THE FIRST REAL AWARENESS,
for most of us, of the tremendous potential continuing
assistance from a Higher Power came when we realized
that something beyond ourselves was removing the baffling
compulsion to drink. As practical results developed,
we began to respect the practical side of a spiritual
life. Later we learned that God's help is not limited
to our drinking problem alone, but extends into all
phases of our lives.
And right there a lot of us begin to get into a certain kind of
Somehow, since we got an immediate answer for our drinking, we conclude
that similar answers should come immediately--for anything else that might
be disturbing us at the moment. We learn that with God all things are
possible, and therefore why should we have to be disturbed or disappointed
So we offer up prayers for assistance, and our requirements may be as
lengthy as a child's list to Santa Claus. But God doesn't meet our
demands, so we become a little miffed. And our agitation is likely to
increase when we see others getting many of the advantages we'd like to
have. Worse yet, we see people who aren't on a "spiritual basis" at all
enjoying an outpouring of luck in all directions. . .a state of affairs
that can lead us into blind alleys of self-pity and envy, feeling that God
has cheated us.
After all, we say to ourselves (and to the Higher Power who seems to be
denying us), aren't we trying to lead good lives? We're doing our best to
be moral, kind, courteous, helpful, and honest. Shouldn't good things come
our way, even material things? (We conveniently avoid the admission that
we are trying to lead good lives only because alcohol had us trapped,
backed into a corner, with no alternative except to reach out desperately
for AA.) We may also have been misled by some of the current books on
positive thinking, many of which contain glowing accounts of how countless
perplexing problems were solved simply through spending a few minutes each
day in prayer and meditation.
But first, shouldn't we consider the real meaning of Steps Three and
Eleven in the AA program? In these Steps, we commit ourselves to God's
will--whatever it is and regardless of the consequences. Our own
plans may seem worthy, and our own immediate desires may be modest, but
even these may somehow conflict with the plans God has for us. It may be
that in His strategy, the ultimate victory hinges on losing, not
winning, some of the battles along the way. Today's disappointment, viewed
six months hence, may turn out to be one of the best breaks we ever got.
And at the proper time, our own grateful hindsight will let us see the
workings of God's unerring foresight.
AA's early history carries some good object lessons revealing how this
principle works. At one time Bill W. and several other AA pioneers decided
to solicit wealthy people for contributions to the struggling movement.
When they weren't able to raise a single dime, they must have wondered if
God hadn't forgotten the desperate needs of the embryo society. Yet, as it
later turned out, this experience helped teach AA to be self-supporting.
It certainly must have been one of His mysterious ways of performing
Or, take the example of Bill's business reverses in Akron, just before
he met Dr. Bob. Why should God let a man sustain a defeat like that,
especially a man who had known many successive defeats and was doing his
level best to live a new kind of a life? No considerate person in his
right mind would permit a man to get in a situation like that. But God
permitted it, and in groping for a way out of the mess, Bill fell back on
his spiritual resources and the soul-restoring technique of helping
others. Today we beneficiaries of AA's redemptive power can see that this
supposed adversity was really God's heavy hand molding a magnificent
movement into being.
But let's suppose, just for illustration, that God did give us
immediate answers completely in accordance with our wishes, a blank check
to do and have anything we want. How well would any of us come out on a
deal like that? Since selfishness is a primary defect of alcoholics, and
most of us are experts in using people and circumstances to feather our
own nests, wouldn't we do the same thing to Him? We would bombard Him with
unlimited demands, ranging from material gains to dictatorial control over
the lives of others.
Since we're an impatient breed, we'd use His help to run everyone else
off the road, although we'd smugly rationalize it by saying we were merely
receiving what was due us. We would gloat over business successes,
romantic conquests, prestige, and other "breaks"--giving little thought to
the unpleasant suggestion that our gains might be defeats for somebody
else. Yes, we would manipulate God as spoiled children make demands on
foolish and indulgent parents.
But God is neither foolish nor indulgent, and has the wisdom to say NO.
And his answers are always for our own highest good. None of this is to
say that God's answers must always be "no". . .for all of us have known
numerous times when the answer was an immediate "yes." But these requests
were gratified because they were right, and were undoubtedly made in a
spirit of humility and unselfishness.
Some AAs seem to achieve
beautiful harmony almost immediately when they expose
themselves to God's will. They develop such profound
spiritual insight that they receive answers to almost
all their prayers. The rest of us admire their serenity
and wisdom, but continue trying to inveigle God into
doing things our way. Then we start getting the true
realization, perhaps, when we too examine the course
of our lives and discover God's unerring wisdom in times
past, when He has had to listen and shake His head.