At my first OA meeting in Carney Hospital, I was caught off guard by the ease and frequency of the other OA members talking about God. I did not have a God in my life. I briefly thought this might be my last meeting. I was reassured to learn that “half of us thought we were agnostics (BB p. 44). (OA.org)
As a child, I went to Sunday school regularly. I remember reading comic books about the Bible and playing softball after church. Our minister was a great hitter. As I grew older, I would light the candles on the altar and then put them out at the end of the service. I would carry the cross leading the choir, followed by a baseball-playing minister in and out of each service. I felt proud doing this. I had no connection with God.
I spent hours and whole days tramping and exploring in the woods around our house during my youth. I climbed trees collected rocks, bugs, insects, snakes, and turtles. This was my place; I belonged. While I struggled in school, I excelled in sleepover summer camp.
In my 40s, I realized there was a difference between religious and spiritual life. I learned about the non-secular spirituality of musicians, athletes, and rock climbers. In my 50’s and 60’s, I spent weekends and weeks in the mountains and was “enchanted under a starry night” in the deserts of California. I felt at home, at peace, rejuvenated and restored. I began to think of those famous New Englanders I read in high school – Thoreau and Emerson, the New England transcendentalists who wrote about spirituality in nature, and their compatriots, the Hudson River School of painters who glorified spirit in paintings of mountains, sunsets, and woodland streams. Their experience and mine all connected me directly with a universal conscious spirit. In contrast, the word God brought to mind an old white man with a beard in a throne up in the clouds.
As OA helped me identify, accept and push away my character defects, I experienced glimmers of that higher power emerging from within myself. I realized the bondage of my petty, ego-focused, self-centered, dishonest self had been hiding my Higher Power within me. OA provided the tools to help me slowly let go of my childhood hurts, always wanting to be right, believing I was in charge, and being the director of everyone in my life. This willingness to let go, let my Higher Power emerge. Slowly, but emerge it did.
For years I thought I had a weight problem, so of course, Weight Watchers was a sensible solution that failed me three times. When I joined OA, learned I had an eating problem which was quite different than a weight problem. As I worked Step Four, I realized it was not a food addiction. I had a selfishness problem. I learned that my problem required a spiritual solution (p. 44). Then it made sense to seek a spiritual solution.
OA enchanted and transformed me when I learned I did not have to believe in a Higher Power. I just had to be willing to be open to the possibility of a Creative Intelligence or a Spirit of the Universe. And “when we speak to you of God, we mean your conception of God”. When I realized the word “willing” appears 68 times in the Big Book, I changed my name from Will to Willing. Then learning that “when we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God”, I became even more willing and open to a Higher Power of my own choosing.