No, he said, he did not go to church. “But you do believe in God?” I asked, hardly daring to hope he did not. He paused for a moment and looked up at the sky, where big, spreading clouds streamed by. “God isn’t the problem,” he said. – Patricia Hampl, Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life, p. 43
As I have posted before, when I got sober, I came to grips with God as a higher power, and am quite content with the direction and faith communities in which I seek and travel today. In his new book On the Brink of Everything Parker Palmer writes (p. 105):
And why have faith, if God is so small as to be contained within our finite words and formulae? To write and live in faith, we must let God be God – original, wild, free, a creative impulse that animates all of life, but can never be confined to what we think, say, and do.
This understanding resonates with me. I well recall as an elementary school student being made to memorize the call and response of the Baltimore Catechism. It seemed a perfunctory chore at the time without any meaning. I could never memorize the responses correctly until put to the task by two matronly great aunts, who apparently I feared more than the nuns. Though I got the lines in my head, the words still had no meaning.
My greatest “aha” moment on this journey came 7 or 8 years ago when I was sitting in an AA meeting and heard the Third Step read, though I had heard the same words at least 1000 times before: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” My mind became completely focused by understanding this as an action step and one of liberation as well. I was no longer confined by the Baltimore Catechism or any other dogma of my past. As Parker Palmer mandates I must let “God be God” without any of the limits imposed by the baggage I collected over the years.
Like so much in my life today, whether dealing with cancer, maintaining an attitude of gratitude, or the liberation to follow a spiritual path toward true self, the genesis was found in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. For that, I am truly blessed.