Receiving Grace From Your Higher Power

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“God speaks to us every day only we don’t know how to listen”.— Gandhi

Unfortunately, too many of us don’t believe in a Higher Power, let alone actually listen to that voice within ourselves. It’s the guidance that summons us to bring out the better part of ourself and connect to others in ways that cannot be explained in words. But you know even if we don’t listen to the Divine Force, it is still there waiting for us to listen. We miss the miracles that could be happening in our lives because of our skepticism. Deep down we don’t feel worthy of love and we turn a deaf ear to our Great Spirit.

Here’s what the Higher Power looks like to me:

A man decides to not return to his AA meeting because he continues to have relapses in his sobriety. Even though he is told that all that is required is the willingness to be sober he tells the man who drives him to his meeting that he is going to skip the next meeting. His driver comes by his house anyway and says, “Look I enjoyed your companionship at the last meeting and I wish you would reconsider helping me and yourself. I need your help. I will respect you if you don’t decide to join me.”

The man is initially bothered by this offer but then gradually comes around and gives his driver a chance to return to the meeting with him. The man realizes that he is good for something. They continue going to AA meetings together and have stayed sober since then. After working the program in AA they both feel they are worth being cared for, the first time either of them has felt that way in their lives. How this has happened neither of them know.

My wife and I were distant from each other for the longest time. Indeed, generally we were happy with each other. She is a fantastic woman and I have been a decent husband to her. However, there was a certain unexplained emotional gap between us that made each of us sad and lonely. For the longest time we couldn’t figure our way out of this. I tend to be brash, and she is compliant. She doesn’t want to get me mad, and I want her to be happy. Perhaps we silently blamed each other for our troubles.

Finally, something unusual happened in my sleep one night. I had a surprising dream. My mother spoke to me, saying, “Please remember the Golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Then Pogo, a Walt Kelly cartoon critter, spoke to me and said, “We have met the enemy and it is us.” I was troubled by this dream. I felt some divine presence was trying to save my marriage. Finally, in the morning it dawned on me that I’d been repeatedly irritable with my wife just when she was nice to me. She just wanted me to speak with her in a kind way and acknowledge how hard she was trying to love me. Her passivity, which I didn’t like, was in reaction to my brusque tone with her. I was essentially rejecting her efforts to care for me. I was making her the problem which was really my problem. I was breaking the Golden Rule with her. Perhaps unconsciously I didn’t feel worthy of her love. I felt ashamed of myself, told her about my dreams and apologized to her in the morning. The distance between us gradually disappeared. I felt a Higher Power between us, the very spiritual presence that had originally brought us together.

Our 10-year-old son is a different kind of boy. He is so unlike his older brothers and sisters all of whom play football, soccer and hockey. He prefers to grow flowers, plant wild grasses, read poetry and draw pictures of nature. His mother and I support him being who he is and leave it up to him to be himself. He does well in school, is well-liked but keeps to himself a lot. He loves his siblings, but they don’t share many interests together. We live in a rather homogeneous suburban area where sports teams are the way kids relate to each other. We wondered if there might be something wrong with him but we could never find out what that something really is. Throughout this pandemic he has shown us more of who he is. Last spring, he saw a program on TV about all the children who are hungry, who can’t go to school because they lack good Internet connections, and some of whom have to live on the street. He was in tears when he saw the program and told us he wanted to do something over the summer to help these kids. So, he did some odd jobs for us and the neighbors to collect money for these children. He enlisted several friends who would also contribute money, food and tutoring for these kids. He went on-line and collected over $5,000 in three months, set up a peer-to-peer tutoring service for needy kids and enlisted the help of neighbors to deliver all the food. He mowed lawns and planted native grasses for neighbors. Lately he decided to turn over his organization to a community group that will continue his efforts as he returns to school and study horticulture as his long-term goal. His mother and I were amazed at his leadership and the gifts he gave to all the neighborhood. Several of them have planted their own native gardens in their well-groomed yards. We knew he was a sensitive kid but not like this! We have no worries now about him being different as we see now how him being different can change the world. He is also a big hit with his siblings!

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Now these examples may sound too good to be true. But I want to assure you that they actually happened, even though I am not sure how they happened. I just think some big force just took over and brought everybody to a bigger view of life and what we are capable of when we trust a Higher Power. Perhaps a spark happened when the recovering alcoholic was caught off-guard by his friend’s refusal to give up on him and his friend’s humility to let him know that despite failing sobriety, he still has a larger purpose in life. Perhaps the husband’s dreams already existed in some unconscious way during the day, but he was too scared to embrace them and too proud to accept his own failings in the light of day. Perhaps the miracle of the sensitive child didn’t just begin from watching the TV program but from how the parents decided all along to accept him for being different and letting their son show his true colors. The divine parts of life happen to us when we show a willingness to receive these gifts and allow ourselves to trust in the uncertainty and joy of love. They often occur in magical moments of relationships when something just falls into place mysteriously is if it were predestined.

