The various human ideas and interpretations of God have both served mankind, and destroyed it simultaneously. You doubt? Examine the history of the world’s religious wars.
But we can ask ourselves, “Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a power greater than myself?” Because as soon as we can admit that, we’re on our way to better living. And by better, I mean happier, more joyful, and with more freedom. “It has been repeatedly proven” that this kind of faith can work. We don’t have to prove the existence of a heaven or hell. We don’t have to have a God that delivers parking spots or jobs or plagues to people who are misbehaving. We can stop using the idea of God as a weapon, and let down our guard enough to begin using spiritual principles, which are represented in all major religions and faiths.
But the Big Book carries a warning. It says we are handicapped by “obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice.” And for people like us that can be deadly. Because for whatever reason, “To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis” is a tough decision for us.
We are also handicapped by our hearing (or, should I say, our inability to hear.) I was a few years into saying the 3rd step prayer when one of its lines smacked me right in the face. It was as if I had never really heard it before. Have you had that experience in AA?
Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will.
Despite the fact that I am a highly verbal person, quite articulate, and scored higher on my verbal GRE than 95% of those who take the exam (I’m not bragging here…my quantitative scores were in the bottom 20%) I had up until that moment in my sobriety, failed to hear the word ‘self’ in that sentence. Because of this failure I had not realized that the below list is what I was supposed to be asking God to relieve:
- ~Financial fear, indecision, greed.
- ~Regret and/or judgment of self for things done and left undone.
- ~Bitterness, resentment, and carrying the weight of the known world on my shoulders.
- ~Anything that could be defined as me operating from my usual stance of being ‘President of the Universe.’
- ~Obsession with anything: drinking, using, shopping, sex, my checkbook, food, love, being perfect, saving the world. Add to the list as it’s appropriate for you.
- ~The idea that I can control any person, place or thing outside of myself.
- ~Mothering, manipulation and martyrdom.
- ~Worrying about the future (either my future or the future of the planet as a whole.) This includes the potential of civil war in Afghanistan, starvation in the Sudan, the mass incarceration of people in the United States and whether or not my oldest daughter will get into the GT program at her school.
You get the point, right? I could write and write and write this list. This is self. It’s me talking. It’s me fearing. It’s me running, hiding, harboring, working really hard to ignore reality. It’s about my life, my feelings about the world, my experience. See…I’m everywhere in it. That’s the problem. I am all that I think about, and I justify that sometimes by spending time thinking about what I consider really important things.
When I started to pray and ask God to relieve me of the bondage of myself, I found so much humility. I realized that my entire life had been full of the pain of ‘me.’ And when I got that…when it made the 1,000 mile journey from my head to my heart, I started to heal from the scarring that living like that causes.
It’s been a long process. I still get into bondage. I was there yesterday. The difference for me is that I have some tools now. One of them is acceptance. Another is gratitude. And another is experience. I take a few simple steps, get out of God’s way, go to a meeting, call a friend, be of service to someone and get on with life. I get really honest about where I’m at and how I feel, and I don’t try to make it all look good. In fact, I don’t care how it looks, because I know that I can’t save my face and my ass at the same time. No matter how badly I feel…it’s going to pass and I’m going to feel something else. I know that because it has been my experience, one day at a time.