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Forever an Addict?
“The Christian often tries to forget his weakness; God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it; God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness; Christ teaches His servant to say, 'I take pleasure in infirmities. Most gladly ...will I...glory in my infirmities' (2 Cor. 12:9)' The Christian thinks his weaknesses are his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God; God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, 'My strength is made perfect in weakness”
― Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ: The Joy of Being in God's Presence
“Hi, my name is Shane and I am recovering sex, love, and pornography addict.”
Several times a week, I begin my share at recovery meetings with these words. When I was first introduced to the 12 Step program of recovery, my religious sensibilities were offended by statements like that. After all, my theology stated that I am a new creation. My identity is found as a born again Christian. Identifying as an addict, even one in recovery, seemed to be the opposite of what I understood to be true about my faith and my place within it.
The problem was my theology never helped me recover.
When I got serious about my recovery in 2013, I had to surrender to the reality that I was holding to “a belief in magical thinking, believing that God will “fix me” if my beliefs, actions, and desires are holy or theologically correct.**” For me, only identifying with my identity as a Christian was a form of denial. I was unable or unwilling to admit that I was also human.
The tradition of self-identifying with our addiction can be seen by some as an act of self-defeating behavior. Somehow, they view that in admitting we are addicts we are denying the power of God to transform our lives. Doing so is a statement of defeat, not victory or one made by an overcomer.
I think that is the point.
My dear friend who has been in AA recovery for over 30 years, still identifies as a grateful, recovering alcoholic. He understands the spiritual life promoted by recovery begins on the foundation of ongoing surrender. Acknowledging in steps one through three that there is a God and it is not us allows us to stop living life our way and cede our lives over to the care of God. In recovery work, we choose to remember what we have been “saved” from while cooperating with God to change us both at once and over time.
That sounds a lot like steps ten and eleven.
True recovery thrives in the reality that when we admit we are weak, our Higher Power is strong. Acknowledging that recovery is both an event and a process is liberating. We see it modeled in the life of the Apostles who were both changed by the Holy Spirit but experienced character defects afterward (Hello Peter showing preference to the Jewish crowd). Admitting we are in recovery for (fill in the blank) is not a permission slip to relapse, it is a statement of strength.
In all things related to God, we are blessed by the great “inversion” of His economy. The way to be comforted is through offering comfort, the way to receive understanding is to grant it to another, and the way to experience love is to offer love. The way to be free of addiction is to admit that we are addicts who are in need of the power of God to transform us today…and tomorrow…and the next.
Now that is good news!
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