I’ve been learning a lot about myself in 12 Steps. I learned that I hugely fear people that threaten my sense of security, and I try to avoid this potential threat by withdrawing from people who might hurt me or else being so competent that no one will ever want to hurt me. Then I realized that I was playing out this exact pattern with God, and that my distance from him these last few months has largely been because I’m very scared he’s out to hurt me.
The other night, I decided to bite the bullet and open myself up to talking with God in a real way for the first time in a long time. I had this imaginary conversation (some might call it prayer, but I’m a doubting doubter who doubts, so there’s all my cards on the table):
Me: I TRIED to get close to you, God. I was going to read through the whole Bible, but Leviticus, God? It sucks! You’re awful to your own people!! What are you going to do to me? If I make one mistake, are you going to send my family members after me with machetes? You want too much! You just want and want and want, and it’s never enough!
Me: Okay, fine. You tell me. What DO you want?
God: Be with me.
Me: That sounds like a fake thing that I just want you to say.
God: Be still and know that I am God.
Me: Just be…and know you? For what purpose?
God: This is a relationship, Tricia.
Me: So knowing and being known is the whole point? So…who are you?
The next step is about getting to the root of my character flaw (believing that I can prevent myself from harm by either withdrawing or being competent). I pretty quickly remembered a conversation from childhood in which a person who didn’t usually show me attention DID show me attention because of something smart that I said. I’ve been chasing people’s attention through being smart ever sense.
Again, this led back to God.
Me: I just want everyone to love me! And the only way I know how to do that is to be so smart and useful that they have to. I don’t think I can have their attention any other way.
Me: …You’re right. I don’t believe that I can have your attention unless I perform well for you.
Me: Because it’s usually true with people!
God: What if it’s not true with me?
Me: That feels way too scary to risk, because if I’m right about this and I try another way, then you’re going to hate me and punish me.
God: Who am I to you?
Me: Fickle. Impossible to please.
God: Is that true?
Me: I honestly don’t know.
And that’s where I’m at! I still don’t trust God, but we’re finally talking about it, so that’s major progress. Ugh, listen to that. “Progress”? What an action-oriented word to describe a relationship. I want everything to be progress and growth and productivity. What I’m trying to learn is that maybe I can have a loving relationship with God even without all of those things.
It’s a hard habit to kick.