One of the greatest gifts I received from AA was learning and understanding that I am both good and bad. That sounds crazy at first doesn’t it? What a contradiction! Aren’t we supposed to be good and not sin? Aren’t we supposed to be perfect? What a gift to know that we are supposed to be both! It’s the spirituality of imperfection that brought me the peace of God that passes all understanding, to the knowable mystery of God.
I tried for years to pull myself up by my own boot straps and try to figure out what I could do to make you like me? All I did was wear myself out and push people away. Wasn’t my being nice and trying to figure out what you wanted a good thing? Why didn’t you like me and why didn’t God like me? Why did I not fit in? Was I not being perfect enough for you and God?
Actually it was crazy to try the same thing over and over for years and of course all of my endeavors never worked! I finally gave up and jumped into the bottle when I could no longer feel comfortable and stand your company. I had to be drunk to endure certain relationships. So whose fault was that? Who was right and who was wrong? Who was I supposed to blame…you or me? I lived in a very black and white world where it had to be one or the other, no liminal space where all belonged!
In giving up and trying a different path, a different way of being, my life began to change. I will say it was not overnight and I had to do the work of the 12 steps and take all the suggestions I was given. I became teachable. I became willing. I also began to learn about my character defects as part of the steps and how to look at them honestly, to accept them and to admit I am wrong when I am wrong. How freeing is it to say to the person I hurt that I was wrong? That allows for forgiveness and reconciliation for both people! I also learned to ask God to remove my shortcomings and to accept if they were removed or…. NOT. Let me say that again… accept if they were removed or not! I have come to believe our character defects are our greatest gift from God. Character defects actually bring us to God. Again another contradiction! Without these defects why would I ever need a Higher Power in the first place?
This acceptance of my defects also taught me that not all character defects will be removed when and if I want them to be. To date the ones that have not been removed have taught me about humility and it has also taught me how to love and accept these behaviors in others. Even Paul asks God three times to remove the thorn in his flesh and the answer he gets from God is, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12: 7-9) Talk about powerlessness! Paul shows us how step one works by admitting he is not in control! Paul’s thorn was not removed and through his acceptance Paul rejoiced in God’s immeasurable grace. The reason for the thorn remaining like my character defect is an affirmation of God’s Grace. It becomes a way for us to name and claim our defects and that naming and claiming frees us from them. Sitting in an AA meeting I began to see my own reflection in the voices and faces of the other people in the room. We are all good and bad, right and wrong and we need each other to live through these choices we make, to love and accept each other as we struggle in our life here on earth. We are all in the same lifeboat; actually the whole earth is in the same lifeboat called LIFE. We are all needed to keep the boat afloat and to share the work that it takes to do that. Some of us are more skilled than others and that is why we are to carry the message and share the gift we have of this miraculous program.
Today I am grateful that what was broken in me led me to this new way of seeing, feeling and perceiving. Yes, life is still a struggle and there are things I, too, wish would pass from me, but today I know as I am falling into the abyss of life, God has me firmly grounded in His love.Margaret D.