Sunday, February 16, 2014

Spiritual Progress Rather Than Spiritual Perfection

Last week I wrote: “The fact that I was so exasperated tells me I was hell-bent on being right or correct. That was my mistake. It was an error. It was not a “sin” that I wanted to be right or correct. It was a mistaken choice I made. I can always choose again…. And that is exactly what the Course teaches. The world we create with our perceptions is only as real as a dream. What we call “sin” in our created world is really just an error of perception. If we are willing, the Holy Spirit will help us change our perception. When that happens, our “world” will change. What we’ll begin to perceive is the “real” world that Christ-Eyes behold. We’ll see the Christ in all others, albeit through the fear, guilt, anger, resentment, and defensiveness that covers up the light of the Christ in each of us.
“That’s the promise of the Course in Miracles. That’s what’s happened to me in AA. Although I could not imagine life without alcohol, I experienced that sober life. I experienced a life of acceptance. I experienced a life of living “just for today.” After 183 “just for today” days I had 6 months of sobriety. After 365 “just for today” days I had a year. After 9,490 “just for today” days I had 26 years. Looking back on my path to sobriety, can I pinpoint the day my perception changed? Nope. Does that denigrate my change in perception? Nope. Does my use of non-biblical words do dishonor to my experience of the Holy Spirit in my life? Nope.
A subscriber took issue with some of my words from last week. Specifically, the issue was: “We’ll see the Christ in all others, albeit through the fear, guilt, anger, resentment, and defensiveness that covers up the light of the Christ in each of us.” The comment said I was implying the Holy Spirit does not totally change us.  The writer also commented on my sentence: “Does my use of non-biblical words do dishonor to my experience of the Holy Spirit in my life? Nope.” The comment here was that I cannot use the words ‘Holy Spirit’ without having referenced the Holy Bible, from whence came these specific words. Therefore, one has to be a Christian, believing in the Scripture, before one can ask the Holy Spirit for anything.
I understand what’s being said and where that doctrine came from. I used to teach it myself. The Holy Spirit is one facet of the triune Godhead that we know from the experiences, creeds and tribunals of the early Church Fathers as they wrestled with the Holy Bible – what to put in it, what to leave out, and how to interpret it.
However, as I read the New Testament through my eyes of 26 years of sobriety, acceptance, and transformation, I envision people who underwent similar transformations in the presence of Jesus the Christ or where His Spirit was palpable. They were changed and were never the same. Their transformation had nothing whatsoever to do with what they believed “happened” to them. It had nothing to do with how they verbally “explained” their experience. Their transformation, as was mine, is beyond words; but, because it’s so significant to us, that doesn’t stop us from trying to verbalize our experiences.
I have experienced in AA meetings the reality that each of us can tell our stories and, although the specifics are very, very different, the stories are always the same. Why wouldn’t that reality also be true for those early Christians 2,000 years ago?
If I learned that folks in AA were poo-pooing the reality of other’s spiritual transformations as they worked the 12 Steps and they poo-pooed them by quoting from my story, I would be horrified. Whether or not someone verbalizes their spirituality in the way I do, has absolutely nothing to do with the reality of their spirituality.
If I use the words “Holy Spirit” and someone else uses different words – Higher Power, Spiritual Consciousness, Enlightened Self, etc. – what difference does it make? It doesn’t. They are simply words. If I can understand and accept that, so can the triune Godhead.
As far as my reference to “…seeing the Christ in all others, albeit…” that is simply an acknowledgment that I am imperfect. I love the fact that AA describes all our movement toward having a spiritual experience in this way: “We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.” [Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 4th Edition, p. 60]
Fearfulness demands that I be assured I am right. It assuages my anxiety. I am aware of that. Therefore, I try my best not to correct or criticize how someone else describes their reality. Instead I try to listen to their truth behind their words. Sometimes I get it. Sadly, often I still get caught up in my stuff.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#3 February, 2014
Copyright, 2014

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