Bill W referred to AA as a spiritual kindergarten. There seems to be an implication in that description that we can and do move beyond kindergarten in our spiritual lives.
In my own experience of recovery from alcoholism, I have found this to be the case. The tools of AA, especially the 12 Steps, have provided a springboard for spiritual growth for me. I have found my own spiritual development and movement toward wholeness made stronger by embracing religious belief.
One of the things that have made me grateful is that I have yet to discover any contradiction between the principles of the 12-step program, my spiritual beliefs, and religious practice. Some would say that everything they needed to know, they learned in kindergarten. I respect that, but for me it’s also essential to move forward with spiritual education.
“We are only operating a spiritual kindergarten in which people are enabled to get over drinking and find the grace to go on living to better effect. Each man’s theology has to be his own quest, his own affair.” – From a letter written in 1954 by Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“When the big book was being planned, some members thought that it ought to be Christian in the doctrinal sense. Others had no objection to the use of the word “God,” but wanted to avoid doctrinal issues. Spirituality, yes. Religion, no. Still others wanted a psychological book to lure the alcoholic in. Once in, he could take God or leave him alone, as he wished.
To the rest of us this was shocking, but happily we listened. Our group conscience was at work to construct the most acceptable and effective book possible.
Every voice was playing its appointed part. Our atheists and agnostics widened our gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.
– From the book, A.A. Comes of Age, pages 162, 163, 167
Sometimes it is good for me to visit the spiritual kindergarten for a time, to remember what I learned there and to repeat its lessons in the spiritual ABC’s:
a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
c) That God could and would if He were sought.
I don’t think I could have swallowed that kindergarten idea if alcohol hadn’t beaten me into a state of reasonableness and open-mindedness! You see, I knew all about God. In fact, I filled in for Him when he was too busy!
At one of my first meetings, an old-timer told me, “There is a God, you’re not it, and after that you’re on your own.” To me, this meant that not only did I need my own conception of God, but I needed to know God, not just about Him. I needed to experience God and develop a relationship with my God. So, I had to trash can all my previous ideas and start over. I did this, at first, by experiencing God through others. Their words and actions were God communicating to me in a way that I didn’t really understand, but was very clear on another level.
The book tells me that “the point is” to be willing to grow along spiritual lines. That says – time to move on from kindergarten. I needed to experience God more personally; in a way that would transform me and have a true effect on all areas of my life. How to do that? Steps 4 and 5 to the rescue! I had to clear away all that was blocking me from God and tell it to someone, in order to even begin.
You see, if I want to enter into a relationship with you, but I’m lugging around all this baggage and yesterday’s garbage, I can’t truly experience you because I’m too full of my own junk. Once that wreckage is removed, I am free to actually participate in a relationship. I can re-direct my focus to you because I’m not stuck on me.
But, like all relationships, I can take it for granted and start twisting it to MY will and so: Here we go steps 10 and 11! It is continuous spring cleaning, as well as time spent in humble gratitude with the Power that so lovingly restored me to sanity.
To me, “willing to grow along spiritual lines” doesn’t mean just being better. It means I am striving to grow into the image of my Creator; to be a blessing to others; offering myself in loving, compassionate service.
Nice thoughts, but I can’t do them of my own volition and power! So, I voluntarily return to that spiritual kindergarten, to relearn honesty, humility, unselfishness, and love. I must never forget that I AM an alcoholic and cannot manage my own life by myself. I need the help of God and others to grow. My religious practices complement my program beautifully. It’s my own quest and it’s very fulfilling.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is something I grabbed off the Internet when I was in early recovery. When I saved the article to my computer, I failed to note the name of the author and the name/URL of the website wherein this article was originally posted. If you recognize this article and/or you are the author of this article, please let me know, so that I can take appropriate action to “give credit where credit is due”, or remove the article if so requested. Thank you.
- The Significance of a Higher Power in Recovery (therecoveryhavenblog.com)