What blocks us from receiving grace?

We’ve lost our ability to wonder, and we think that people who believe in the unknowns of life have lost their mindLet us return to our earlier quote above about God always talking to us even when we turn deaf ears to his message. You don’t have to be religious, go to church or pray to God. You don’t even have to believe in God or give up your cynicism. All you have to do is be open to the unknown in your relationships to others and see where it takes you. Some of us give up on the ambiguities of life and love. We only trust what we can clearly see, hear, explain, and trust. We’ve lost our ability to wonder, and we think that people who believe in the unknowns of life have lost their mind. Many of us would never embrace native American spiritual practices or poetry. Yet a good portion of the world does embrace the subjective experiences of life and its daily practices in their lives. Mostly we don’t want to yield to a Higher Power because we don’t want to feel foolish and betrayed as we were in our childhood. Our first experiences of the Divine are through our early attachment to our parents. They were our Gods for better or worse. If those relationships let us down, then it is much harder today to believe in a Spiritual World.

It is a myth to think that we don’t need God in our life. Each of us, at some point in our life, faces difficulties that are bigger than ourselves. If we have an active relationship to a Divine Presence, we will undoubtedly face many of those painful experiences. God does not spare us from pain but at least we don’t have to face the pain alone. We can and will get succor in our transcendent connections to God through others. We will never be alone. Sometimes we even get saved by those connections without knowing how that happened.

How can you recognize your great spirit?

Being in touch with your Higher Power takes more than dialing him up on your cell phone. Each of us have his or her unique way of relating to a Great Spirit. Some of the ways that you can detect something bigger than life is happening in your life is when:

Your connections to fellow recovering people become more important to you than your addictive cravings and you begin losing your cravings.

  • You give up trying to control another person and let the universe take you to where things need to go.
  • You feel gratitude regularly for all the caring people in your life and you express your thanks to them.
  • You notice someone you stereotype or dislike and give that person a chance in your life, trying to see what may be good about this person and you find something you like in them.
  • You begin to see the bigger picture in a conflict between you and another person and you patch things up with that person.
  • You develop some deeper empathy towards someone who has harmed you and you forgive that person.
  • You find ways to forgive yourself by atoning to others whom you have hurt and seeing your personal failings in a more accepting light.
  • You show compassion to people who are different from you and see things from their point of view as you slowly become closer to them.
  • You pay attention to your dream life and develop some awareness of their personal meaning to you.
  • You develop a knack for seeing deeper strengths in yourself and other people and make that more important than their weaknesses.
  • You find connections with others that go beyond practical considerations and make ties to people you typically would not befriend.
  • You spend moments of prayer and self-reflection and have revelations that make you a bigger person.
  • You open yourself to the transcendent aspects of life, having chance experiences with strangers that are mutually significant.
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When you become aware of something happening in your life that is bigger than yourself be sure to savor that experience and share it with someone you trust. Your confidante may also share similar experiences that he or she has had. Hang on to the memory of your spiritual awakening in your own life journey. You can become so adept at these realizations that God may speak to you daily and often. The more open you are to the Divine, the more often God will talk with you and securely guide your daily life.

How to kindle your own spiritual life

Once again all I can do is share what I do to foster my own spiritual life and you can adapt from it what will help your own. I like to reflect each day on how well I am doing on being a bigger person or not. I sometimes ask the Great Spirit directly to help me see myself more honestly and I ask my wife to give me feedback. I simply listen and don’t argue with the feedback. Sometimes I have to sleep on things over night and they come to me during the night or morning, often in a dream state. I think of God as an important part of myself, whose presence can comfort and challenge me. I enjoy sharing spiritual reflections with others from my church and I gain from helping them with their personal struggles. It took many attempts in my church shopping to find a spiritual home that sits well with me.

Actually, what I find is the more you express caring for others, especially to people you feel close to or to people you don’t like very much, the more likely you can experience a Divine presence between you and others. Something magical happens when you are kind to strangers. You find you have a kindred heart with someone who is very different from you and someone who can give you no practical benefit in knowing them. It’s like you connect to that person through God and you both get a jolt from knowing each other, even if it is short-lived. There are good books on this topic: Why Good Things Happen to Good People (Broadway Books, 2007) by Stephen Post, Ph.D. and Jill Neimark and The Soul of the Indian (Compass Circle, 2019) by Charles Alexander Ohiyesa Eastman.

Over time I have found that the more I dedicate myself to caring for others the more I find the Great Spirit residing there for me to receive Him. In fact, the Divine Presence is all over the place, more than I could ever have thought possible. Thank you for the privilege of sharing this time with me. I wish you well on your journey to seek God.

John H. Driggs, LICSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in St. Paul and co-author of Intimacy Between Men (Penguin Books, 1990). He can be reached at 651-699-4573.

Last Updated on May 13, 2021

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