Gratitude Day: And my arm's still too short to box with God
Mr. SponsorPants: Well God, it's Gratitude Day.
Mr. SP: And, although I know I can essentially bring anything to You, I have a question that feels kind of... well, kind of stupid.
silence for a few moments
Mr. SP: Ummm, God?
Mr. SP: Aren't you going to say something encouraging like, 'There are no stupid questions' or 'yes, you can bring everything to Me' or something like that?
GOD: No. I don't think so. You know I really don't go in for responding to you when you're fishing and being passive/aggressive like that.
Mr. SP: God! Err, I mean the exclamation, not You, but... God! That is so... you know, sometimes maybe I need a little encouragement. Sometimes maybe I'm frightened and I need a little reassurance. Needing encouragement is not being passive/aggressive you know.
GOD: Yes, I know. You're right.
Mr. SP: Ha! So there!
GOD: Needing encouragement or reassurance is not being passive/aggressive. Being manipulative in your statement so that you can get that encouragement... that's passive/aggressive.
Mr. SP: <sigh> How come when I start to talk with you about something else we keep taking these left turns?
GOD: Because you're driving? Just ask your question, Mr. SponsorPants.
Mr. SP: Okay. I wonder if sometimes I'm doing gratitude... wrong.
GOD: You certainly come up with a constant stream of new and inventive ways to make yourself feel bad about yourself, Mr. SponsorPants. How on earth could you do gratitude 'wrong'?
Mr. SP: Well, sometimes I find my way into gratitude by <mumble mumble mumble>.
GOD: What? Speak clearly.
Mr. SP: Sometimes I find my way into gratitude by looking at the misfortunes and challenges other people have, and I'm grateful that's not my lot -- that I do not have their problems. That I do not suffer as they do or have to face down the things they must. And that seems... I dunno, just... like the wrong way to go about feeling grateful for what I have.
silence for a few moments
Mr. SP: That's it? 'Ah.' All that and all you give me is 'Ah'?
GOD: Mr. SponsorPants, I have a question for you, too. Do you feel pleasure at the misfortunes of these others that you're comparing yourself to?
Mr. SP: What? Of course not! I mean, sometimes if it's a person that has really challenged me in the past...
GOD: One of your Great Spiritual Teachers, you mean.
Mr. SP: Yes. If someone's been an arrogant schmuck, and they get a little egg on their face, maybe I feel a sense of cosmic justice, but I don't actually enjoy anyone's hardships, no. And when it comes to real tragedy I'm just... well, I land somewhere between horrified and terrified, actually.
GOD: So you just use other people's challenges, their paths, as a frame of reference for yourself.
Mr. SP: Yes.
GOD: Or a way to see what you've been, if you'll forgive a somewhat Biblical term, 'spared.'
Mr. SP: God, I can't think of anyone whose got more of a right to throw Biblical terms around now and again than you.
GOD: Fair enough. But, to go back to the point, you use what happens to other people as a frame of reference.
Mr. SP: Yes.
GOD: Okay then.
Mr. SP: Okay what?
GOD: You're not asking if that's a wrong way to find gratitude, you already think it is, and you want maybe confirmation, or absolution. And maybe instruction.
Mr. SP: Do other people get a headache when they talk to You? 'cause I'm starting to get a headache. I thought it was a simple question and...
GOD: The question is simple. You're the complicated part.
Mr. SP: Is that... kind of a compliment?
Mr. SP: oh.
GOD: Gratitude is, indeed, seeing what you have, and what you are spared, yes. Whether you do that via comparing yourself to others' misfortunes, or through a more positive view of whatever bounty you have doesn't really matter. The point is more that you are training yourself to perceive your life and your circumstances differently; to see the gifts in your life for what they are. When you don't see what you have, you're focused on what you lack -- and when you do that, you are generally in Fear, and it is then much harder for you to hear Me.
Mr. SP: oh. So gratitude isn't about feeling good really, it's more about being able to see and hear You a little better.
GOD: Pretty much, yes.
Mr. SP: And so... as long as I'm doing that, it's okay however I get there.
GOD: Bravo, Mr. SponsorPants.
Mr. SP: See, God, if you stick with me, I get it eventually.
GOD: Mr. SponsorPants, I have never, not for one single solitary moment, doubted you. You on the other hand...
Mr. SP: I know, I know... work in progress, God. Work in progress.
GOD: I know. I know. Happy Gratitude Day, Mr. SponsorPants.
Mr. SP: You too, God. You know, for a somewhat trite literary construct, these exchanges are very helpful and surprisingly emotional for me sometimes.
I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the 'monkey mind' -- the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl.
But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilling yearnings.
Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can't even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I'm aiming for, how will it ever occur? Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention. If you don't have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift.
God never slams a door in your face without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies.
Om Namah Shivaya, meaning, I honor the divinity that resides within me.
I am asking God to actually show up in my life - to be a for real thing;
a kind of tangible intangible.
I don't need God
to be a noun.
An idea. I need God
to be a verb. A force.
Not in a supernatural way, like a burning bush or magic bees (but still, that would be so cool), but in the gritty, substantive way of getting into my bones.
God, I'm asking: Please take up space and make some noise.
I'm not even afraid of that request anymore
(well... hardly even).
That's an old idea, anyway, that God making some noise in my life would result in something to be afraid of.
Result in hardship? Sometimes. Maybe.
Change? Very probably.
But it's my resistance to those things (however human and natural that resistance might be) which creates the pain. I actively reject (I mean it!) the idea of some harsh task master of a God who gives hard lessons to punish me for falling short or beats me into improving.
We are surrounded by messages which exhort us to Go! Do! Achieve! Seize the day!
I have come to believe that the day often has some sharp edges to it.
Seizing the day can get you cut up, sometimes.
What if being so busy doing (achieving! earning!) what I am told I deserve (I deserve it!) is like a
What if the hypnosis of the hamster wheel keeps me too spun to accept Divine assistance with actual for real down-in-my-gut, change?
Rather than try to seize the day,
rather than be consumed with my petty successes and failures, measured on a yardstick which doesn't even actually exist,
it's better to reach for a God who is (for real) working from my inside
One of the greatest things AA has given me is a sense of my authentic self.
Now, I am fully aware that the phrase "my authentic self" is the kind of thing that makes some people throw up a little bit in the back of their mouths -- and I get it. I can understand why.
But when I drank, and then into early sobriety, I was so lost, so frightened, so very shut down, that as smarmy or twee as the phrase might be, it also deeply resonates for me regarding what happened as I stayed sober and worked the 12 Steps.
The result was a spiritual awakening. One which allowed me to arrest my alcoholism (if I keep taking my "spiritual medicine" -- d'oh! Another one of those phrases!), and also, eventually to discover who I really was.