Let’s review Step 11

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step Eleven softens my heart every time it’s the topic of discussion in one of my meetings.  That wasn’t the case when I first got sober however; it wasn’t the case for the first year or two.  Not because I didn’t believe in the possibility of the power of prayer or meditation; but because I had never tried it before walking into AA.  And then when I did, I simply couldn’t sustain conscious contact when I did try.  Nor could I fathom what God’s will for me might be.  Actually, I had never ever considered the concept that God might have a plan for me.  For any of us.

Following that first meeting on May 24, 1976, I’d go to multiple meetings weekly and listen intently to others talk about their sobriety, their prayer life and the commitment to meditation they had made on a daily basis, and I felt like a fraud.  I’d nod in agreement while they spoke.  I wanted to “seem” like them.  When alone, I’d edge close to what they said they did but I didn’t feel like they claimed to feel.  Not at all.  I felt nothing.  Nothing at all.

I wasn’t a quitter though.  I prayed.  I really did, even though it seemed hollow to me.  But meditate?  Not really.  Not in the way others said they did.  I sure wanted to learn though, primarily because it appeared that others were living more peacefully than I was.  I felt anxious and unsure of myself.  All the time.  I knew there had to be something I was doing wrong.  I just didn’t know what.  I often suspected others knew more than I knew because they had gone to treatment.  I, on the other hand, got sober in AA.  Learning to meditate, though not guaranteed in AA, was important to me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I do sit quietly and talk with God on a daily basis, more than once, in fact; and I am always available to His messages.  But I feel nudges more than hear words.  They serve me well enough though.  The absolute in my life is my willingness to believe, wholeheartedly, that God has been with me as a constant companion during every breath I have taken.  And I believe too that He doesn’t really care if I sit down and formally meditate.  He will be present to guide me regardless of my actions.

How glad I am that I stuck around AA and willingly listened to others, to my sponsors, and most importantly, practiced the tools I was handed on that very first night that I walked into Alcoholics Anonymous.  The tools, though completely confusing to me at first, particularly the slogans which I considered lame, at the very least; were eventually adaptable even to a skeptic like me.  And now, many years later, I am still singing the praises of every slogan, every step, and particularly of prayer and of meditation one day at a time.  I know, without a doubt, that I owe my very life to those many tools that at first merely rested on my dresser.

But what is it about Step Eleven that is still so captivating after all these years?  Personally I think the very idea of “searching” through prayer and then “searching” through meditation gives us the okay to not be expert at either for how ever long it takes us.  Even though I was quick to practice praying, I didn’t really have a handle on who God was, how God might show up in my life, if God could actually be present to all of us at the same time.  Like I said, I was a bit of a skeptic.  I didn’t grow up in a household where God reigned supreme.  In fact, He was never mentioned as far as I can remember.

What changed my very understanding of God was reading the book: The Magical Mystical Bear.  It was written by Matthew Fox, an Episcopal Priest, and his very soft, very accessible definition of God allowed me to literally feel snuggled up to a concept that worked for me.   Fox suggested you think of God as your friend.  Invite Him to go for walks, to shop with you, to be at your side regardless of what you were doing.  Thinking of God in that way made Him real.  Almost human in a strange sort of way.  I considered Him my confidante.  And life became so much easier.  I was able to sustain conscious contact, in my way.  And I believe what ever way works for any one of us satisfies God.

Knowing God’s will for us and having the power to carry that out is the whole point of Step Eleven, of course.  As I said earlier, I was completely stymied regarding God’s will for me.  And a good friend suggested I try his interpretation.  He asked me, “Do you believe that God is love?” I did.  And then he said “Will is thought.  God’s will is loving thought.”  That worked for me.  If I behave in a kind, loving way toward everyone, I will be fulfilling God’s will for me.  

I think God is pleased with all of us, in fact, as long as we are showing up in the lives of our friends and strangers too, to the best of our ability.  How lucky we are to have a blueprint for living, one that demystifies the many choices that stand before us.  There is always the right one to make.  God can help us make it.  But if we insist on making the wrong one, we can still trust that God will love us any way.  How great is that?



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