The Second Step reads “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” It gets a lot of attention because of that “power greater than ourselves” part, but not so much about the “believe” part.
Just what does it mean to believe? We throw the term around a lot, and it means different things at different times. Take “I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows,” for example. Hundreds of billions of raindrops fall from one big thunderstorm. If the statement were true we’d be inundated with flowers, even if they were tiny ones, and no one who’s given the idea much thought really believes that. (Nice poetry, though.)
Then there’s the fact that I believe that the Earth is a globe, similar in shape to the one in my office. I don’t know that, but I’ve seen enough information leading to that conclusion that I believe it anyway. Many others do, as well. They, and I, have faith in all that information. We believe the people who tell us that the Earth is not flat.
Now, let’s say that I show you my fist and tell you there’s a jewel in my hand.
If you know that I’m a jeweler, you might believe me, but if you also know that I’m a big practical joker, you might have your doubts. If I’m a stranger, you’ll not only doubt me, you’ll likely assume that I’m pulling some sort of scam. But let’s say that you believe me. Does that mean that I have a jewel in my hand? Absolutely not! Belief, and even faith, prove nothing; they simply provide an often useful, but sometimes misleading, window through which we view our world.
But now I open my hand, and you see a beautiful cut stone — I do, in fact, have a jewel! Now belief and faith are beside the point; you know that I have a jewel in my hand, and knowing is quite different from both faith and believing. It renders them superfluous. You no longer believe. You no longer have faith. You know!
That’s the thing about the program. In order to get started, we have to believe that this process — this “power greater than ourselves” will restore to us the sanity and wholeness that have been hiding from us, in some cases, for our entire lives. But once the Steps begin to work, once we feel the sanity and wholeness beginning to return, we know that the program works, and that we will recover as long as we keep working it. To start with, we have to come to believe — to have faith and hope — that we’ve found the answer, but it’s the knowing that keeps us sober. The knowing is the miracle of recovery.
Don’t quit before the miracle happens!