All or Nothing

Either God is everything or God is nothing.”

In a Big Book meeting a while back they read the phrase above, and I argued that there was plenty of room in the middle of those two conditions, and that in fact most of us probably lived there. A woman I’ve never really liked nor respected — though she’s been sober many years, and is in fact super-hot — made an obvious attack on what I said: that “God must be Everything or God is nothing and you will drink, because that’s what happened to me!

Until this morning I had been in a relationship for the past 3 years, and I’ve had plenty of experience letting other people (her) be wrong (in my opinion). I just smiled as this lady railed against me, everything I said and everything I stood for. I just let it go, or so I thought.

Over the next days and weeks I formulated a response to her. I worded it and reworded it in my head until it was perfect. By the time I was finished I realized that it was a resentment I was harboring, and that I was replaying an argument over and over until I won. Resentments, however, are futile because even if I got my day in court with her, no matter how well I state my argument she’s never going to see things my way. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still“.

So I do what I do. I write. I throw it into cyberspace knowing that nothing I do or say carries either permanence nor weight. I do it for the same reason — and with as much class and elegance — as a dog licks his balls; I do it because it’s what I do.

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When I think of the phrase “Either God is everything or God is nothing” my mind turns to St. Francis, living at the top of a mountain, eschewing all possessions, wearing a hair shirt. I’m gonna give that man “God is Everything”. I think of Mother Teresa, living in the streets of Calcutta — bathing the wounds of lepers and children who’ve been raped and beaten — holding them while they took their last breaths. I’m not GIVING that woman anything! She EARNED the designation “God is Everything”!

They are saints. We are not saints. Those two have set the bar, everyone else has to decide where they are on the scale below them. Let’s be honest: if you turned off your 60″ flat screen TV, left your fine home, got in your new car and came to a meeting where you walked in on your high heels with your hair and makeup just perfect and set your iPhone on vibrate, (or turned on your computer to read this) you need to shut-the-hell-up about “God is Everything”. You need to stop saying it for two reasons: 1) because it diminishes the sacrifices made by people like Mother Teresa and 2) because you’re full of shit. Your ass is firmly ensconced in the material world and God is maybe 5% of what you’re about.

My daughter was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 4-years-old (she’s 21` now, and fine, I always have to say that). I spent a lot of time with “cancer parents” in the next 5 years and there is one thing that I will have to say is universal: On the day that they are told their child has a life-threatening disease, not one of them thinks: “Everything’s going to be all right!”. No, fear and personal devastation are the rule. They may or may not pray, but they don’t stop there. They don’t leave it in His hands. Unless they are some Christian Science moron, they beg the doctor to save their child’s life.

In the coming days, weeks or months, they may come to say: “Everything’s going to be all right!“, but even that isn’t as much a statement of “Faith“, as it is of “Hope“. They are saying: “God’s going to save my child’s life, and everything’s going to be all right!“, not “My child may die, but everything’s going to be all right!“, because they have no faith that if their child died, everything WOULD be all right. They think it would suck. Really, really bad.

About 5 years after we were divorced, my ex-wife called me up. The economy had taken a dump and she’d been unemployed for 2 years, the house was going to be foreclosed on when she finally got a job. No sooner did she see the light at the end of the tunnel, than a new boss was appointed and changed everyone’s job requirements. She was frantic.

“I’m going to lose the house! He gave everyone new goals and 30 days to achieve them and there’s no way I’m going to meet mine! It’s not possible! They’re going to fire me and I’m going to lose the house!”

I assured her everything was going to be all right.

You don’t get it! It’s NOT going to be all right! I’m going to lose my job and they’re going to take the house!”

“I heard what you said, and I can assure you, it’s going to be all right. I tell you this as a fact, because I lost my job – I even lost that SAME house — and today it’s all right.”

FUCK YOU!!!” Boom!

Man, slamming the receiver down is a lot more satisfying than pushing “End Call” really, really hard.

You see, no one wants to hear that, because no one has faith. We don’t want to hear that we’re going to have to suffer, but that it’s part of God’s grand plan. We want to hear that we’re NOT going to suffer — or that we might have to suffer a little bit, or for a little while — but it’ll be okay, because God will restore all our previous glory and leave us whole. But it’s not always like that.

So before you say that God is everything to you, compare your reaction to losing your child, your spouse, your job, your house, your dog – even your iPhone – to Mother Teresa watching a child take her last breath, and releasing a single, silent tear. Please don’t compare what you do to what she did. At the very least it’s sanctimonious. If you spend one entire hour – every single day of your life – in prayer and meditation (complete devotion to God) then congratulations! You have spent approximately 5% of your life thinking about God.

We can tell from your hair and your makeup that you’re consumed by self. Hell, when you try on a pair of shoes you worry more about how they look than how they feel. You are consumed by yourself and your image of yourself. And part of that image is us believing that “to you God is everything“, but we see through that shit. You don’t really give a damn about God. It would be best if you just stopped talking now.

Write down your 5 biggest problems. Ask yourself if Mother Teresa ever faced that problem. The answer will probably be “No”, because she structured her life in such a way that she never GOT what you’re afraid of LOSING.

I recall reading that (according to her letters) Mother Teresa lived her entire life in a crisis of faith. She never truly believed — seeing what she saw every day — that there could be a benevolent, loving God. She merely did what she would do if there were a God, and she had been chosen to do His bidding.

And yet this woman is being canonized — made a saint — by the Catholic church. Maybe what we can take from this lesson is that it’s OK to “pretend to believe”, to “act as if”. Maybe it’s even OK to “pretend to care”. Maybe it doesn’t help any more to “really care” than it does to “pretend to care”, as long as you do the same things a person who “really cared” would do.

But you can’t “pretend to take action”. You can’t “pretend to show up”.

So my message of hope remains – as it always has – that it’s OK. Some day a man will come through the doors of A.A. who realizes that God if not everything to him. He will feel less than. He may say to himself: “I’m conflicted and confused! Maybe I’m not good enough for this program, or to stay sober…”

On that day I hope I’m there to tell him: “It’s OK. We’re ALL conflicted and confused. The difference between you and most of the people in A.A. is not your level of Faith, but your level of Honesty. We , all have priorities that don’t have anything to do with God, but with material happiness. You can still stay sober. The path is wide with room for all; even those of little faith. Let me show you how I have done it.”

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As I write this (3/22/15) I am living in a tent — behind the house of a friend, in the ghetto — listening to a drunken black man beating his equally drunken girlfriend. I have no car or driver’s license because I cannot afford to pay my child support; money I do not begrudge my ex-wife at all. I am not angry because my girlfriend asked me to move out, knowing that even though I have a job, I do not make enough money to live indoors; I am thankful for all she helped me in the last few years. I am not mad at my boss, who demands an unattainable 4 deals a week from each of us (for which he makes $4,500 and pays us $250) in order to keep us reaching for fear of losing our meager jobs; I am thankful that he gave me another chance there in my time of need.


Note: As I re-read this I realize that I told  a fib. I didn’t live in a tent. I lived in a 3 sided shed (a lean-to, really) with a hole in the roof. I kept my stuff in the tent so it wouldn’t get wet when it rained. 1/30/17

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This entry was posted in Spirituality, Unfounded Personal Opinions. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to All or Nothing

  1. Donna Collins says:

    So PROFOUND and BEAUTIFULLY ELOQUENT! The few times I have had to search my soul something happens and all of a sudden it ALL MAKES SENSE…BEST WISHES!

  2. Fernt says:

    Another great series of observations. Love your BS-meter 🙂

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