The Grace of God
The Grace of God
The concept of God is a difficult hurdle for many people who come to 12 step programs. As a fellowship we try and cater to all, but we cannot ignore the fact that we are a spiritual organization and our literature refers to the word God. In AA, they softened the concept by offering a God of your understanding and most 12 step programs have adopted that concept for themselves. Regardless of what beliefs you arrive with, you will need to come to terms with the idea of some power greater than yourself. My personal beliefs when I arrived at my first 12 step meeting was that God, spiritual beliefs, mysticism and the whole concept of a spiritual existence was for weak minded people who needed a crutch. I did have some beliefs that I accepted as possible once I qualified my answers. I was willing to admit that some people might be psychic, and ghosts sounded plausible. For instance, prayer was an excellent way to spend time until your plane impacts the side of a mountain. At the time, I wouldn’t say I was cynical but looking back I knew that God had never done anything for me, hadn’t been a factor in my life and wasn’t likely to appear any time soon. I did have an awakening to the idea that my life was wildly out of control, and I was a mess. I went to my first meeting, expecting nothing, with little hope, and perhaps open to the possibility of some relief. I didn’t expect to find help for someone like me. Even if God existed, there were many people who were more deserving of help. I had heard the words, “God’s Grace” but never really given it much thought.
The ‘Grace of God’ is hard to define without the heavy religious overtones of our Christian based society. For this article, we will use the definition of Grace as 'unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification'. Both the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the original manuscript for the Basic Text used in Narcotics Anonymous referenced the Grace of God. Even the latest version of the Basic Text still mentions God’s Grace in ‘how it works’ – step 11. It’s a touchy subject with many people but the concept of Grace from a higher power isn’t exclusive to Christianity. In Buddhism, they have the idea of a bodhisattva. This is a person who has achieved the capacity to obtain enlightenment and become a buddha, but in an act of great compassion chooses to remain in this realm and work to end the suffering of the masses – the act itself is Grace. Hinduism refers to Kripa and Hellenism (Greek mysticism) refers to Kharis. Grace is what I was offered when I arrived at the rooms, what I learned in doing the steps and what I try and extend to all. IF you are uncomfortable with the idea of a God then think of Grace as nothing more than compassion offered regardless of the situation. Think of how the world would be if compassion was at the front of every moment, in every relationship.
The most powerful story I have ever read in recovery was titled 84 days. It was published in the Iranian Narcotics Anonymous journal called Payam Behboodi. It’s a letter from a prisoner in jail about his gratitude for 84 days clean and how we as recovering addicts should work together and to help each other. His gratitude is also for the will of God. This is someone who’s life will be ending by hanging the next morning, punishment for the crimes he had committed. I could relate on many levels. I often feel as if I am in a self-imposed prison. My character defects and shortcomings have always prevented me from being a part of things. I am difficult to get to know, difficult to be around and have little interest in the world around me. My struggles are with Self, as is the case for many of us in recovery. Having done a set of steps I also know I have assets and have provided for my family for many years. I also contribute in many ways to society. I might never be rich or successful but I have always managed to provide for my family. I have much in my life to be grateful for like many of us who find recovery in the rooms. We go to meetings and listen to one speaker after another share about their gratitude for what recovery has given them. They talk about their support group, or their vacations and possessions as if those are important. My belief is that gratitude we share in recovery is reserved for our higher power, however you want to define that. That gratitude speaks with Grace that we extend to the fellowship. Ultimately, the gratitude that carries the strongest message is selfless service. We promote unity by working together and including everyone. Our traditions we study in 12 step programs gave us the tools to ensure our focus is not on our personal relationships with our friends but with all of society. Gratitude grows as our Grace grows. The Grace of God isn’t easy, it is a desperate hand extended to another off a ledge that they find themselves hanging from. The key to Grace is the ‘unmerited’ aspect, the courtesy we extend beyond what we feel is warranted or deserved. It is part what makes our service so valuable. Grace is the action of gratitude.
How well your 12 step support group functions, and the service structures we create to support our groups comes from the Grace of God. It’s very easy to fall into cliques and form micro groups of support around common interests or beliefs, and exclude those we disapprove of. The 12-step group is the core of our recovery. The relationships we form within our groups, and how we treat each other IS the basis of our recovery. It’s from these relationships that we can provide Grace to others. The gratitude that comes from that connection with my higher power is the only gratitude that matters in recovery. We are selling a new way of life. Gratitude for what I have achieved in my recovery is not a magical elixir I can bottle and transfer to another. Friendships, lifestyle and a dizzying array of choices await many of us as we get clean but it’s all meaningless to someone who’s new or someone who is on the verge of dying. When my journey started, I was attracted to the message and the feeling of be a part of something. What we keep for ourselves when we share our recovery is true gratitude and a belief in the process. The gratitude that arises from our relationship with the God of our understanding, who guides us and gives us strength. It’s the only gratitude some members will ever achieve. My sponsor and support group do a daily group text by cellphone of 5 things we are grateful for and it has been a difficult process for me. I really want to focus on all the things that I am grateful for like relationships, sunny days and the smell of falling rain. I have come to accept that in turning my life and my will over to God in step 3, I need to focus on my gratitude for my higher power’s will for me, and the strength that comes to me. Compassion for another is a gift for myself and does more to restore my own worth than anything I could acquire on my own.