In the next segment of Here’s To Your Health we will complete Sister Ruth’s story, but she is on vacation this week, so I invited Professor Glenn C. to be our guest columnist. He is a Methodist Minister who is a recovering alcoholic. He has a doctorate from Oxford University and has written widely known books on Christian theology in addition to several good books on Alcoholics Anonymous. Here is what the professor wrote: In 1934, Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was sitting in his apartment in Brooklyn, drinking himself to death. An old drinking companion named Ebby T. dropped by. The last time Bill had heard of him, Ebby was being committed to the Brattleboro Asylum for alcoholic insanity. But Ebby was sober now and looking good. He explained he had been rescued from the insane asylum and had found God.
Bill W. was a World War I veteran, and he made it clear to Ebby that he simply did not believe that any kind of God could have permitted all the horrors of that war. Finally Ebby looked at Bill and said, “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” As Bill reported later, suddenly the scales fell from his eyes and a “new world came into view.” He began to remember things from his past, where he had caught glimpses of a higher power, but then had turned away. Maybe it was time to stop turning away?
That is where the A.A. movement was born, the point of which it broke free from the world of traditional religious doctrines and began telling people, “You already have a spark of the divine within you. You have already had at least a few faint glimpses of a real higher power at different times during your life, and you already have a moral conscience that knows right from wrong. It is within your own memories and your own personal experiences, that you are going to find the power who is going to save you.”
Over the past weeks we have been reading Sister Ruth’s story. She had believed with all her heart in the truth of the doctrines and dogmas that her religious teachers had taught her, but she was still drinking herself to death. She was trying to save herself with other people’s understanding of God, and that never works.
I am a Methodist minister, and in September 1990, I found myself in the same place as Sister Ruth. I had started drinking secretly twelve years earlier, at a time of great emotional stress, and now I was unable to stop.
Then I walked into an A.A. meeting where I saw everything from a rocket scientist to large numbers of street people, plus one of the genuine old-timers, a man named Raymond. Seeing is believing. I could see that they were all sober, and I could “FEEL” the spirit of God in that room, what A.A. people call the spirit of the tables. And above all I could see and feel the spirit of grace in that old-timer named Raymond. God became something concrete and real for me in a new and different kind of way. And I have never had another drink since that evening.
I know who the president of the United States is, I have heard him speak on television, and I certainly believe that he exists, but I do not know him personally at first hand. My God was like that: I knew that he existed, and I knew a lot about him. I had had religious experiences. But until I walked into that A.A. meeting, I had never met God in that kind of way.
I also have friends in the A.A. program who are psychotherapists and psychiatrists. They are in the same boat with those of us who are priests, nuns, ministers and rabbis. Our intellectual training does not help us with our alcoholism.
We have to go to A.A. meetings and learn, like Sister Ruth, to start off our mornings feeling God’s presence, and we have to learn to sense God in the love we can feel at the A.A. meetings, and in everything else that happens to us throughout the day.
And we meet God above all in the good old-timers whom we meet in A.A., men and women like Raymond and Sister Ruth who bear God within their souls and act as channels of his grace in ways that we can sense and feel for ourselves at first hand. They are the mirrors in whom we can see the reflection of God’s divine light and be healed.
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