I used to cringe at that phrase. To me it sounded like ambiguous language — an intentional smoke screen that would cause all manner of confusion. Being an English teacher, I couldn’t see how we’d be able to communicate or support one another if we didn’t agree on the basics. Didn’t we all have to have the same definition of God for good fellowship?
I entered AA after taking a hiatus from organized religion. For the first 4 decades of my life, I’d been very active in one church or another. I was searching… searching. I wanted the right answer, the definitive solutions, the capital T, Truth.
I grabbed on with both hands and took the ride, memorized, quoted, studied, followed, mimicked, became a little trooper. Thinking, learning, figuring things out with my pea brain… that was my whole solution: the prescription for life according to Heidi. I thought I found heaven (and the direct channel to it) when I hit upon a fundamental, independently non-denominational and education-focused church. You noticed the little word, thought?
Stop right there. “God as we understood Him’. Even the compulsion to define God with everyone else, or for everyone else was part of my problem, wasn’t it?
I believed that I could figure out life. I could, if I worked hard enough… right? Nope. Each decade brought more frustration. As life increasingly disappointed me, that kind of thinking got me to the AA tables as an alcoholic who couldn’t manage her own life and who just barely wanted to live anymore… maybe.
It was there that I learned to stop expecting that I would figure it all out. Stop making believe that I was in charge of my little life. Stop (and this hurt) playing God.
I had a relationship with my God from as far back as I have memory. That was a gift.
He did not give me the gift of being omniscient or of being anyone else’s Holy Spirit. He did not! All my need to get everyone else to believe in God (my God, of course) was just a self-righteous, ego-pumping attempt at control.
Add to that, I can admit that my picture of God is in flux a little bit. He’s growing bigger and I’m giving up more and more of my need to know things. I only need to know what the next right thing is — for me. I don’t need to know anything about who your God is in order to share the program with you or to learn from you, for that matter. For me, this is huge progress.
In Bill’s story of the Big Book, he says:
There I humbly offered myself to God as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. ~ Alcoholics Anonymous, 2012, p 13.
It occurs to me that perhaps one reason for the clause “as we understood Him” might just be that our understanding will inevitably grow as we grow closer to Him and follow His will for our lives. It’s a relationship, this thing with God, not a topic that I can just memorize and claim to understand.
I love the 12 Steps and I am blessed to have such a growth-focused program that allows me the freedom to seek truth for myself. All the responsibility for my relationship with the God I love, as I understand Him now, falls only on Him and on me. I like that.
PS: What about you? Has your understanding of God changed at all?