Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Wild horses, donkeys, and high-stakes gambling

". . . we of agnostic temperament have had these thoughts and experiences. Let us make haste to reassure you." (46:1, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')


I am certainly of agnostic temperament. When faced with lack, limitation, emptiness, or strife, my typical response is not to cheerfully capitalise it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence (133:0) but to doubt the existence of God or, more commonly these days (as my experience suggests it would be churlish to deny God's existence), to project out onto God the very lack or limitation I am experiencing in my life.

"We found that 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 thought it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power which is God." (46:1)

'Prejudice' someone once defined for me as an opinion on an experience I have not had. What I need to lay aside when faced with difficulty is the presumption concerning how, if at all, God is going to lead me safely through this particular trial or low spot (cf. 15:0). Where God could and would lead me is necessarily somewhere I could not choose to take myself, because I cannot conceive of it. If I had conceived of it, and understood it for its true nature (the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God), I surely would have taken myself there. Even if I can conceive, vaguely, of the destination, the route may be obscure and I am just as incapacitated. Any presumption on my part as to the destination and route, other than the trust that both will result in the best for me and for those around me, will automatically limit my experience.

'Expressing willingness to believe' is also key: not believing is actually OK. Sometimes, the lack and limitation is so deeply set and has persisted for so long, perhaps below the level of consciousness (as its enormity, for a long time, was too great to face), that believing there is a way out seems preposterous. That being 'willing' to believe is sufficient is, indeed, a great reassurance. And this is not just the last recourse of sceptical newcomers, but an apparently flimsy reed that turns out to be the strong and sure, loving hand of God for people in any phase of spiritual growth who are struggling. Almost axiomatically, if I am experiencing lack and limitation, which derives from nothing more and nothing less than disconnection with God, the source of all my power, and God is eternally available, the problem must lie with me, and, since all problems stems from my mind, with the lack of belief which is causing me to withhold myself from God. 'Willingness to believe' is often, therefore, all I can muster in such situations, as the stuck-ness necessarily flows from disbelief.

The next question is the Step Two proposition:
"crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn't. What was our choice to be?" (53:2)

If the bridges are burned behind me (could not evade) and the present has become untenable (could not postpone), there is nothing left to lose. That is why this facing is 'fearless'. If I have other cards to play or time to dawdle, I will not face this proposition at all, because there is still something to lose. Gambling on God being everything is . . . well . . . a gamble. Because, in advance, I can never know for sure whether God will come through for me, so God being nothing is always an apparent risk. But there is nothing to fear if I am screwed anyway—I cannot land any further back than where I am starting.

If God is nothing, I have to do the work, and enlist whatever resources are at my disposal. But trying that is what landed me here in the first place.

If God is everything, what I need is complete abandonment—mounting a wild horse and allowing myself to be carried where it knows it must take me rather than saddling a donkey and guiding it with my own reins.

And what does abandonment look like?

"We wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems. . . I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet." (15:1)

I cannot achieve through concentration on the problem a resolution of that problem. I need to remove the blocks between me and God, who can and will solve the problem: if the blindfold is removed, sight is the result, and I will spy the wild horse I need to ride to safety. It's typically me who is in my own way. Work and self-sacrifice for others (15:0) is my best way of getting out of my own way.