The Problem with “Letting Go and Letting God”

22 05 2012

Tuesday Re-mix -

Step 3: We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

Applying step 3 to our particular addiction (the addiction to self-reliance), feels a little bit like comedian Steve Martin’s simple process for becoming a millionaire…Step 1: go and get a million dollars.

For those of us who are addicted to self-reliance and independence, “turning your life over to God” has always been a bit of a troublesome concept.  Oh, it’s easy enough to say…and it was easy enough to do when we were 7 years old at children’s camp and our “life” consisted of  a bike, a broken G.I. Joe and an annoying little brother, all of which we would gladly “turn over to God” in exchange for Heaven.  Moreover, even the concept of turning our “will” over to God seemed like a small price to pay at the time, given the reward of spending eternity in Heaven with all the donuts and sports we could ever want (what? you didn’t get that promise in your package?).

But it didn’t take long to start growing up and watching our “stuff” and our wills expand to cover a great deal more territory.  Then, the desire for the applause of men and the insecurities which were beginning to haunt us caused us to turn more and more inward and to take more short-cuts and to work harder to control the environment around us in order to survive.  The more we strove to control our environment, the harder it became and the deeper our “addiction” became.  Interestingly, the better we got at being independent, the worse we got at actually relying on God…and now, when we hear preachers and church friends talk about “letting go and letting God”, we nod politely as if agreeing, but we don’t really get it.  Not really.

We don’t get it because we just have a hard time really trusting God (or even more so, God’s people) to meet our pressing physical and emotional needs.  Spiritual needs, sure…no problem there.  But the more practical things like finances and health and children and jobs and success and sexual desires and ambition and…well, you know the list…all those things we would rather handle ourselves.  We will gladly give God our Sundays (at least a few hours of them), but turning to God otherwise is a last resort for us.  It is what we do when there is literally nothing else we can do.  We know (intellectually) that God loves us and has our best interests at heart, but we just are not sure we wouldn’t rather handle these practical concerns ourselves.

So, for those of us in this particular group, step 3 in the 12-step process is more than just a next step in the recovery process…it feels an awful lot like the complete cure for our addiction!  No small step.  Forgive me, then, if I scoff a little at this “next step”.  I haven’t yet found the secret to really nailing this one down.  Have you?  Care to share?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Beginnings…the Birth of an Addiction to Self-Reliance

24 04 2012

Tuesday Re-mix -

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.

One of the ways I know I am not yet ready for even the first step of recovery (“STEP 1: Admit that you are powerless over your addiction…that your life has become unmanageable”) is that I am still looking for ways to fix my own addiction.  The “fixer” in me says, “If I can trace my addiction back to its inception and therefore know how it started, then I can stop it.”  Do you see how insidious addiction is?  Even my own attempts to heal myself betray me.  I will never be able to admit that I am powerless over my addiction to self-reliance as long as I keep telling myself that I can fix it!  And so I am asking your indulgence.  Sit back and have yourself a good laugh as I delve into my past to try to figure out where this addiction to self-reliance all started.

For me, I think it started when I was just a child going to Sunday School.  We would bring our offering in these little pink envelopes that the church printed for us.  They had our names on them.  On the front of them, they also had a little checklist of things a “good” Christian does.  I could check off the ones I had done that week.  “Present”, check. “Bible brought”, check.  “Tithe”, check.  “Contact made”…that meant calling or visiting someone and talking about God or Jesus or church or something spiritual…I could almost always think of sometime during the week I had used the word “God” in a sentence, so…check.  And so it began.  I became more interested in fulfilling these outward appearances than with actually growing.  It was like I was interviewing for a job as the perfect model Christian.  And the church rewarded me for it…it actually enabled that dysfunction.  I became more concerned with LOOKING the part of a Christian than actually GROWING as a Christian.  And here is the twist: once outward appearances became the priority, privacy and self-reliance likewise became absolutely critical.  After all, how could I ever look “good” to my church friends if I let them know my flaws and my failures? (And, by the way, the more “perfect” I convinced them I was, the more pressure they felt to portray the same perfection…we actually enabled each other’s addiction).

It is really not hard to see how it began.  It is actually much more difficult to figure out how it must all end…to envision what rock bottom must look like in order for me to admit I have a problem and that I am powerless to overcome it.  Must I become morally bankrupt in order to admit that I need accountability?  Must I find myself friendless and alone in order to come to grips with my need for community?  Oh, I hope not!

I suppose “rock bottom” is that point at which I finally and fully realize that, without Godly friends, I have no chance at all of ever becoming the man God wants me to be.  If the first step is admitting that, then the preparation for the first step somehow involved identifying where it all started.  “Preparation”, check.  Next week…STEP 1.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Anonymity Anonymous: Recovery from My Addiction to Self-reliance

17 04 2012

Tuesday Re-mix -

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:15-25 (selections)

“My name is Blake.  And I am an anonymity addict.”

I am thinking further about the notion that the American  culture has become addicted to anonymity and that the church must choose whether it will “enable” that addiction or be a place of healing from it.  This healing, I believe, is an important objective for the church today.

The “addiction” manifests itself in me every time I find myself in trouble or in pain and the little voice inside me tells me to just keep it to myself, do not show anyone this weakness, do not trouble anyone with my problem, and definitely do not let anyone see my flaws or my brokenness.  All those words and phrases like “be a man” and “buck up” and “don’t be a whiner” rattle through my thoughts.  I take it to the Lord in prayer and I decide He and I can deal with it by ourselves.  But my theology betrays me, because other words and phrases also haunt me: “We were created for community” and “there are no lone ranger Christians” and “confess your sins one to another” and “carry one another’s burdens”.  And so this tension inside remains and, alas, I usually decide against community.  I decide to just stick it out, keep it inside, and deal with it that way.  In short, I know the right thing to do…but I choose otherwise.  That, my friends, is what addiction feels like!

Like any addiction, it spins out in a variety of ways in my life.  It’s not just about my brokenness and my flaws.  It is about how genuine intimacy with friends makes me a little uncomfortable.  It is about my preference not to be bothered by YOUR problems either.  It is about my desire to bury my head in the sand and to just see the people in my church as Godly Christ-followers and not as broken vessels.  It is about being comfortable, and clean and positive and pretending to be trouble-free.  It is about deception and pretense dressed up in “positive mental attitude” clothing.  It is profoundly and pervasively present in every area of my life.

So what is the pathway of healing for this addiction?  That is what we will explore in this series of Tuesday Re-mixes.

If this problem is truly an addiction, then the solution must also be a solution for addiction.  It must be Spiritual and it must be practical (I see those two things as always going together…for me, truly Spiritual experiences have an unmistakable practical feel).  What we need is a 12-step program for our addiction…one which emanates straight out of God’s Word.  It must be founded on the eternal truths of scripture and the power of the Spirit moving through God’s people.  And if we are truly serious about healing from this particular addiction, then we will need each other.  This will not work if it is just me and my thoughts.  I will need you and your thoughts as well.  We will need to do this together.

We will call it Anonymity Anonymous: a 12-step program for our addiction to self-reliance and anonymity.  We will form our own “little” group right here on this blog.  We’ll meet here every Tuesday for the next couple of months.  I’m looking forward to it.  How about you?  Are you in?  Can we do this together?  I hope so.  See you right here next Tuesday!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







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