God as we understand Him
God, as we understand Him…so what?
By Ned Wicker
While introducing the 12-Step process to drug addiction patients, I often see bristling when we come to the mention of God. They get that certain look on their faces; the one that says the door is shut tight and “I don’t want to hear any of that God business.” Their statement is usually followed by something having to do with a religious upbringing, dislike of the church and a repeat of the first remark.
Being no stranger to those doubts and suspicions myself, I can relate to their position, but it’s not a major encumbrance. They have already had their fill of religion. My view may be slightly out of step with some of the Christian world, but I view religion as “do and don’t.” If I “do” this, I will be acceptable to God. If I “don’t” do that, I will not be good enough for God. Examination of the 12-Step process reveals a relationship. A “power greater than ourselves” is introduced in Step 2, followed in Step 3 by “God, as we understood Him.”
I can tell by their facial expressions that they object to God, because they believe that God objects to them. They don’t turn to God because they don’t believe God will answer them, and to be honest, if I felt I was alone and that God did not care, I’d probably feel the same way. They view God as distant and judgmental. God did not do something to help them in the past, therefore God is unjust. They view their relationship to God as one of cause and effect, meaning if they are to be in good standing with God, they have to do this and that. They see rules and regulations. I do not have to tell them that they are wrong, nor do I have to intervene and defend God.
But there are different ways of looking at recovery, 12-Step and God. The “power greater than ourselves” is a good starting point. God, “as we understood him” is another starting point. If a person has successfully dealt with Step 1, and has admitted that they are powerless over their addiction and their life is out of control, their heart is probably in the right place to accept that they need help from somebody other than their own self. Interestingly, their spirituality starts to come to the front in Step 2, as that “power greater” is often found in a relationship with a child, a spouse or somebody very special. The relationship brings energy to the recovering addict. It’s important to remember that relationship implies a two-way street.
Step 3 brings the challenge of the “G” word. God is a difficult concept to those who choose not to believe. I can’t prove God. I can’t disprove God. Yet I ask people to give me a reason why they believe what they believe. Regardless of their orientation, most just believe what they believe without evidence, or without any particular intellectual process.
What is interesting is hearing of the stories of people who go through the 12-Step openly and honestly, seeking to squeeze every ounce out of the experience. In them is born a renewed spirit, as they develop a relationship with God. They come to view God as a friend, an ally and often the primary reason they got through the whole ordeal.
It’s more than just the awakening of our spirit; it is the beginning of a partnership with the one who made us. You can’t prove it. But you know it. It’s like you stop on the path for a moment, look back at where you came from and sigh, “How did I ever get this far?” It all began with just a willingness to accept a “higher power” or the possibility that God was right there beside you and wanting to help. It’s a deeply personal experience.
Ned Wicker is the Addictions Chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital Lawrence Center
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