Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Burning barns and hugging bears: the myth of 'taking your will back'

What I sometimes notice is that (a) my behaviour is upsetting other people or running up against brick walls or (b) my mind is racing with Little Plans and Ideas—obsession about how I am going to solve a situation.

I used to say that I had 'taken my will back'.

If my will had been truly aligned with God's, totally, perfectly, permanently, I would be in light. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. No one in light can even perceive or understand darkness. To be in light is to be innocent. I can be aware that another person perceives himself to be in darkness and remember the fact of my own exile from the Kingdom, but I cannot enter into that darkness for I know it exists only in that person's perception. I cannot re-enter dreams—I can barely remember their occurrence, let alone content. In brief: when there is light, I cannot choose to enter darkness or error—I cannot enter what does not exist.

The principle is the same as with drinking. I could never choose to drink (for that would be insane) so I am not choosing to stay sober. It is the only option. There is only one pass through the mountains. (Conversely, when I was drinking, I could not choose not to drink, so I was not choosing to keep drinking. It was the only option. There was only one pass through the mountains). No one chooses to relapse. If you are a real alcoholic, the only reason to drink is an insanity of which you may be only dimly aware.

When there is a fire, horses must be tied up to stop them running into burning barns.

Does the horse run into the barn as a rational choice?

Can I 'take my will back' the way I would, say, take a nap, take a walk, or take a bath?

The mechanism is this:

I get presented with a difficult situation that requires a response of some kind. I do not, instinctively, know what to do. I could go to God, sure, I could relax, not struggle, take it easy, ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought, or a decision (86:3, 'Alcoholics Anonymous'). But in a corner of my mind, I believe this enemy is too great, this peril too powerful, this problem too complex. I am frightened.

And I do what horses do: I run into the burning barn, I grab the problem and hold it tight in my mind, hugging it close to myself the way a bear hugs its enemy to crush it to death. Soon, I'm engaged in mindless (but ostensibly rational) action, convinced I'm in 'control' of the situation and managing perfectly well. Then the enemy starts climbing over the battlements, and I realise I'm besieged on all sides and hours from utter defeat.

The problem does not start with 'taking my will back'. The problem starts with an underlying belief in the non-totality of God, in the limitation of God, in the non-omnipotence, the non-omniscience, the non-omnipresence of God in every situation.

It is only when, as my life expands like the ever-expanding universe, I am faced with a novel or great difficulty that challenges my conception of God that I become scared, and fear 'sets in motion trains of circumstances which [bring] us misfortune we [felt] we [do not] deserve' (67:3).

The truth is, the old idea—the particular limitation to my conception of God—was always there, the whole time. It is never new. It can only ever be uncovered, having been previously hidden. My ever-expanding conception of God is only ever in a particular phase of its development—this conception may, today, have expanded sufficiently to match the situation I am placed in. When, tomorrow, this conception proves inadequate, I have not 'relapsed' or backslid or taken my will back: my growing conception has, instead, failed to keep pace with my ever-growing life.

I cannot 'jump' intentionally away from God. All I can ever do is slip from God's grace—I cannot choose to slip, whether into alcohol or into other error.

In another book, a man—an actual man, not the son of God—walks on water. It is only when he fears that he 'slips' and falls into the waves. And the only reason to fear is misperception of God, the subscription to the belief that God is anything less than everything. Anything less, and, for practical purposes, right here, right now, He may as well be nothing. That is why any sitting on the fence is described in the Big Book as 'soft and mushy' (53:1). God is either everything or nothing, at any point in time and space (53:2).

The danger is trying to solve the problem at the wrong level. Self-will—in behaviour of thought—is not the source of the problem but a domino much further down the line. The problem is only ever the failure to recognise the total love and power of God and the presence of God at the centre of every situation.


Cathplum said...

Wow! This really spoke to me today! I've been doing a lot of learning recently about how my perception of God is so limiting - I have so many old beliefs and concepts to let go!!

Jim said...

I don't believe that once I give my will over to God that I get it back. There is no reneging on the deal if I sincerely take the position described on pages 62-63. That is why it says to think well before taking this step, because once you turn it over, you don't get it back and if you stop, it just goes on without you.