God speaks to me.
I don't mean that I hear voices. I believe God speaks to me through other people, and I can recognize him if I listen.
For example when I was in high school, the mother of a good friend wrote a book called "The Cracker Factory." It was a semi-autobiographical novel about an alcoholic and her journey to recovery in AA.
The book was published in the late 1970s, I guess. I found a copy at a yard sale or used book store several years ago and bought it, though it sat on my bookshelf, unread, for years. When I was new in Al-Anon, I pulled it down and reread it.
In it, was a conversation between the main character and her mother. It was, almost verbatim, a conversation I had just had with my daughter. The character went on to say how that conversation had made her feel. How it had hurt her. I had no idea. It was a moment of clarity. I believe that was God putting in front of me just what I needed to see, when I was ready to see it.
Sometimes God speaks to me in Al-Anon meetings, though what I hear is not always what the speaker intended.
Last Monday, a man in my group was talking about detaching from his mother. "Grace was calling," he said. "But I didn't answer the phone." He went on: "Grace called about eight times, and I ignored it."
Now, I know he was talking about his mother. But all I could here were the words: Grace was calling and I didn't pick up the phone. How many times have I done that? Eight times? Eight hundred?
But the mysterious thing about grace is that we have to be ready to hear.
Blindness can be a form of grace. In taking inventory of my life, there are things that seem clear to me now that I was completely oblivious to at the time. Yet, if I had seen the situation clearly, it would have hurt me. I understood them only after I had some perspective.
But usually, it's just me refusing to pick up the phone. Thinking I had all the answers. Stubbornly going my own way despite the signs. A woman I interviewed recently said: "When you are doing the things you are supposed to be doing, the universe will reward you and support you. And if you are doing what you are not supposed to be doing, the universe will send you increasingly more understandable messages that you are not doing the right thing. And if you push, it doesn't help. Pushing doesn't make it so. That's the art of life."
I've pushed most of my life and pretended it was so. I toiled in a job I hated and was never going to be good at for years. It felt like pushing a rock up a hill. Then I found journalism, and opportunities seemed to find me with little effort on my part. I found what I was supposed to be doing. The universe rewarded me and supported me. Today, I call that Grace.
Al-Anon taught me to listen. When someone says something that rings a bell inside, I pause to consider it. When opportunities come my way, I'm less likely to decline, even if it's something I don't think I'm interested in. I've learned that in my life that God's surprises are always better than my plans. Take my husband.
For years, I looked for the perfect man. I had a list against which I measured every man I had a relationship with. But all my relationships felt difficult, and ended badly. Then I threw away my list. Instead I prayed for God to send me the man he intended for me. I accepted every offer for a date, even if I were sure this man was definitely not the one. And that's how I began to date my husband.
He didn't have any of the qualities on my list. Then something clicked. The phone was ringing, and this time I heard it. We've been happily married for seven years now.
Same thing with Al-Anon. God placed Al-Anon in my path three times before it stock. Through it all, it's been clear to me that I've seldom known what was best for me, but God did. And my life is easier if I just stay on the line.