The definition of grace that most relates to God found here states:
8. a. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.
b. The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.
c. An excellence or power granted by God.
I looked this up after I wrote the following post, just to be sure my thoughts made sense. One of the definitions not yet listed applies to the later thoughts, so I will include it where appropriate.
One of the sayings in some forms of addiction recovery is, “But for the grace of God go I”. We often say it when someone relapses or dies from their addiction, as a way of reminding ourselves that death is waiting for us too, if we pick up a drink or a drug. I am certain I would die, if not physically, the person I am today would die. The spirits would kill the spirit, so to speak.
I’ve said it countless times. I said it after Amy Winehouse died. I thought, how tragic, but for the grace of God go I. For some reason I thought about that phrase today and realized how much I dislike it.
When I got sober, it was suggested I put my trust in something bigger than myself and my addiction to make it through each day. What I’ve come to understand about this is that, left to my own mind or what I perceive to be my own mind, I will fail. For all I know my higher power is just my good conscience, but there are days that that belief can get me into trouble. It’s just easier trusting something else, something I can’t define. For a lot of people new to recovery, this concept is daunting because of the name God. A lot of us come into sobriety with resentments at God, whether it be because of our pasts or because religion had made us uncomfortable. For me it was the latter. I don’t ever remember having a resentment at God, perhaps I did but I’m sure I quickly realized, through step work, the resentment was actually at myself.
Religion had always been a sore spot for me. Don’t tell me what to believe. Don’t tell me I couldn’t have been in love with a woman if that’s who I had been, don’t tell me I have to frown upon one who loves a person of the same sex, don’t tell me I can’t make decisions about my own body, the list goes on and on. These days I don’t deny you those beliefs if they contribute to your faith and make you happy, but that doesn’t mean I agree with them. Knowing I don’t have to agree with them has made it possible for me to trust God. That is my decision; not everyone recovers with a higher power. Plenty recover with their own will power or their religions.
Luckily when I got sober, it was suggested I turn my life over to the higher power of my understanding. My understanding? You’re not going to tell me what to believe? Sweet! The word God on the walls freaked me out at first, but I soon understood that I could do away with all the things I had heard about hellfire and damnation and come to believe in the God of my own understanding. What a huge relief! I had always been seeking for something to believe in that didn’t make me sick and finally I was free to truly begin my seeking, and seeking I never stop doing. Which is probably why the thought came into my head today that I don’t like the phrase, “But for the grace of God go I”.
If I’m to believe fully in this statement, am I therefore to believe that God chose me to have grace because I grasped recovery? Maybe I’m thinking too much about the statement, the way so many of us do when it comes to words. However I think this is exactly why I had such strong “survivor’s guilt” when I really began to recover and be happy when countless others continued to suffer. I felt like I had been chosen and that just didn’t sit right with me, because my God loves everyone.
I call my higher power God because I got sick of saying higher power all the time. I also don’t share the true name I have for my higher power. That is a deeply personal story. It’s really just that simple. I don’t know what God is, but that’s a universal name for an individual’s higher power. I capitalize the name because it’s a name but I don’t capitalize him because the intellectual in me says you don’t capitalize he unless the word begins a sentence. I know a lot of people do and that’s totally fine.
Fortunately, I’ve become so much less judgmental of religion and every so often, don’t mind reading about it. I’ll read something religious, leave what I dislike like, hate the sin, love the sinner. Ouch, really? That means I have to believe in sin and believe in a condemning God, which I don’t. I know right from wrong, my opinions of right from wrong rather. For example, murder is wrong, but even that has degrees. What about self defense? I can now ignore religious statements that make my heart hurt and smile at the religious teachings I find comforting.
My God is a loving God who’s will for me is to be happy, joyous and free. To treat others as I would be treated. That’s about it. Be who you are and I’ll love you anyway because that’s how my God is. (That doesn’t mean I like everyone haha!) Keeping it nice and simple like that keeps me from manipulating it. I can’t find a loophole in that simplicity. Happy, joyous, free, treat others kindly because that’s what I want for myself. That’s it. I can’t manipulate that to suit my will when I’m not aligned with that of my higher power. The addict in me will find any loophole, any manipulation and run with it, dragging me down and that can’t happen. I love who I am too much today to let that happen.
So, for me to say I’m sober and alive because of God’s grace makes me feel like I’m saying the next person won’t get God’s grace and that makes me ill. Here is where I’m adding that other definition:
6. A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve.
This definition suits me better (see how I manipulated to suit my own beliefs? See why I have to keep my concept of God simple?) because my sobriety is simply a daily reprieve, a “reprieve contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition”. Perhaps Grace of God is just a simpler way of saying that. My recovery is held steady by my conscious contact with God, something I must maintain, something I have chosen to maintain. I don’t believe God booms down vengeance and I also don’t believe God bestows just certain individuals with sobriety, leaving others to suffer. Those of us graced with recovery, one day at a time, have made the decision to trust something other than ourselves to give power to. The power most certainly was not bestowed upon me.
I suppose for me it’s now, “but for the grace of my trust in God go I”, for it’s when I stop trusting in a higher power, that I’m in danger of walking near the edge of the roof and falling.
PS – I wrote the majority of this post Saturday to post Sunday. That’s just a coincidence haha! Sunday is not a day of worship for me. I don’t worship, but trust and that trust happens daily. Just a trust that I’ll be ok no matter what happens, a trust that I don’t have to pick up a drink to be ok.
PPS – Recovered atheist amaze me. Truly. That is not a judgement, I just don’t know how they do it haha!