As We Understood Him
Sunday, sitting at (1c) at this hour. It is cold outside. People coming and going, here and there, all bundled up …
The Seville project up the block is coming along nicely. Phase three is going up quite quickly. And I noticed today on the way out that Bank of Montreal will have a branch on the sidewalk level of building two. Which means, ATM access right around the corner for us.
I also heard the Omer Deserr’s building that has been empty for forever and a day will become condos. This is quite the upgrade for our neighborhood. Finally the West end of downtown will finally be renewed. There are only a few storefronts that are still dark that need rebirth.
It was a quiet night on the way out. I arrived at the church to set up as usual, and we were done just past 5. We had a fair sized group, we sat all the chairs and then some. We are still amid “Bill’s Story…” The chair kept the reading short and we ended on the passage …
“Why don’t you choose your own conception of God ?”
The lead up to this passage tells the story about a friend of Bill’s from high school coming to visit Bill – and thinking he would find someone to commiserate with and drink with him, Bill was mistaken. We saw this part of the story played out on screen the other night… Bill’s friend had found religion.
Scoffing at the thought of God in all his incarnations, Bill had to come to believe in his own conception of God, and eventually Bill did have that lightening bolt – stand up straight spiritual experience.
The concept of God as we understood him – was a the genius stroke of Bill’s wisdom, coming to write down his story, the steps and finally the traditions.
Who is God, What is God, Why is there a God? And Do we really need a God?
When we spoke of God, we hear the many names that we call god. Some believe in God, and some just don’t know about God. But within their prayers they find it efficacious… Which means “it works.” ref: Margaret Craven…
I grew up with an incarnation of God. I was introduced to it by my grandmother who took me to church that one day and offered me to God. I’ve told this story in “Naked and Sacred” –> over there in the Pages.
She made sure that God would know who I was. Because it came to pass that I really needed God, and the pact that she made with God, lasted my whole life.
Looking at it from so far down the road, as it happened, God did not forget me. It is only By the Grace of God, I survive today. First sobriety is a blur of light. I had my work cut out for me, and we all begged God one more minute, one more hour and one more day … I know what that feels like. The urgency of prayer. The yearning behind the words, spoken and silent. Beseeching God to let us live…
But we come to that all important response to our prayers …
“Not my will, but Thy will be done …”
God took a lot of people from me. And from the world. But he left me alone. And I believe that the prayers of so many asked God to leave me alone. That I was too young – that I deserved at least a shot. But didn’t all those others deserve a shot as well? What about them? In Todd’s world, it wasn’t about them, it was strictly about me and my survival. And in reality that was all I could handle.
I know what God looks like. I know his eyes, and I know his voice.
Second sobriety I did not have all those problems I had the first time. It was just me. And I prayed. I prayed a lot. And those prayers were all answered because I honestly asked for help and it came.
“The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord …”
Lucky me that I returned for a second kick at the can. I got the book from my sponsor Perry. He walked me through the Steps within the first year of sobriety. I did not have a problem with God. I had a problem with me.
It took a while to sort this all out. Like I needed reminding who God was and to remember that I wasn’t God.
I was talking to a friend before the meeting and we were talking about God and community, and I said that I spent a year in a Catholic Seminary, and his response was “you could write a book about just that year of your life!” And I am sure I could. It would take a little work.
In regards to God as I understood him … That year in seminary, so long ago, was a pretty phenomenal time in my life. I had grown up in the church, and people knew, as I think, my grandmother knew, that one day I would be consecrated to God, in service to the church … so I thought as well.
I spent a year praying. I think that is one thing I did well. I don’t so much worry about my fellows during that time, they had their issues and I had mine. I was a silent boy. Who gardened in his spare time. Who spent time in chapel, in spiritual direction, in mass. I came to know God. And I loved God. I learned to listen for his voice, I once had a spiritual experience when David died, God was a desire.
Sadly at the end of that year, it came down to the judgment of a man, one man, who believed that I didn’t have what God required, so they sent me away.
Can you imagine … How mad at God I became. I felt cheated. I was ashamed. How could I face my parish, my pastor, and tell him that I did not make the cut.
Now, so many years later… I know where the men who did make the cut ended up. And what their motives were, really.
For a long time, God was kept at arms length. Until Father Jeff McCormick walked into my life. I was in my assigned pew one Sunday night, and the entrance song began and the procession walked past us. And in on crutches, walked Father Jeff McCormick.
God became incarnate again for me. That day I spoke that I would never complain about my life ever again. Over the next year, we worked together on my concept of God. The writing of Margaret Craven was instrumental to introducing me to God. And I still return, again and again to her book
“I heard the Owl call my Name.”
If there is a God, today, I would like to think God is a young twenty six year old man, ministering to a band of people, high on the up-coast, where the living of life is measured in the way we serve each other, and the depth of commitment we have to one another.
A year into sobriety, this time, my after care counselor asked me, on my first anniversary, “what was I going to do for me?” Since I had worked so hard trying to stay sober, it wasn’t a picnic, but I persevered and won my battle.
I spent the next 9 years studying God. All my time, talent and treasure was spent learning about the many names of God, the many traditions that worship God, from East to West, from the Americas, to the reserves, to the far East and beyond.
God as I understood him …
During Passover my first year in University, I was participating at Shul in the McGill Ghetto. Praying to the brick Western wall in the shul. It was the most amazing experience. People of the book.
It was interesting studying God in University, and coming to believe in sobriety. How the track opened up to me and how God, over the last 10 plus years, has made himself known to me in the rooms, all over town.
Stick around long enough, and watch people get sober. Watch their signs change and their demeanor’s perk up. And if you are lucky, get to witness a spiritual experience or two in the rooms.
There is nothing more divine than seeing the light of God come down into the room and alight on someone’s head as the light rises in their eyes and God says
Here I am. Do you see me?
Just imagine …
For me there is a God. In my minds eye I see him. And in sobriety, the work now is sitting down, or kneeling down, saying my prayer, AND THEN taking the time to WAIT on God to speak to me. Sometimes it is quick, and other times, it might take a while, you never know through who or by whom God will make himself known to you.
This is called the Ladder of the Monks. A piece I wrote some time ago during my study, but it is applicable today.
“Reading, Meditation, Prayer and Contemplation, these make a ladder for monks (or anyone) by which they are lifted up from earth to heaven.”
“Reading is the careful (respectful) study of the Scriptures, concentrating all one’s powers on it. Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good. Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of ever lasting sweetness.”
Guigo the 12th century Carthusian monk, explains the interconnection ‘Reading without meditation is sterile, meditation without reading is liable to error, prayer without meditation is lukewarm, meditation without prayer is unfruitful, prayer when it is fervent wins contemplation but to obtain it without prayer would be rare, even miraculous.’
Today some practitioners of Lectio Divina add a fifth step – to put into action their faith.
Material taken from Academic Course Pack, “Catholics Believe What?” by Steve Tyson.
This is the path I take to recognizing God as I understand him.
As there are many people, so there are concepts of God. We come together – to come to believe together – in a God of our understanding.
“I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book through, and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray…”