friday night when I was lying on the deliciously cool tile floor of my bathroom, wishing I had a god I could pray to who would ease my suffering. When the realization struck me, I did giggle. But only briefly, cause it hurt.

Now in my 12-step program, there is a very clear concept of a higher power, and that higher power is very much a person-type entity. God is someone to be prayed to who can and will relieve our suffering. So how does this new theology of mine mesh with that concept? In conversations with some folks this week, it came to me to explore that notion here, and in particular to go through the steps as a way to do it. So let's start at step one. I'll do the others in order as we go.

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Sounds easy enough. No mention of god, the divine or anything holy there. There is surrender, but it is surrender to a reality, to an understanding, more than to a deity. We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol. Some people get tweaked about the powerless part. I don't have much trouble with it these days. I didn't like it much when I first came into meetings, but after clearing my head a bit and taking a look at my behavior when I was drinking ... well, let's just say it's not a point I am willing to argue any more. I am powerless over alcohol. And my life is unmanageable, or at least it was when I was drinking. I planned things that never happened. I vowed not to do things that I always ended up doing, screw-ups followed me around. It was rough. And messy.

Today my life is far more manageable, but I notice that the less time and effort I put into managing things -- to trying to orchestrate the grand symphony of my life -- the easier my days are and the less stressful they are. But that's another discussion.

So I am powerless. I can do that. The first step does not require me to have a god or a higher power, just to admit that I'm NOT one. I'm good with that. I am powerless. Over alcohol and lots of stuff. I am powerless over how people act and feel and what they say and how they behave. I can respond or react, and I am responsible for my part in that stuff, but I am powerless over how someone else behaves. I am powerless over alcohol and drugs and what they do to others as well. I am powerless over addiction and how it beats people up. I don't like it, but I am powerless over that. I get it.

OK, now I'm going to end with something I don't often do, which is a prayer. Oh, I can pray in a group, I can lead a prayer and I can participate in a prayer, but I don't seem to spend a lot of time on my own devoted to prayer. This is the simple version of the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Power to change the things I can; and Wisdom to know the difference.

God, whatever that might be, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. That means all the people, places and things in my life that might not be running the way I like them, that I think might go better if I were in charge; those people who ought to do this or that in order to be healthy and meet a standard of life and health that I deem appropriate. God grant me the serenity to accept the world as it is, and my place in it, for today. Tomorrow I can charge the castle with pitchforks, but for this morning, I'd like to accept things as being where they are supposed to be for this moment.

God grant me the strength to change the things I can, which mostly means me: my thoughts, my behaviors, my feelings, my words. God, please make my words tender and gentle and without sharp edges, so that if I have to eat them later it won't hurt so badly. Grant me the strength to work for justice without working for my own greater glory and good. Help me to take baby steps instead of trying to find a cure for cancer before I've had breakfast. Help me to change the things I can.

And please, god, who ever or what ever form you might take, guide me to the wisdom to know the difference between what I can change and what I cannot. Grant me the wisdom to know where I can be helpful and where I'm more likely to get in the way of actual progress and healing. Help me to stay right-sized. Blessed be. Amen.

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