In one of the meetings I attended today, the reading started with the last sentence on page 31 of the 12 & 12 where it says, “Now let’s take the guy full of faith, but still reeking of alcohol,” and ended with the last sentence of the chapter, “every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.”
The entire reading stuck out to me, but four statements especially grabbed my attention. They are bold assertions, and I didn’t understand what they meant at first. Here they are:
First, “[the] answer [to the riddle of why this person isn’t recovering / isn’t getting divine help] has to do with the quality of faith rather than its quantity.”
Second, “[w]e supposed we had humility when really we hadn’t.”
Third, “[w]e had been asking something for nothing.”
Fourth, “[t]he fact was we really hadn’t cleaned house so that the grace of God could enter us and expel the obsession. In no deep or meaningful sense had we ever taken stock of ourselves, made amends to those we had harmed, or freely given to any other human being without any demand for reward. We had not even prayed rightly. We had always said, “Grant me my wishes” instead of “Thy will be done.”
In the context of the entire reading, what I think this means for me is that “believers” like me can “believe” all they want—we can have all the “faith” we want—but that belief/faith is of zero value unless it is accompanied by humility—i.e. the willingness to do what God asks.
If I want to be healed, and I ask God to heal me, then I must also be willing to do whatever He asks me to do—that is the price of being healed. I can’t expect to be healed if, after asking Him to heal me, I then refuse to do what He asks me, telling Him what I will and won’t do and how I expect Him to do His job.
Doing so is asking “something for nothing,” and it doesn’t work. I have to pay the price—i.e. take the action(s)—He requires.
THIS IS THE PRICE HE REQUIRES OF ME: clean house so that His grace can enter me and expel the obsession; take deep and meaningful stock of myself; make amends to those I have harmed; freely give to other human beings without any demand for reward; and pray “Thy will be done” instead of “grant me my wishes.” In short, I have to consistently work the 12 steps and apply their principles in all my affairs one day at a time.
THE GUY FULL OF FAITH
Now let’s take the guy full of faith, but still reeking of alcohol. He believes he is devout. His religious observance is scrupulous. He’s sure he still believes in God, but suspects that God doesn’t believe in him. He takes pledges and more pledges. Following each, he not only drinks again, but acts worse than the last time. Valiantly he tries to fight alcohol, imploring God’s help, but the help doesn’t come.
What, then, can be the matter? To clergymen, doctors, friends, and families, the alcoholic who means well and tries hard is a heartbreaking riddle. To most A.A.’s, he is not. There are too many of us who have been just like him, and have found the riddle’s answer.
This answer has to do with the quality of faith rather than its quantity.
This has been our blind spot. We supposed we had humility when really we hadn’t. We supposed we had been serious about religious practices when, upon honest appraisal, we found we had been only superficial.
Or, going to the other extreme, we had wallowed in emotionalism and had mistaken it for true religious feeling.
In both cases, we had been asking something for nothing.
The fact was we really hadn’t cleaned house so that the grace of God could enter us and expel the obsession. In no deep or meaningful sense had we ever taken stock of ourselves, made amends to those we had harmed, or freely given to any other human being without any demand for reward. We had not even prayed rightly. We had always said, “Grant me my wishes” instead of “Thy will be done.”
The love of God and man we understood not at all. Therefore we remained self-deceived, and so incapable of receiving enough grace to restore us to sanity.
Few indeed are the practicing alcoholics who have any idea how irrational they are, or seeing their irrationality, can bear to face it. Some will be willing to term themselves “problem drinkers,” but cannot endure the suggestion that they are in fact mentally ill. They are abetted in this blindness by a world which does not understand the difference between sane drinking and alcoholism. “Sanity” is defined as “soundness of mind.” Yet no alcoholic, soberly analyzing his destructive behavior, whether the destruction fell on the dining-room furniture or his own moral fiber, can claim “soundness of mind” for himself.
Therefore, Step Two is the rallying point for all of us. Whether agnostic, atheist, or former believer, we can stand together on this Step. True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.