The sense of being suddenly connected with an abiding unconditionally loving presence is a common claim by those who have had Near Death Experiences (NDEs). Here are are a couple of examples:
The most amazing part was the pure feeling of the most intense love I can barely describe. It was just wave after wave of pure love. It was within me, it was around me, it was everything. Nicholas BD
I felt the unspeakable, all-encompassing, unconditional love of God for me. It felt really personal and because of its unconditional character, it is almost incomprehensible. To the point where I thought ‘All this love for me? Who am I?’…The moment I finished that thought, I was instantly ‘swallowed up’ by this amazing love. ‘I’ was completely Gone! There was nothing but love. No me, no God: just eternal, incomprehensible, indescribable, total, complete, absolute LOVE!(10 Life-Changing Lessons from Heaven pg. 27-28, Jeff Janssen, Life Lessons from Heaven publishers, 2020)
Although more gradual, and arguably less dramatic, I have experienced a connection to God that is similar to these near-death experiencers in my recovery from alcoholism. There has been a growing sense that I am connected to something eternal, and through Him to everything else, and this has characterized my recovery.
This connection is dynamic, almost like I have been plugged into the power that bridged me to recovery. This power was not just my imagination. It was tangible, like getting wet after falling into the water. The experience of love and power was very real like I had fallen into energy and was encompassed by it. I was in it and it was in me.
Although there is work involved in recovery that seems initially difficult and intimidating, eventually I came to see that the work was really in just letting go of things that blocked this connection to God. Like releasing weights so I could float instead of sinking. You don’t float because of effort, our effort often actually causes us to sink. I was sinking because I was holding onto weights that blocked my natural tendency to float. As I released more weights, through humbling myself, I started to float more effortlessly.
I believe that this ocean of energy is Love, and I believe that it is not just something we experience, it is something we are intended to be part of. We are completed in it. Love is more like something I am now, something I just know about because God is love and I am in Him.
Consequently, His commandments are neither burdens nor accomplishments. They are not sacrifices to fulfill or trophies to be earned, only signs that God is in me and working through me. The things that weigh me down, are the things that separate us from our connection to Him and others. As I have learned to let go of these weights more quickly, with less resistance, I have learned to float more easily.
I believe fear is the opposite of love. According to the apostle John, “Perfect Love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) Fear separates us from God and others, which causes us to be even more afraid. Accordingly, fear is the product of itself. If perfect love casts out all fear, the absence of love would equate to perfect fear. But I believe this sense of separation is only an illusion. God is actually always there and through Him, we are connected to everything and everyone else. The sins we commit against God and each other, driven by various dimensions of this fear, only perpetuate the illusion of separation.
The apple gets undue attention in the story of humanity’s fall from Grace. Although the fruit was the object of human rebellion, the real fall occurred as the result of our acquaintance to the knowledge of good and evil, the subsequent loss of innocence, and the sense of separation that this loss imposed. Although it is the evil part that is most commonly emphasized by religion today, Genesis clearly states that it was a tree of good and evil. In other words, humans did not know good either.
I believe humanity lived in the love and goodness of God, before this fall, the way a fish lives in water. Fish are oblivious to the presence of water but without it, they would be helpless. We were similarly dependent on God and connected by His love and goodness.
This knowledge of good and evil and the subsequent loss of innocence, the illusion of separation, and the prideful false delusion that we could earn goodness, separate from God, introduced us to fear. This fear led, of course, to failure, desperation, shame, emptiness and greater levels of fear, in numerous forms. I believe hell, if there is one, is filled with souls still desperately pursuing this connection in futile ways, even in death, filled with self inflicted fear. I hope there isn’t one.
I see so much failure today, in and out of recovery, that people are bringing on themselves in a desperate attempt to be good enough on their own. Vain efforts to be good enough or rich enough, or good looking enough, or skinny enough, or popular enough, or righteous enough.
Sadly, like poor farmers tirelessly working land that is resting on untapped oil, they endlessly pursue something they already possess. God never leaves us, but in our perceived separateness, we leave Him. Then, we proceed to chase things that falsely offer the sense of connection only He can provide. These false connections and the hopelessness or shame that accompany them subconsciously enhance the sense that we are growing further and further from God. Which only increases the desperation for connection. It is a vicious circle of restless discontent.
For most people, this discontent is managed in a state of quiet desperation. For some this desperation is more obvious than for others but it is there for all, sometimes quiet and sometimes loud. But for alcoholics, it is always loud and often public. We leave an obvious wake as we ride roughshod through the lives of innocent friends and family members. When untreated, the alcoholic and many other hopeless victims are doomed. Few people are more desperate for the unconditional love and power of God.
My failure to control alcohol and the inability to meet my own standards of right and wrong made me into something I hated and was ashamed of. I was losing everything I loved and valued and doing heartless undeserved harm to those I honestly loved and cared for. It was difficult to even look in the mirror without shame. Ironically, my honest admission to this helpless desperate state was the thing that opened the doors to a magical connection to God that I could never have imagined possible. An all-encompassing unconditionally loving God.
Although I had had an experience with God before, my recovery experience has been different. Formerly, God was something that I felt inside, at various times in various degrees. I also believed He existed in heaven and hoped I would go there one day, but I still felt my connection to Him was blunted and blurred by this world. I think this is part of why I was drawn to the effects of alcohol.
But now, I feel Him on the inside and the outside too, like I am surrounded by Him. Like I am innocently swimming in Him, and we are one. The connection is no longer blurred or blunted. It is a mystical connection to the love, presence, and power of God that has gradually set me free from the paralyzing grip of alcohol. It has also opened me to a world of freedom, mystery, and power that I never dreamed existed.
Because of this spiritually transformative experience, I have become very interested in the accounts of people having near-death experiences. I relate to the connection they have experienced with God and the way it has impacted their life and changed their priorities.
I too have changed greatly. I no longer think and hope there is a God, I know there is. What people who experienced NDE’s saw with their eyes I have seen with my heart, and I have seen it in the loving actions of people in recovery. Fear, no longer shapes my priorities and death no longer scares me. I live for today, in the moment, and see every day as a miracle of connection to God and others, in His unconditional incomprehensible love.
Click here if you missed Part One of Tim’s three-part series on the three lessons he learned during his recovery from alcoholism. In this installment he explains the power of powerless.
Or click here to read Part Two on living in heaven now.