Member Submission: The Light of the World: Finite & Infinite Interpretations of Our Higher Powers

I’m a big fan of the fourth step fear prayer: Please remove this fear, and direct my attention to what you would have me be. I use the prayer for all sorts of troubles. I close my eyes, and implore, “Higher power, please remove this {whatever}, and direct my attention to what you would have me be,” then I meditate to listen for the answer, and write out what I believe my higher power would have me be instead of the fearful, squirming, confused, uncertain person I can sometimes become.

My sponsor sometimes asks me to spiral out my fears. It’s not a far leap for me between fearing the cost of rent in this city, for example, to a future where I have no home, no love in my life, a future where I wander, aimlessly, miserably, for all my days. When I go through this process with my sponsor, she’ll sometimes ask of this miserable vision of my future, “Is that your higher power’s plan for you?”

And when she asks that, I throw my hands up and shrug. My higher power, while deep, abundant, and powerful, does not have a date book. I don’t have a higher power who makes plans, or knows what should or should not happen to me. I spell my god with a lowercase g, because while there’s a rich and loving place inside myself I can turn to when my finite human will falls short, I do not believe there’s a chess player in the sky, plotting my moves, eight turns ahead. This has been a challenge for me in program. I’ve been told to “get a bigger god,” and while my god has grown, my disbelief will not as yet suspend any further than this point.

Recently, my sponsor and I had an email exchange on this topic that I found to be illuminating and cathartic. With her permission, I’ve shared this exchange below. We hope you get something from it, too.

Sponsor: Is that your higher power’s plan for you?

Sponsee: As we’ve discussed, my higher power doesn’t make plans. And I just can’t get my head to a place where that’s part of my hp concept. Not when I think of all the world’s suffering, throughout history. Tell slaves in shackles that their higher power had a plan for them. Jews on trains to the camps. Those poor people, today, walking across Europe without borders open to them, running into the ocean, because that’s a better fate than the war they’re running from. Young people who die in miserable suffering ways from terrible diseases. Or even my luck at having been born middle class, in NY, in the US, while half the world can still die from a mosquito bite or diarrhea.

For these reasons and more, I cannot trust that my higher power “has a plan for me” that’s any different from any of the miserable fates that might suffer anyone else. Disease, homelessness, toothlessness, obesity. If it could happen to anyone, it could also happen to me. Even if I’m in prayer, in meditation, in recovery, in abstinence, in love and light, I believe it could still happen to me. I believe plenty of slaves, and dead jews, and migrating refugees, and people dead from dysentery, probably had a spiritual practice, faith, trust, hope, love, and lived open, god-centered lives. So if it can happen to them, why couldn’t it happen to me?

Sponsor: The answer is, it could happen to you. There is nothing in our recovery literature anywhere that guarantees us an easy way, a way without pain, without trouble, without loss, grief, torment, fear, unknowing…  I have had all of these, in and out of recovery, and still I live in the faith that all of it has meaning, that, as it says in [a piece of outside literature], “all things are lessons God would have me learn.” The faith I carry through all of it is that, even in the worst of it, I am being shown my highest good.

Doesn’t make any of the really hard stuff any easier.  It just gives me hope that “this, too, shall pass,” and when I am on the other side of it, all will be well, even if I do die of disease, homeless, toothless, obese, etc. That faith keeps me going through the worst of it. That part of the original version of the third step prayer is part of my belief system, “take away my difficulties, that transcendence over them may bear witness…” I pray for that, and trust in that, that I may be lifted up even in my suffering to a higher level of awareness, transcending my own humanity in the service of a higher calling, to show others that they, too, can be okay in their difficulties, can survive them, even flourish in spite of them, (or because of them?).

That is, I believe, God’s plan for me; to be the light of the world, to show others that they, too, are the light of the world.

By Lauren L. and Cindy M.