Drinking From the Stream

If you have sat at AA tables with me anytime during the last thirty years, you have probably heard me use this analogy a hundred times. If so, suffer a fool to make it a hundred and one.

Before I came to faith in God, I was like a stone, hard and impenetrable. The grace of God was flowing around me everywhere, but my obdurate nature ensured that I would not drink from that stream. The fear of giving up the only security I knew, while subconscious, drove all my decision making. I was genuinely frightened by selfless people, people who had surrendered themselves to something higher. Yet that very vulnerability was also attractive and it began to slowly erode my protective shell.

As Bill W. puts it,

When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. ~ Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 53

Ultimately , in that moment of ego deflation, I called out to a God who was at once both inconceivable yet essential. And like many in that condition, I became aware of the genuine presence of God. It was an awareness not of the mind but of the heart, yet no less unshakable for it. The grace of God had penetrated that shell at last.

I lived in that reality for some time, but came to realize that faith in God alone was not sufficient. Those people whom I had seen abandoning themselves to God had something greater than I. The grace of God had filled me, but at that point I was more like a vessel than a channel. God had gotten in, but I kept Him for myself. But quietly, almost imperceptibly, the Steps of AA began to lead me toward a path of unselfishness, of giving myself without any thought of benefit in return. The phrase “you have to give it away to keep it” became less and less an aphorism and increasingly a guiding principle. Still, there was a fear that abandoning myself like that might mean the loss of something I was not willing to give up. This was where the jumping off point for me came, the actual taking of Step Seven.

The grace of God had eroded the other end of that vessel and made me into a channel of that grace, just as we learn in the Prayer of St. Francis. And here is the paradox. I was not merely a channel but a recipient in a way I had not previously anticipated. A vessel can only hold so much, but a channel can carry an inexhaustible stream. And whoever allows himself to become such a channel finds he is  filled from that unending source.

This challenge I face today is, in any normal sense, insurmountable. I am in need not merely of a measure of grace, but an overabundance of it to give me the power to live each day as it comes. I always knew on a conscious level that I was being of service to those around me. But never over the course of those thirty odd years did I imagine what treasure I was laying up for myself. The outpouring of love that I have experienced these last couple of months has overwhelmed me. And you all, in giving of yourselves as you have, are no doubt drinking of that same stream. That’s the real paradox. No matter how much you surrender, the blessings you receive in return far outweigh whatever sacrifice was required of you.

My sincere desire is to be part of that blessing. Nothing would defeat me more than if I thought this trial was for no purpose. I am convinced that the joy that I experience in this time of difficulty will, in some unseen and and unknown way, lighten the burdens and gladden that hearts of those who face their own challenges.

[The Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – II Corinthians 12:9-10 New American Bible Revised Edition.

May the Peace of Christ dwell richly in you.

5 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, memoir, Recovery

5 Responses to Drinking From the Stream

  1. Donna Okray Parman

    It’s great to hear your words in my head again. It’s great to know that, after all you have suffered, you are still giving to others. Even in this time, you are at the top of your game. I’m thankful. ❤️

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks for the encouragement. I would be absolutely desolate without the tremendous outpouring of love I am experiencing. I worry that I will become yesterday’s news and have to go it alone. But that’s just my lack of faith. He brought me this far and will always provide what I need.

  3. Well dear friend, it’s not often I’m rendered speechless, but to see God’s light of strength and faith shining through you so brilliantly in the midst of what I can only imagine to be the most excruciating of human trials, is silencing to my heart and stilling to my soul.

    I am honored and blessed to read your words of trust in God and encouragement to others reading that they might draw from your Stream – The One Who makes available Living Water to all who will come and drink of His Amazing Sustaining Grace! I marvel at your strength which comes from God in High – as Daniel calmly praying amidst the hungry lions, as David fast ready to take the Giant down, as Abraham bringing the sword confidently down on his own flesh and blood, and Job plagued beyond imagination never wavering in His faith. But no better example than Christ Himself enduring the incomprehensible only by His trust in His Faithful Father’s Plan. You, Steve, are ranked among them – not in your own strength, for you will be the first to correct me there! – but by the Strength of the Creator of the Universe and the Sustainer and Lover of your Soul, Jesus Christ.

    When I was going through my breast cancer journey (2009), before my surgery I ripped out a piece of my Bible (something I never thought I would do!), but God spoke so intimately to me through these Verses at that point in time. I’d like to share that Section with you, Steve:

    “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.“ – Matthew 10:28-31 KJV

    I pray those Verses also comfort your heart, and that God continues to remind you of His Promises concerning you every step of the way! Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Praise God NOTHING we endure is in vain, Steve. Treasures await you in Heaven as you trust in Him at every turn.

    Finally, I hope to comfort you with the reminder of Paul’s words to the Romans while behind bars:
    “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
    The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
    And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
    For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.“ – Romans 8:15-18 KJV

    My love and prayers and gratitude for your testimony are with you every day, Steve.
    With Love in Christ our Faithful Lord and Savior,
    Nancy Duhalde

  4. Donna Okray Parman

    I love Nancy’s letter of encouragement! Those who suffer become a new family, within the family of God. It feels so good to know others have known the fear and uncertainty, but continued to cling to the Lord God, who ALONE has us all in His hands.
    ❤️❤️❤️

  5. Steve

    Nancy, you are too kind. And you are right. I take no credit.

    I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

    The passage from Matthew that you tore out is very apropos. The enemy can only kill my soul if I detach myself from Christ. And he certainly would. To picture trying to do this without faith is beyond horrible. But just as a child does not depend on his own strength to hold his father’s hand, so to is it God who holds mine. And he will never let go of me.

    Thank you for your wonderful words. They truly blessed me.

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