Beginnings…the Birth of an Addiction to Self-Reliance

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
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5 responses to “Beginnings…the Birth of an Addiction to Self-Reliance”

  1. phariseeinrecovery Avatar

    Matthew 23:25 NIV
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

  2. Oh my!! I was not raised in a church which had “the list” on the envelope, but did have a “method” of reaching God. As an adult I became a member of a church with “the list” envelopes! Even as a born-again adult the list so intimidated me that I, too, wanted to look good on the outside! I could just imagine the office staff evaluating me as they opened the offering envelope and checking off how “good” I was! UGH!!! Gladly, my current church does not have the list envelopes, but it is a constant struggle to “be real” and trust that I will still be welcomed and loved. I look forward to the next part!

  3. phariseeinrecovery Avatar

    Luke 19:20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
    Here is the poster child of self reliance…the rich young ruler which is how churches trained me to be.

    Blake my apologies for double posting…could not help it : )

  4. Henry- Yep, this series is right in the middle of your own platform for your Facebook page (Pharisees-Anonymous). Thanks for your contribution here!

    Christine- In my case, I don’t blame the envelopes…I blame myself for being so self-centered and shallow in how I used them. That said, I do notice that most churches in my denomination have steered away from the “lists” now. 🙂

  5. Not so sure it is the “church” that infects us with “self-reliance” and such “lists.” It just gets transposed there from a culture that is awash in so many forms of “self-righteousness” never naming it of course as religion or anything like it, but we know it is. But make no mistake the transforming grace of Jesus does indeed transform us from “one degree of glory to the next.” Spiritual laziness is not a spiritual gift. Jesus was looking for “disciples,” ie. disciplined followers. I liken it to the beginning of a race at the starting line. When the gun goes off, everyone will know how the “disciplines” of the runners has gone over the last year. There’s no need to talk about how many intervals, how many miles, how many days one checked off the training regiment, the race will make that all too apparent. So it is with those who immerse themselves and cooperate with the grace of God. No need to hold up any score card. The disciplines are to prepare us for life’s course, that’s all. Educated in the art of fitness, when the body, mind, and Spirit are linked and focused everyday the body’s behavior actually changes, the heart, the lungs, the legs, I could go on and on, become fit for the task. Is it not so with the Spiritual journey? I think so. We’re not talking about “earning” any way to heaven. We’re talking about readiness and fitness for the journey. What I see in the training ground of churches is suspicious when “sin” becomes a “badge of honor.” Paul appears to have had it with the church at Rome when he said, “Should we sin that grace might abound?” Obviously we are perpetuating a reckless kind of so called faithfulness.