Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Waiting for the Helicopter

I got this radical notion in my head last week...

Here I am, battling alcoholism; beset by family, financial and career crises; recognizing my character defects in action even as I exercise them on a daily basis, without being able to change my behavior. And I know that my core problem is spiritual: behind the mental obsession and physical craving for alcohol, alcoholism is a spiritual malady. I've been practicing prayer, meditation, seeking conscious contact with God -- but still feeling a bit like a fish on a bicycle.

Meanwhile, I recognized I need to face the maelstrom of grief, shame and anger from my marital separation and family collapse. A buddy in AA, also in his first year of sobriety and also going through divorce, had told me about DivorceCare, a small-group, Christian-centered program. He had done it at the nearby church where I had taken my son a few times. Perfect! It was at "my" church, a few blocks away; and it addressed both my needs: divorce support and spiritual connection.

So, I checked into it, and it had been a one-shot thing, they aren't running it right now and don't know when they will. Okay, no problem. This being southern California, McSaddleback churches are a dime a dozen -- DivorceCare doesn't appear to be one of the programs actually developed by Saddleback Church, but it's definitely part of the same orbit. Found one on the web, also nearby, runs DivorceCare every week, start any time. Perfect! Unfortunately, it had met the night before I discovered it.

That's when I got the radical notion: "Maybe I should go to church on Sunday." I could check it out, get more info, get squared away in DivorceCare and start rolling the following week. And I went to church on Sunday. The religious among you can predict what happened next.

I felt a lot like I did at my first AA meeting: I knew I had found a place where I belonged. The people around me were just like me, but somehow different in a way I couldn't grasp. They had something I wanted -- a joyful connection to their Higher Power. And I immediately started feeling a little bit of that connection, and my eyes kept tearing.

As it happened, they were kicking off the latest entree from the Saddleback menu: 40 Days of Community. The idea is that for six or seven weeks, small groups get together each week, view a video and have a guided discussion. Apparently this one also involves projects in the community. I had done 40 Days of Purpose, the Big Mac of Saddleback's franchise, a couple years ago, at another church where we baptized our son, and liked it a lot.

But it looked like too much for me. Sorry, guys, I've just commited to an 18-week AA workshop to work through my 12 steps from start to "finish," I'm going to do the DivorceCare thing, I have to stick close to my AA meetings, and also find a job, sell my house, find a place to live, and see my son regularly. This 40 Days of Community thing is great, but peripheral to my life and too much of a commitment. I filled out the guest card, and wrote that I want to do DivorceCare, and also participate in the church's next introductory class.

Yesterday I got an email from one of the pastors. "Sorry, we're putting DivorceCare on hold till April, because we're doing the 40 Days of Community. Do you want to join one of the groups for that?" (Nicer, of course, but that was the gist.)

Of course, I got pissed off and resentful. I felt like I'd walked in to McDonald's for breakfast at 10:05. "I'm sorry, we're not serving the DivorceCare side dish any more. Would you like to order something from the 40 Days of Community menu?" Sounded as good as a greasy cheeseburger in the morning. Excuse me that what I need right now is not the Special of the Week.

Well, I mulled it over. I thought about my experience with alcoholism and AA. I can't stay sober by myself, doing it MY way -- why should I expect a connection to God to be different? I didn't invent AA and I don't fully understand it -- why should church be different? AA suggests that I do things that make no sense to me, and I feel like an idiot doing them, but so often they click after awhile and I realize I've suddenly got a tool in my hand that I didn't realize I was crafting -- why should I expect God to reach out to me differently in other areas of my life? I need the fellowship and human connection of AA to stay sober, because sitting around just thinking about staying sober does nothing to keep me from drinking -- why would my spiritual life be a solitary, cerebral pursuit? In AA, they tell me that my Higher Power won't always give me what I ask for, but will always give me what I need -- and on some level I've always understood that God is not Santa Claus. AA tells me I have to put my recovery program into action -- why would I expect to be able to open myself to God in my life differently?

And I wrote back to the pastor and accepted the invitation. For once I am going to accept a gift that God is handing to me, rather than refuse it because it isn't what I asked for. I simultaneously felt I was consciously submitting to God's purpose: obeying God. That's a concept I never thought of before: Obedience to God's will is the same thing as accepting the gifts that He freely gives me. Wow! Is it always that simple?

I feel a little bit like Joan of Arcadia -- "You want me to do WHAT!?! What does THAT have to do with anything!?! Well, okay, if You say so..."

I also feel a bit like the man who was caught in a flood. As he sat on the roof of his house, two men came by in a boat to rescue him, but he waved them away saying, "The Lord will save me." The water continued rising. Another boat came along. Again the man insisted, "The Lord will save me." As the flood water covered the roof, up to the man's knees, a helicopter arrived -- but the man shouted, "The Lord will save me." The water rose more, and the man drowned. At the gates of heaven he asked St. Peter, "Why didn't The Lord save me?" St. Peter's eyebrows rose as he replied, "We sent a boat. Then we sent another boat. And we sent a helicopter. What more do you want!?!"

So, maybe this time, I'm not waiting for the helicopter.

2 Comments:

At 2/03/2005 01:31:00 AM, Blogger K said...

Your cheering section at this end of the earth is up and shouting. I'm really happy for you. The AA program seems to be such a great program - I've been hoping and praying that you might find a church group to help you in your want to be closer to God.

 
At 2/06/2005 12:30:00 PM, Blogger recoveryroad said...

Good luck with your recovery. I walking that road, too.

Liked the Blog.

best wishes

Kenny

 

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