We begin this month a new sermon series with a focus on spirituality and the Twelve-Step program. This is based on Richard Rohr’s book Breathing Under Water. Rohr sees the connection between the 12-step program of the Alcoholics Anonymous, the Christian faith and the mission of Jesus to help bring us to wholeness. Even though not all of us are addicted to alcohol, we tend to have addictions to behaviors, routines, and ideas that often keep us stuck on the spiritual journey. Rohr writes, “When we learn to identify our addiction, embrace our brokenness, and surrender to God, we begin to bring healing to ourselves and our world.”
Through this sermon series, I hope to invite us to journey together into the deep waters of faith where we are honest, awake, and open to healing. It is much easier to stay in the shallow or surface parts of life. But if we are to grow and become the people God created us to be, we must be willing to learn how to navigate the experiences that call us into the deep where we trust God’s grace to carry through. Most of our addictive behaviors/thoughts are illusory attempts to keep us safe or happy. They often become ingrained in us that we are unaware of how they limit us. Even our faith in God and belief systems could become tools that hinder our ability to access our hidden agendas, motivations, and fears.
Rohr writes, “We cannot stop the drowning waters of our addictive culture from rising, but we must at least see our reality for what it is, seek to properly detach from it, and build ‘a coral castle’ and learn to breathe under water.” And that is precisely why Rohr challenges Christians to enter deeply into their pain and to learn specific ways to emerge with more trust and more faith. He sees the 12-steps as an intentional process for healing for all of us, not as a way to earn God’s grace, but as away to accept and live in that freedom and grace. Rohr’s book is based on this poem by Carol Bieleck called “Breathing Under Water” listed here.
Pastor Roula Alkhouri
Breathing Under Water
I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.
And then one day,
-and I still don’t know how it happened –
the sea came.
Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting
across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning
and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher,
till it reached my door.
And I knew, then, there was neither flight,
nor death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling,
you stop being neighbors,
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbors,
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.