Many people in recovery struggle with the idea of God at all, and find it even more difficult to approach or deal with the issue of what is God’s will for them as a person.
AA’s 12 steps have at their heart an understanding that a life based on self-will run riot leads to a pretty disastrous conclusion and that seeking and doing God’s will is a much healthier and more life-saving approach about how to live your life.
Step 11 of AA’s steps includes the phrase ‘ praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us’ reinforcing this sense that God’s will is what people should be seeking.
The nature of an individual’s will or willpower as opposed to God’s will or willpower is often presented as a conflict between the two.
Terms like surrender reinforce this idea that recovery is about giving up on your own will and giving in to the will of God or a supreme being – that it is a battle between the two, with winners and losers fighting each other.
That God’s will is good, and your will is bad, or damaging to you!
This of course is actually a very pagan idea of the nature of God and what will means, and as far removed from the reality of where this truth can take people as can be.
This idea also forms the basis of a plan for living – that God has a plan for every individual, and it’s down to the individual to work out what that plan is and then follow it through.
This makes life like some sort of chess game, a sort of riddle that people have to find out the answer to.
This is a very childlike view of God and everything connected with the subject, and is really about wanting someone or something else to be in control of their life.
This belief often stems from the fact that many people in recovery grew up in alcoholic homes where effectively no one was in control or charge, creating a level of chronic instability.
Unfortunately, many adults carry this belief into their recovery program, which can be reinforced by the idea that the 12 steps provide this level of certainty about someone being in charge when essentially this is an illusion.
12 x 12
In the AA book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, each step is written about by AA’s co-founder, Bill Wilson. In his essay on Step Three, he makes the analogy between God and Electricity.
He is talking about the nature of power, and making the point that God is a power in the sense that electricity is a power, as opposed to an authority type of power, a kingly power that people are subservient to.
A Way of Being
Someone once said that God’s will for you is about what you become, not about what you do. Sadly this approach to understanding God’s will is rarely spoken about.
What it is saying is that God’s will is essentially a being thing, rather than a doing thing. The logic is that people’s behaviour and what they do with their lives is an expression of their inner world, for better or worse.
If God’s will is about a being thing, then the more people attend to their inner world and focus on becoming a more loving person, then that is what will be expressed through their behaviour and attitudes, both towards themselves and other people.
Happy Joyous and Free
The book Alcoholics Anonymous contains a section where it says that God wants people to be happy joyous and free, which is an expression of God’s will for people in recovery (as well as people not in recovery and everyone else)
From a recovery perspective, this idea of God’s will for people being happy joyous and free leads to a truth that people can discover for themselves. What is that makes them happy joyous and free, in terms of what they do with their life,?
This would seem a more realistic and loving approach. That God’s will for people is to become happy joyous and free, and a big part of that freedom is for them to discover what it is that makes them so, and be able to express it in their lives.
Love versus Control
This approach can be reinforced by an understanding of the difference between love and control.
Whatever one’s approach to understanding or not understanding God, it is worth perhaps reflecting on the line from St John’s Gospel which says simply that God is Love. It does not say that God loves or anything else, it says that God is Love.
Understanding unconditional love in a human context can be quite varied, but most people could probably imagine it if they had not experienced it themselves.
It can often be thought of in the sense of having someone on your side, someone in your corner, someone who is there for you and wants what is in your best interest.
This is in stark contrast to someone who may be trying to control you, essentially wanting to use you as a person to get what they want, either from you or someone else.
The two are almost extreme opposites, sometimes muddied by the phrase tough love, which is always a contradiction in terms and unfortunately is often used to justify in measure of control, or someone trying to ‘force solutions’
The Loving Thing
Quite often at meetings, people in recovery will say something to the effect that when they are faced with any decision or any difficult decision to make, they ask themselves what is the loving thing to do.
This idea or approach, however difficult it may be, stands out as a practical benchmark for much of what has been written above. If people are asking themselves this question, then it shows that their heart is in the right place, even if their head is not.
People may ask the question and not like the answer. They may ask the question and think no way am I doing that, or bury their heads and come up with 10 other different solutions.
That really doesn’t matter. It’s having a core sense of ultimately being willing to come back to that premise of what is the loving thing to do, either for themselves or for someone else.
That means that their heart is resting in a place of love, and it may just take a bit of time for the rest of their body, and mind, to catch up!