A Perfect Convocation
THE AA meeting was coming to a close. The group discussion had ended and the informal chatting was only a murmur. The chairman, with a nod of his head to the group, said "We'll close the meeting in the regular manner."
Reverently heads were lowered, eyes were closed.
The dramatic impact of that Sermon on the Mount 2000 years ago was upon us, at our meeting.
"Our father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. . . ."
That fellow standing ahead, and to the left of me (it's his first meeting) shuffles his feet in worn shoes. He's embarrassed, ill at ease. But he is praying. Good! I remember a remark he made before the meeting opened. "I've absolutely no control over my drinking anymore. The stuff is killing me; my life's a mess."
Well, I thought now, he had taken the First Step with that admission. The expression on his face might be a clue to his thoughts. Grim, yet pleading.
"God, I'm licked. I've sworn off, gone on the wagon and switched drinks. Always with the same dreary results. Another drunk! I've tried everything--on my own hook. Nothing helped. So, here I am, God. With Shabby Shoes and screaming nerves, I stand before you, my Father. I don't deserve your help. But I can't go on without it. Will you help me now? Please!"
My fellow alcoholic was not concerned at that moment with our Twelve Step program. He probably didn't know it existed. But he was praying. He had come to believe that a Power greater than himself could restore him to sanity. He was turning over his will and his life to the care of God as he understood Him. He had taken Steps Two and Three in the first ten words of the Lord's Prayer!
"Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. . ."
Some of the grim quality was leaving the face of that man. The tell-tale liquor blotches stood high on his Cheek Bones but in his eyes, now open, was a softer light. Was hope beginning to replace despair?
"All of this is new to me, God. . .but these fellows here tell me it isn't new to You. For more years than I care to remember, it has always been my will, my whims, my desires. To what end? Regrets, remorse, shame and suffering. Now I want you to take over. Let thy will be done. I know that you are the Master Planner, if I allow you to be. And I know that in your plans there can be only good for me. Teach me, then, to trust in you."
The shuffling feet were still. The eyes again were closed. The form ahead of me was relaxing. Confession is good for the soul. Had not this distraught man just admitted to God, and to himself, the exact nature of his wrongs? Was he not subjecting himself and his will to that of God's--God as he understood Him? Was he not making a fearless inventory of himself? Of course he was! Here was Step Three again, and Steps Four and Five too!
"Give us this day, our daily bread. . ."
There were twenty-five people in that room. Some had known sobriety for years, some for only months. To the man ahead of me it had been a companion for only a few brief hours. But here in seven short words was the unbelievably powerful supplication that could secure it for a life-time,one day at a time!
"Divine master, the Bread we ask for this day's needs is sobriety. The emptiness of yesterday is gone; the demands of tomorrow we know not. Guide us then, this day. Let this day be expiation for the lost yesterdays, a strengthening for the tomorrows. Give us the courage to live out this one day as Thou wouldst will it."
Perhaps I imagined it. Or did our new friend actually rush into the next phrase as if eager to purge himself completely of all that was behind him?
"And Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. . ."
"Forgive me. Father! Forgive the lies, the treachery and the deceit wrought in drunken moments. Erase from my soul the stain of petty thievery, of precious time wasted. Forgive me for the heartache and anguish I've authored. Remove from me forever, the bitterness I've harbored against those who have chastised me, and supplant it with love. Strike from my heart the resentment and rancor with which I have lived so long."
He seemed to be growing in stature this man with the shabby shoes. The shoulders were squaring as if a great weight had been taken from them. And that is exactly what had taken place. For, in seeking forgiveness, he had forgiven. He had proved his willingness and readiness to have God remove his character defects. In humility, he had asked Him to remove his shortcomings. And though the compilation of a list of all people he had harmed would require time, he was willing to make amends.
Still without conscious realization of it, our new member was encompassing steps Six, Seven and Eight. And again it had been done in two phrases--thirteen words--of the "Our Father"!
"And lead us not into temptation. . ."
Oh, yes, there will be temptation. In the early stages of our new-found sobriety will come the urge to take "just one" drink. And as our sobriety continues, there may come the belief once again that our problem has been eliminated, that we have mastered it.
"But"--and the man ahead of me may be whispering it now--"there'll be no graduation exercises for me, God. Never permit me to feel that I have completed my course. For, O Lord, innot feeling that, I will not be led into temptation. Give me always the humility to know myself. In that will be my strength."
"For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen."
The prayer was ended. The owner of the shabby shoes walked slowly to the rear of the room. The liquor blotches still stood in high relief on his cheek bones. Nervous perspiration shone on his forehead. But in his carriage there was determination; in his eyes there was hope; in his heart there was the knowledge that he had enlisted an Omnipotent Ally.
In the final words of the "Our Father" he had paid true homage to the Almighty Power, the Supernatural Glory and the Everlasting Kingdom of God. In his quiet "Amen" he had pronounced a solemn "So be it" to the power-packed supplications of the Pater Noster.
AA Grapevine October 1955
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