There is Power in powerlessness. That’s the paradox of God’s ways. If you didn’t hear Kenny Green’s talk at Gateway Church this Sunday, listen to it here: www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast. Kenny was a meth addict for 10 years, yet has now been clean 10 years and is leading Serve and Recovery for South/Central Austin. He talked about how pride kept him stuck 10 years in a life-destroying pattern until he finally let go of his pretense of control. In this series we are thinking through the 12 Steps of Recovery, applied to Christians.
Step 1 – “We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.” ~ 12 Steps
We all have areas where pride blinds us and we stubbornly fight to prove we’re in control. But that’s not just true for meth addicts, that’s true of many church leaders and “good Christian people.” In fact, I’ve come to believe that addicts who are so obviously destroying their lives are at an advantage to us “good religious people.” Why? Because all of us have the same root problem. Oftentimes, it takes “good religious people” way more than 10 years to see how this is destroying their lives or the lives of those around them. Isn’t that why the “good religious people” of Jesus day crucified Him? They didn’t “have eyes to see” what they were blind to.
You Have a Problem
What’s the root of all our problems? It’s not just that we drink too much, or take meth, or lust, or look at porn, or overeat, or bury ourselves in TV or video games or shopping, or try to control people so that our business or even church goes our way—those are all just symptoms. Those symptoms are coping mechanisms to deal with fear, anger, hurt, loneliness, frustration, rejection, shame, guilt, or feelings of worthlessness. Good religious people have the hardest time seeing that something’s wrong—addicts are at a huge advantage. So let me help you. Here are some of the signs that our Pride is blinding us and we need to take Step 1:
Irritation and Frustration
Do you find yourself easily irritated at people around you? Maybe the world says you’ve got it made—you have all the power and control. Yet you’re often frustrated or irritated or impatient with people around you. We’re resentful; we snap at our family members or people close to us and try to fix them. Why do we feel so insistent that the universe and all those around us obey our will and ways? Why can’t we be at peace trusting God with things beyond our control?
Defensiveness and Blame
Why do we feel attacked so often? Why do we feel the need to “explain,” or “make sure they understand what’s really going on?” Do you find you get defensive and need to argue your case? Why? Why is it so important to make sure they understand? Or let me put it another way, why do you try to control what they think about you? And if you fear something will reflect poorly on you, do you have “reasons to give?” Blaming the circumstance or other people? Maybe even telling little white lies to paint a picture just a bit more favorable to help their impression of you? But why spend so much energy? What’s the problem, really? Don’t you want to be free of need to prove yourself to anyone?
Fear and Anger and Shame
Do you sometimes feel an unconscious fear rise up? Fear of being found out? Fear of being cast out? It’s almost a panic, but you can’t pinpoint why—it’s not logical. Or you get unbelievably angry when people say or do certain things—they “make you feel” so worthless. It angers you because you’re powerless over these feelings. Unfortunately, these feelings often get taken out on those you love. But why do you fight to control these feelings when you can’t?
Addicted to me
All these things are signs that we’re struggling to “let go” of something. We’re fighting to remain powerful instead of admitting we’re powerless. At the core, all of us have a problem. Most “good religious people” believe this: “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). Yet we still fight to be in control. The root of all our problems is that we’re all addicted to ourselves.
Just consider about how much time you spend thinking about yourself—what you think about me, what I want to do today, what my will is for this situation, my goals, your understanding of me, your perception about what a good person I am, how to get you to change your ways for me, how to make things align with how they “should be” according to me. This is the root.
Good religious people can see the symptoms and signs, but go for years without admitting powerlessness: “I’m not God. I can’t control how people feel or think about me. I can’t control my fear of the future. I can’t control how things go to assure I’m worth something. I can’t control even my own feelings about this stuff.”
I think that’s what Jesus was getting at in the sermon on the mount with “blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn.” It’s the paradox of God’s Kingdom—His Power and His Freedom only come to those who give up trying to be in control of things only God can control.