My friend Richie, whom I have never met in person, challenged me last week to write about “matching calamity with serenity.” This is a partial quote taken from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The full quote is:
Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.
That sentence has truthfully never stood out to me, and it always amazes me how each time I read that book or hear an excerpt read in a meeting, I find more meaning and depth in it. If you are not in recovery, it is still worth reading. There are jewels in there that can help anybody get over hardships. Anyway, I digress.
I googled the phrase to see what else came up. Jared Akers from jaredakers.com has a You Tube video about “matching calamity with serenity.” That got me thinking.
What jumps out for me is that line from the Promises which reads “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.” I remember hearing those Promises read early on in recovery and was just dying to know how to handle situations that were baffling me at that time. I always made them worse or I just fell apart in general. The first time I “intuitively handled” a situation and remained calm, I was stunned. That was when I began to see the Promises in a new light. They were real. It was not marketing material.
The Big Book was written in the 30s, so the language is a bit different. Calamity is not necessarily a word used in popular vernacular today. The definition of calamity is:
So, we’re not talking about a small problem. Calamity is a big problem. My divorce was a calamity. And, thankfully, I did know how to handle it with a little help from my friends and a lot of help from God. I intuitively sought out MORE connection, LESS chaos and MORE self-care. I intuitively knew that going out and finding another man or moving to a new city or using substances would not help me. But, the intuition came as a result of the TRAINING that I had received in good times. I had developed habits and behaviors that calmed me and soothed me, that gave back to me, and that made me feel part of a greater plan. So, when calamity struck-and it always will-I intuitively knew what to do.
The Promises even state that “they will always materialize if we work for them.” It doesn’t say they will materialize if we pray really hard and ask God to give us this knowledge, although that’s a piece of it. It doesn’t say that you will get them if you attend meetings every week. It says if we “work” for them. I am a trainer by trade. I know that when you practice a skill and make mistakes and do it again, you begin to internalize the skill. It’s the same thing with a spiritual path. There’s a reason that most spiritual paths have literature and ritual and ways to fellowship and connect with other people. These are the “actions” that help you grow. These are the “work” that has to be performed to create change and build character. I haven’t found it easy nor have I found it fun. But, once the initial year or so was under my belt, the behaviors did become habit and then became just a part of the way I live. Now, the Promises really have begun to come true. And, for that, I will be eternally grateful.
I’ll leave you today with the Promises of AA.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.