Every time I teach Unity Works and people hear Charles’s story of how God set him free of addiction through an AA based recovery program, someone asks a question similar to this one from a participant a while back, “”I still have questions in my mind about the “God of my understanding”. Does AA proclaim the Gospel or is the “God” a universal ie Budah, etc…..God? When and where is Jesus? I understand the challenge of needing to be non-denominational but how is Christ proclaimed?”
I spent many years in an evangelical church that taught that people must first come to know Jesus as Lord in order to experience the healing power of God. I am sure most of you are like me and just never really questioned that belief. It sounded good and in the book of John, Jesus clearly says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Who could argue with this teaching? Surely anyone who challenges this idea, must be a heretic, a non-believer, and a danger to the faith, right?
Before we all start picking up our stones and casting them at anyone who may think differently, I want to tell you a story. It is a story that has been played out in my life over and over again. I keep meeting wonderful people who were once caught in addiction. Addicts who through The Healing Place, an AA based recovery program here in Richmond, have come to know God and who claim to have been healed of their addiction by the “God of their understanding.” They are now bearing fruit by reaching out to other sick and suffering addicts. They are calling them to come to know God and helping them to be reconciled to God and their fellow man. They are loving and generous and truly love their neighbors as themselves in ways far beyond most church going folks that I know. They are doing all this healing in the name of an unnamed God.
We know from scripture that the power to set the oppressed free is a power that Christ grants through the Holy Spirit. I have seen that spirit of freedom break the chains of addiction and I believe only the power of the Holy Spirit can bring a healing of this nature. So I have a problem. Either I believe that it is all the same spirit or I believe that there is another spirit through which such freedom can be gained.
“The emerging Church is thus able to leave aside the need for clarity and open up the way for us to accept the fact that what is important is that we are embraced by the beloved rather than finding agreement concerning how we ought to understand the beloved (as if a baby can only really love her mother if she understands her.) “
In other words, rather than look for God through our own understanding of how God works, we should look for evidence of God’s embrace. Without a doubt, many of my friends from The Healing Place, have experienced the embrace of the beloved and it has transformed their lives and through them God has transformed me. God has gotten much bigger and far more mysterious. Some may read this and consider me a “liberal” or worse a “heretic” for believing that God could be that big; bigger than the church walls, able to work without a formula and yes, even able to free those who cry out to a God they cannot name.
Father Richard Rohr writes in his article, “The 12-step Program as Coded Gospel”,
“Why do you often feel the very power and presence of God after listening to addicts share their stories of faith, confession, forgiveness, humiliation, and surrender? God seems to be the one obvious and essential person in attendance at most AA meetings I have ever attended, yet there are no icons, candlesticks, vestments, stained-glass windows, or pipe organs in sight. How can this be? Is this perhaps what Dietrich Bonheoffer meant by the “religionless Christianity” that he saw as the future?”
Peter Rollins shares, “Hence Meister Eckhart famously prays “God rid me of God”, a prayer that acknowledges how the God we are in relationship with is bigger, better and different than our understanding of that God.”
Are we willing to look for God in unexpected places and allow ourselves to be embraced by the beloved in unexpected ways?
Are we willing to accept that God is bigger than anything we ever imagined; that God has no limits?
Where is Jesus? Only God knows. I am learning to accept there are some things I will simply never understand and am learning to walk in the mystery of it all. There is tremendous freedom in letting God be God!
The Apostle Paul put it this way;
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36