Throw That Old, Punishing God Out!

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By Mark Anthony Lord

For many people in recovery, the word God carries with it a garbage truck full of pain, confusion, fear, misunderstanding, anger, and resentment. Burned in my memory is an image of me as a seven-year-old boy sitting with my family in our Catholic church. The priest was speaking but I wasn’t listening. I was staring up at an enormous statue of Jesus on the cross. His head, which was hanging down to the right, had a crown of thorns on it. Blood was trickling down his face. Nails were holding him to the cross by the wrists and feet. He was clearly in pain. He was sad, broken, betrayed, and yes … suffering! And for who? Me! He died for my sins.

Geez, I didn’t even know what the heck I did to make him have to die, but it obviously was bad. And I felt guilty.

That’s intense and violent imagery for anyone to handle, let alone a young child. The God I learned about was mean! M – E – A – N. My idea of God was external, male, angry, and kept score of every move I made and every thought I had.

When I got a few years older, I was told that even thinking about sex was a sin. (That kind of worked in my favor, especially around masturbation, because I thought, Oh well, I’m already in trouble. I may as well just do it.)

By the time I went to high school I had thrown God out. I didn’t like or need “him,” and as far as I could tell “he” certainly didn’t like or need me.

Fast-forward to my mid-twenties and sex addiction had pretty much taken over my life. I felt lost, afraid, and unable to stop. In my relationships, I was telling lies and keeping secrets about where I was going, where I’d been, and what I was doing. Every day the pain got worse and the acting out became more dangerous. And I was drowning in isolation.

A series of small miracles landed me at my first sexual recovery 12-step meeting, and all they seemed to talk about was God. I’m sure they said many other things, but every time the word was mentioned it landed like a hammer on my head. I walked out of that first meeting feeling even more confused and afraid. I thought, It’s bad enough that I’ve got this disease, now I find out I need God to help me heal. No fucking way!

I was in so much pain, however, that I did what they told me to do: I kept coming back.

A few months into recovery I got a great sponsor who told me to get down on my knees and pray. I didn’t want to, and I didn’t really know how to. So my sponsor said, “Just ask God to give you a new idea about Him/Her/It. Just ask to be shown who God really is, just for you.”

This was the first time I had heard someone call God anything other than He. That was refreshing and it gave me an ounce of hope. So, I did what my sponsor asked me to do – though with great reluctance. And then I did it again … and again … and then slowly over time I started to talk to God a bit more. Then someone told me about journaling with God and that I could be really mad at God. They said, “Don’t worry. God can take it.”

That’s all the permission I needed. I let so much anger pour through me onto the pages that sometimes I only had three or four words on a page.

One day I was doing my angry journaling and I heard something inside of me say, “That God that you are so mad at isn’t even me. You really don’t know me at all.”

I stopped writing. I just sat there for a minute. Then I wrote down the words I’d heard. I read them over and over again. I contemplated them and I asked out loud to nobody, “Who was that? Did I really hear that?”

Eventually, I decided I didn’t care if I did or didn’t hear it or if I made the whole thing up. The fact of the matter was that I liked what I heard. It suddenly made available within me another possibility … perhaps I could get to know a whole new idea of my Higher Power. Perhaps what I’d been taught in church was wrong. Perhaps the “God of my understanding” could be something else.

And that’s what happened! Today, I feel blessed because when it comes to God my mind has been renewed. I no longer believe God is mean. I experience God as an infinite, unlimited goodness that is always available. Right now. Not after I lose that weight or stop doing that thing I’m ashamed of. Not after I have more money or start volunteering. God’s goodness is immediate. And it is absolute, which means it is perfect and has nothing to do with time, space, or circumstance.

Now that’s a new idea!

It took me some years to understand this new concept of God and even more to start living and accepting it as my truth and experience of life. But I’m grateful I did this because my life is infinitely better for it.

How is the “old God” still haunting you and keeping you from trusting, letting go of fear, and getting sober? Maybe – ha, no maybe about it – you just need to take some time to get rid of the old God and allow a new, fun, always-here-for-you God (Higher Power, Love, Source Energy, or whatever else you want to call it) to awaken.

I’ve heard it said, “With God all things are possible.”I have come to believe that this is really, really true. You just need the right God. He/She/It is easy to find. All you need to do is look inside.

Peace and blessings.