Saturday, February 2, 2013

"Came to believe that only a Power higher than ourselves..."

I went to Al-Anon today.

I went a few times, with my mom, when I was a teenager and my dad's alcohol abuse was really disruptive.  Going to Al-Anon, I discovered, was a way to make him stop drinking, at least for a few weeks.  If you know anything about AA or the Steps you are laughing right now, because the entire purpose of Al-Anon is to teach friends and family members of alcoholics that they cannot control the drinking, and I was essentially using Al-Anon to try to do just that.

I didn't really stick with Al-Anon after the first few visits, but the purposes of AA stayed on my radar throughout college.  When I learned about the Lutheran understanding of grace, of God coming down to us, of our complete and utter inability to do anything but cling back to God when God is already holding on to us -- that rang true with what I'd heard in Al-Anon.

I'd been scouting around for some sort of emotional support group for most of 2012.  I have a fantastic network of people who love and support me.  But I knew I needed a situation where I could deal with my brokenness and my anxiety on a regular basis.

But just recently we had a conflict situation at church -- nothing big, but there was a miscommunication about money that I couldn't stop thinking about even once it was resolved.  And someone else who was in on the situation mentioned that she'd used her Al-Anon learnings to let go of trying to control and fix everything.  I'd been thinking about this problem, and this problem alone, for about 30 waking hours straight.  I wanted to let go, too.

So I went home and looked up Al-Anon meetings nearby.  There's a ton in the Twin Cities area.  And I went to a beginner meeting this morning.  The beginner meetings are designed to go along with regular home groups, and attendees are encouraged to go to at least six beginner meetings.  They talk through the first three Steps and some of the other main parts of Al-Anon.

Today we focused on the second Step:
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
And we were supposed to go around the room and briefly share what this meant to us (or pass, if we wanted to.)

Easy peasy, right?  I spend my entire life talking about a Higher Power.  The hard part would be sharing only briefly.

Except I panicked.

I didn't want to share that I do the Jesus thing.  Not everyone in Al-Anon is religious.  In fact some people avoid AA and other 12-step groups precisely because they think (or have experienced!) people using the Higher Power language to evangelize their own personal religion.  This wasn't at all what I experienced, and I was terrified of ruining it.  I was terrified of dredging up everyone's issues with a hypocritical church and a wrathful or apathetic God and every other piece of baggage that institutional Christianity heaps on people.

And I didn't want to share that I'm training to be a pastor.  I didn't want to look weak.  I didn't want people to think "Of course, another pastor with psychological problems."  I didn't want to be some confirmation that we're all codependents who look for other broken people and adopt them.

So when my turn came, I stammered through something that I think lacked meaning or coherence.  I don't mind for everyone else because other people shared really great and helpful stuff -- but, for me, to be so very afraid to share anything whatsoever about my actual faith is terrifying.  I should be able to do this, and easily.  And I couldn't, because I was so afraid of what people might think.

Which, of course, is the whole point of step Two.  This is not about me.  This is not about me controlling what other people hear or think or believe about me.  This is about God, and about being raw and honest and vulnerable about what God does to get me through the day.

I don't actually know how to talk about that in a roomful of strangers.

But I guess I'll find out, because I'm going back next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment