This month’s topic is our relationship to our Higher Power and our need to live a life of purpose. When Jim and I decided on this topic, we were both fully aware that it can be one wrought with controversy. However, we are both committed to the concept of a Higher Power as presented in the Recovery Community, the god of an individual’s own understanding. So please know we aren’t going to tell you how to live, this is a personal opinion piece and the thoughts here are just our beliefs based on years of life experience and much trial and error. Take what you like and leave the rest.
Poet Mary Oliver asked what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I believe we need to live a life of meaningful purpose. It is our only path to true peace and happiness. We need to wake up knowing that each day our life has meaning. We need to believe that the trials we go through will amount to something when all is said and done. Nietzsche said “He who has a why to live for, can bear almost any how.” Viktor Frankl came to the same conclusion after surviving years in a German concentration camp. In his book called Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl tells us that what made the difference between those who survived the camps and many of those who weren’t able to survive was often their ability to hang onto the tiniest sense of hope and their belief in a higher power and a greater purpose. Frankl said “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” While most of us will never experience the level of suffering that Frankl did, we all have our own individual challenges. The difference between succeeding and failing in life is how we view them and what we choose to do with them.
Above all else, I am committed to spirituality and acceptance of diversity. My idea of God and your idea of God may be very different but that’s okay. We are all on different places on our path through life. We have all had different experiences that have brought us to this place. Talking about all this very well may mean I get a bunch of emails with bible quotes and references to my eternal damnation. Before you bother, please know I’ve read it too and what it says to me may be very different than what you are getting out of it.
My Higher Power is a god of love, a god of acceptance and a god too big to fit into one religion with rules written down by a bunch of men with political and monetary agendas. There I said it. That’s how I feel.
Some folks are born into a faith that fits them and they lean on it trustingly their whole lives. Others have had no first hand exposure to faith in their family of original. And still others of us have been born into one faith that maybe didn’t fit just right, so we’ve shopped around, trying on different ones until we find one where the shoulders don’t sag and the pants aren’t too short. I doubt there is human on the planet, no matter where they are in their walk, who has not had at least one moment, one tragedy, one emergency, or one crisis where they looked to the sky and pleaded to whoever is in charge for a little assistance.
We are all looking for a power greater than ourselves to make sense of all we go through. We are all looking for meaning to our suffering. We are all looking for an unconditional and unwavering love. Many folks find that in religion, some of us find it in spirituality.
One of my all-time favorite pieces written on religion is called “Many Paths to the Same Summit” by a Hindu saint named Ramakrishna (1836-1886). He worshipped Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Kali, Allah, and Jesus and believed that each of us were born into the time and the religion that suited our spiritual needs. Ramakrishna said “As a mother, in nursing her sick children, gives rice and curry to one, and sago arrowroot to another, and bread and butter to a third, so the Lord has laid out different paths for different men suitable to their natures.”
My Higher Power has a path for me. Knowing that there is a plan for my life is what keeps me getting out of bed every day. Knowing that there is a higher purpose to my suffering keeps me going to work, doing all the things that grown-ups have to do. Learning to let go and trust that it will all work out keeps me from falling apart during even the toughest times. I fully believe that I am here for reason, that all that I have been through is for a reason.
I know without a doubt that part of my purpose was to bring my children into this world. Each one of them, in their mere two decades plus on the planet, have all served humanity in amazing and selfless ways. If I did not do one more thing in this life, having them would have been enough. Yet, I know I have my own purpose, my own paths to follow. I know there are those I have mentored and ministered to over the years and those who I will affect in the future. It may not be glamorous but I know there is a plan.
Some days, when things are dark, that’s hard to hang onto. That is what faith is for, to keep you going during those trails. Living one day at a time, I know that, in the words of Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”