I consider myself lucky in that I have an understanding of spirituality that is reinforced within my 12 Step program. “But the Steps all say, ‘God’ this and ‘His’ that, how is that pagan or polytheistic?” you might say. True. But the Twelve Step program is a spiritual program, one teaches us to connect to and rely on guidance from a divine power (literally any divine power, even the ones that haven’t been invented yet). Each time I go to a meeting, I get to hear exactly what I needed to hear from Freya that day. I just never know whose mouth that message is going to come out of.
This quote came from a round-robin meeting I went to about six month ago. It struck me then, as it does now, as an honest statement of the type of spiritual growth that many of us in the program go through. I’ve been wanting to restart my Love Notes from Freya, and She recommended starting with this first.
My understanding of “Higher Power” changed daily. My extreme thinking encouraged only two possibilities: a Higher Power who abandoned me, and a Higher Power who engulfed me. Any images of God between these extremes changed, altered, and slipped away. I longed to take Step Three [“Made the decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him”] with a clear belief in a healthy, positive, trustworthy Higher Power, but I found myself unable to hold on to any one image. I believed that I could not work Step Three unless I understood who or what my Higher Power was.
Eventually I gave up trying to control, and surrendered my lack of understanding. Instead, I sought a relationship with the God of my not understanding, whom I call “You”. I prayed by talking to “You”. When I meditated on the Twelve Steps, I thought of my Higher Power as “You”. As I allowed my relationship with “You” to develop and change–to be fuzzy and unfinished, I relaxed into an understanding of my Higher Power that carries me through my days.
I find that if I am beating myself up about doing journeywork, or not be able making this whole polytheistic/Twelve Step thing work perfectly, or getting behind on devotional work or something–if I just let myself relax, I find that She’s just sitting here, watching me stress and loving me despite myself. Any angst that I feel about theology is all about me; it’s never really about Her or anything She stands for. The Gods all reveal what they want to reveal when they want to reveal it. I think that the best that we can hope for some days is to not get in the way of that understanding when it comes.
My cold is mostly over. I’d picked out and purchased some new furniture for my room. Tonight’s job was to integrate the new furniture and to unpack the last ten or so boxes. So I did.
As I did, I kept being reminded of old goals, and I had to struggle to let them go. Not in a bad way, mind you. I just had repeatedly stop myself from starting in on any of my projects, both in progress and planned. It kind of went like this:
(revised version of a post from earlier this year)
Along with everything else I do, I’m a member of a 12-step program. No, it’s not AA; there are many more 12-step programs out there. No, you don’t need to know which one I’m in. It’s anonymous; that’s the point. What you do need to know is that my experience in this program has helped to re-sculpt a lot of my underlying assumptions and beliefs about the nature of Deity and how I shape my relationship with Her (and Them).
I’ve struggled for years now in making my hard polytheistic worldview work with the 12-step concept of a higher power. Sometimes I can make it work, sometimes I can’t. Even so, one of the most useful concepts I have about working with the deity comes from my program: the idea that if my Goddess is not working for me–if She is limiting me or critiquing me or undermining me or whatever–I can (and should) make my understanding of Her bigger.
Before I landed in my 12-step program, I had what amounted to a superhero understanding of the Gods. The Gods were like us, just a bit bigger. They could do a bit more than we could and could help us out a little. They had the same idiosyncrasies as humans, and were bitchy, fallible, and easily bored. My understanding of them, and how I experienced them–while interesting and exciting–did not bring me a whole lot of serenity or peace in times of crisis. While intellectually I knew that I should be able to rely on them, I did not actually feel like they would help me through tough times. After all, they were barely bigger than us humans. But then, what is the point of having a relationship with a deity if He or She is not there to help you through tough times?
I remember thinking, when I landed in my program and found out what the 12 steps were and our overall plan of attack, that this should be easy. I’ve already spent my entire adult life finding my own spirituality and delving deeper into it, often at odds with my family or the larger culture around me. Not a problem. I’m halfway there!
Or not. It’s a lot harder, it turns out. I had spent a a great deal of time and effort learning about and working with my gods, but in all that time and work, I hadn’t learned what I’ve come to consider to be the most important part of any belief system: I hadn’t learned to trust my gods.