God as who understands whom?

God as you understand God.
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 164)

“…my Creator…” (pages 13, 76)
“…our Creator…” (pages 25, 68, 72, 75, 83)
“…a living Creator…” (page 28)
“…his Creator.” (pages 56, 80, 158)
“…their…Creator.” (page 161)
“…his Maker…” (page 57)
“…our Maker, as we understood Him…” (page 63)
“God, as I then understood Him…” (page 13)
“…your own conception of God.” (page 47)
“God as we understood Him.” (pages 47, 59, 60)
“God as you understand God.” (page 164)
“One who has all power…
May you find Him now!” (page 59)


Beginning here with a little from “Bill’s Story” in our Basic Text:

“Despite the living example of my friend…”
Bill was looking for a way to stay sober and Ebby had one…
“…there remained in me the vestiges of my old prejudice.”

Right there at his own kitchen table, Bill was hearing and seeing “…another kind of flight, a spiritual liberation from this world, people who rose above their problems.  They said God made these things possible, and we only smiled.  We had seen spiritual release, but liked to tell ourselves it wasn’t true.”  (page 55)

Bill and his wife, Lois, had each been looking for quite a while for a way for him to be able to stay sober, but even now with recovery sitting directly in front of him, the thought of “God could and would do for us what we could not do for ourselves” (pages 71, 84) was still sticking in his craw like a bad piece of dry, burnt toast…

“The word ‘God’ still aroused a certain antipathy (a deep-seated feeling of dislike; aversion).  When the thought was expressed that there might be a God personal to me, this feeling (of dislike of the word ‘God’ and my aversion to it) was intensified.  I didn’t like the idea (of anything about ‘God’ being personal to me).  I could go for such conceptions as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind or Spirit of Nature, but I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens (great power and authority), however loving His sway might be.  I have since talked with scores (multiple twenties) of men who felt the same way.”  (page 12)

Looking still a bit deeper:

“As psychiatrists have often observed, defiance is the outstanding characteristic of many an alcoholic…defying God Himself…”  (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“, Step Two)

Many of us have in the past been stuck there for a time, and even for a great while…but now have a look at where we have nevertheless ended up:

“…practicing these Steps (as our new manner of living), we had a spiritual awakening about which finally there was no question…(and) we could predict that (even) the (next) doubter…would presently love God and call Him by name.”  (Step Twelve)

Ponder that huge difference for a moment, then consider this part of how we had been helped through the transition:

“My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea.  He said, ‘Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?’
“That statement hit me hard.  It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years.  I stood in the sunlight at last.”  (page 12)

As properly understood and employed for melting icy intellectual mountains, this “choose your own conception of God” thought can be crucial in helping to bring about permanent recovery.  What it was never intended to do, however, would be to make an already-present “icy intellectual mountain” — intellectual pride — even more formidable by now adding “a god of your own understanding” as yet another view-blocking peak…

…as if chairs, trees, ash trays, light bulbs or “Groups Of Drunks” (where powerless + powerless + powerless = accumulated human powerlessness, not power) might somehow be sufficient for bringing about anyone’s actual recovery.  No matter how catchy and inviting the idea of “a god of your own understanding” (or of your own intellect or personal imagination) might seem, it still holds no guarantee of ever actually receiving “Good Orderly Direction” from inanimate objects such as coffee pots…or even from other breathing creatures like ourselves who are not already relying upon the Creator of all.  And so, here is the rest of the story surrounding Bill and us and Step Two:

“It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself.  Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning.  I saw that growth could start from that point.  Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend.  Would I have it?  Of course I would!
“Thus was I convinced God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough.  At long last I saw, I felt, I believed.  Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes.  A new world came into view.”  (pages 12-13)

What had just happened there?  What had made the difference for Bill?  What can make the difference for any of us here?  The absence of having anything sectarian pushed upon us, and that includes the absence of the “intellectual pride” — see the end of “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare” — often found behind one’s self-avowed agnosticism or atheism.  As at least one of us alcoholics (who had been a self-proclaimed atheist) had once pondered and then knelt on a desire to recover:

Who are you to say there is no God?”  (page 56)

Yes, we were hearing from people clearly saying they were “going to talk about God” (page 45), but we were not being told what we must (or must not) believe or even why we should (or should not) believe anything at all.  We were not being threatened with eternity in “hell”, and we were not being bribed or baited with promises of cushy afterlives in some kind of “heaven”.  In stark contrast to any kind of believe-it-or-leave religious doctrine or dogma, and as long as our own “conceptions of God”, so to speak, made sense to us (page 93), we were simply being offered opportunities to have our very own thoughts, feelings or beliefs about “God as you understand God” (page 164) while taking some simple “taste-and-see” actions — Steps Four through Nine — that ultimately got us to here:

“…as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves…we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God.
“…we did not need to consider another’s conception of God.  Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact…to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps.  We found God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him.  To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek.  It is open, we believe, to all men.”  -and-  “When we drew near to Him He disclosed Himself to us!”  (pages 46, 57)

No matter what we might say or do here, some people are still going to believe we are trying to “push God” upon them or even upon you.  We are not.  But if that might still be your own feeling or conviction, we staunchly defend your personal right to have it…and we would leave you with just these pertinent facts as we know them and have already shared them:

We had found ourselves unable to control our drinking while drinking, we had found ourselves just as powerless to leave alcohol alone altogether while sober…

“We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people…”  (page 52)

…and now we no longer have those problems overwhelming us as they once were and driving us back to drinking.  Some of our fellow alcoholics might somehow be able to achieve something similar or even the same without ever turning to the Sovereign Creator of all for direction and care such as we could have never provided for ourselves, but that does not change our report that “God as you understand God” now does that for us…and both can and will do the very same for you if you might ever find yourself in need of that (Step One) and willing to give Him a shot at it (Step Two).  So if you might ever change your mind…

Abandon yourself to God as you understand God.
Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows.
Clear away the wreckage of your past.
Give freely of what you find and join us…in the Fellowship of the Spirit…
May God bless you and keep you – until then.
—  “Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 164  —


Category: What We Mean When We Say…


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