The Search for Safety

All I ever wanted was to feel safe…to know that there was something or someone out there that would take care of me, love me, hold me, and protect me no matter what I said or did.  I heard growing up that the unconditional love of God was so much deeper and more powerful than the love of a mother or father that it was incomprehensible.  Yet I grew up terrified of God.  I carried with me a deep sense of groundlessness, that I was never safe, never okay, never enough.

I was a prayer warrior.  I can remember as a young child I had a book that highlighted different countries around the world, their poverty rates, and more importantly, the percentage of their population that was Christian.  I would pray fervently that God would save those who did not believe in Him, while all the while obsessing over whether or not he was punishing me for my sins.  I genuinely believed that if a severe thunderstorm came through, it might be my fault because of a lie I had told or an “evil” thought I had had. If there was a God, and I was sure that there was, he was angry.  We always talked about the fact that “God is a personal God” and “He cares about you and knows you better than you know yourself”.  Well I got that he was was my personal God and was watching me… But his caring was conditional, and he was vengeful.

Looking back on it now these beliefs seem silly and nonsensical; but I am older now, and have the gift of reason.  It also makes me angry, because I know I still carry a lot of fears and insecurities born out of this dogma and also know that many still suffer because of these teachings.  While I am not an atheist, in many ways I find it much preferable to believe in no God than one that saves some, damns others, and is always watching and waiting to punish us for our “sins”;  a God that is waiting on a five year old child who should be playing outside with friends to bow to him in prayer to save others in a far away land.

If God is just a more powerful version of a human being then what are we gaining by trying to spread the “good news”?  I mean if the end result is that some of us get “saved” and the rest go to hell for eternity, where exactly does the “good” part come into play?  And if the idea of God as presented through fundamentalism is supposed to bring comfort and security, then perhaps we should go back and ask my five year old self how well that worked for him as he sat terrified in the basement while the thunderstorms rolled through.

A Loving God?

I was doing step work with my sponsor last night and we were working on step three.  For those of you who are not familiar, step three is “(We) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him”.   I have always had a love/hate relationship with AA and the God issue in particular.  Much like Christianity, there is the potential for AA groups to have a fundamentalist bent. I naturally recoiled at the thought of turning my will and life over to God, particularly in the beginning, for several reasons.  Number one, the God I knew from my childhood was judging, vengeful, and capricious, and I had long since decided He was not someone / something I would entrust with the guidance of my life.  Number two, I have always felt like I had to do everything on my own and it is incredibly difficult for me to ask for help to this day.  So faced with these prejudices, step three was and is difficult for me to navigate.  When I initially went through the steps ten years ago, I was so desperate that I honestly cannot remember my thought process at the time.  I just knew I was willing to do anything to stay sober.  This time, however, with a new sponsor, I was once again faced with this dilemma.  With a clearer head and years of sobriety under my belt, I found myself being quite resistant once again to the idea of asking God for help.  My new sponsor had me write on one side of the page the characteristics of the God I was raised with, and on the other the traits of the God I wanted to believe in. As we sat in his truck and I faced the page in front of me, I wept.  I wept because it was still so hard for me to accept that maybe the concept of the God I grew up with was wrong, and that I could at least entertain the possibility that there was actually infinite love for me to tap into instead.  Even after all these years away from the church, the ideas and beliefs I internalized as a child still have at least a tenuous grip on my soul.  I wept for the child that had to endure this indoctrination, and I wept for the years of depression, addiction, and even sobriety spent feeling so alone and spiritually disconnected.  I am still not sure exactly what I think about the whole God idea… But I am so grateful I have moved to a place in my life where I have a community of friends and family to support me as I redefine my spirituality apart from fundamentalism.