"Nothing, absolutely nothing..."

I just found out the Wesley Foundation lounge where I've been studying and praying also has a computer lab. That makes it a lot easier for me, and is quieter than our house or the library.

Today I was reading the AA "Big Book" and came across this line:

Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake.
I've heard people make similar statements in the Al-Anon meetings I've attended. And I like it. It shows a strong belief in God's providence, something I think is very important in the spiritual life (and have written about before) but it's a belief that many people reject these days. To their own spiritual detriment, I think.

Lately, I've also been better able to see how my being unable to leave here when I wanted to is also purposeful, not a mistake. I had felt that I'd identified the problems in this place, and committed myself to find another way and stop trying to find my security here. So why not leave? Staying would only keep me in an uncomfortable and awkward position, trying to continue a work I didn't believe in. But, while a possible step forward seemed to appear at the right time, I wasn't allowed to go for another six months. Why?

Well, as I've said already, the exposure to the 12-step spirituality has been very good. For my possible future work, but also for my own life. I've begun to see that I have been a big part of my own suffering here. Yes, there are definitely things wrong in this place and I'll be glad to move on and do things differently in the next place. But the stresses and difficulties have also helped me see my own damage and faults. I can't blame everything on the place or on others. There have been many situations where I believe I could have responded better. Times when I have been fearful and hard-hearted. The extreme challenges of this place have helped reveal to me that I am actually unable (powerless) to live the kind of life I want to live, to follow Jesus as close as I want to. It truly is impossible for me. For me personally, because of the way I actually am, not just impossible for anyone. When I see the Good I find myself unable to accomplish it. And sometimes I get so confused by my pain and fears that I can't even see the Good at all.

Sensing this, perhaps subconsciously, has caused me great anxiety. I've been gradually getting the idea that I may be the reason I might not be able to live the beautiful life Jesus offers. And that's terrifying because I can't get away from that "I".

Except I can. This should all be recognizable as the experience of bondage to sin in Romans 7. (It's also the alcoholic's usual story.) And the answer is that God can and will release us from the damage and faults of ourselves, actually release me from myself. We can die to self and live in Christ. This is what the first three steps are about and they can be a truly freeing spiritual experience. But of course this can't be done just once, but must continually be done, moment by moment, in each encounter and challenge. We must continually depend on God, not just for external help, but also for guidance and strength and motivation in our own choices and actions.

This is nothing new, of course. I've said it all before. But it takes real pressure and suffering to actually know it and do it. If we aren't pushed beyond our capabilities and limits, then we don't really know what it means to be unable (powerless) to manage our lives, to do the right thing, or even to help ourselves out of the distress we're in.

Thankfully, God provides the pressure. We need to remember that when the suffering mounts. Nothing happens in God's world by mistake.