Many people say they first felt the touch of god, or higher power, or grace, upon doing a fifth step. I didn’t feel that. I watched the man with his bicycle in the rain and wondered if I was different because of what I’d just done. I wondered if I was just too dumb, or too stubborn, to feel the god. That may be.
But I’ve also wondered at what people mean when they use the word god. I felt honest. I felt clarity. I felt as though a light had been turned on and all the monsters went scurrying under the bed, or simply turned out to be lumps of clothing, a chair, a rattling window. For most of us, the fourth and fifth step prove to be the first time we really call our suffering by it’s name. We said alcohol, back with the first, but alcohol was just the sugar coating. This stuff, this shame and pain and resentment stuff, is what has made us who we are. And strangely, we didn’t even have the ability to see the truth of it until now.
Suffering teaches. Pain begets faith. There is just enough hurt to get you in the door, so that is where healing begins. By the time we’ve reached the fifth, we know where our demons and our pain lie. It can hurt to tell these truths. But any enlightenment tradition will tell you that the way out lies in going through. We can’t heal until we know where it is that we hurt. The cure of the symptom begins in love. Not sexualized, interpersonal kind of love, but godlike love; the kind where the yearning in us extends to the most interrupted, broken, and damaged parts of ourselves. Anguish is a recognition that the path has opened.
Compassion is the expression of that yearning toward the hurt, and faith in the yearning itself.
I did feel that. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what people mean when they say god, when they say grace.