Last night I was invited to share my testimony at the Celebrate Recovery group that meets at our church. It's very similar to AA in its format, but instead of a higher power and the Big Book, it it is an atmosphere that speaks of Jesus as God and the Bible as the book we lean into ultimately. (Just so you know, I think AA is powerful and has a place in society that is so important. The majority won't go to church and if Jesus and the Bible came into the picture directly, they would run for the hills. So just know, I'm an AA fan.)
It's sorta strange on the one hand going to CR to share my hurts, hangups, habits that are in need of recovery since I'm the lead pastor. It's not weird for me, but I think it's often weird for others to imagine that I have dark thoughts and deep wounds and depressed feelings and demented perspectives that are toxic. Not just once in a while, but on a regular basis. I require repentance and recovery and restoration like anyone else. I have my junk. I have my embarrassing moments. I have my skanky skeletons.
The meeting started and a man stood up to read through the "steps" of recovery and we read them aloud. There is a solidarity even with strangers as you admit your life is unmanageable apart from the realization that you need God. There is a peace in confessing your fragility and brokenness in unison with men and women that are there precisely because they are needy. Many of them have nowhere to go but up they are so low. I stood there finding solace in an atmosphere created to give everyone permission to take off the mask and tell it like it is not as we wished it was.
After we worked through the steps and prayed, I was introduced. I wasn't introduced as Pastor Jason or the Lead Pastor of the church we were sitting in...I was just introduced as Jason who had a story to tell all his own about his journey toward recovery. I was a person there, not a pastor. I wasn't there to preach; I was there to come clean. My identity was my name and the story it represented. Without further ado I was standing in front of maybe 20 people or so sharing my struggles and stressors. I shared my escapes and my numbing agents. I shared my deep need for redemption and how desperate my situation was, is, and will always be but for God's patient and passionate love for me rescuing me from me every moment of every day. I told them things that I haven't even told some of my closest friends or extended family. The environment almost pulled stuff out of me that I hadn't considered myself until that very moment. It's funny how humans can assess very quickly their habitat and what that surrounding will allow for...it either grants permission to "go there" or to "stay there". My spirit lurched forward as fellow strugglers nodded their head in agreement and affirmation almost as if to say, "Been there...done that."
After I shared my story in front of the whole group we split up into a men's group and the women went their way. We started by introducing ourselves and some of the guys started their introduction by saying, "My name is so and so and I'm a grateful child of God who struggles with such and such." Guy after guy started with that same line. "A grateful child of God". There is honesty and then there is HONESTY. There is sharing and then there's SHARING. This went deep quick. Nothing to hide. Nothing to lose. Nothing to fear. Here I am warts and all.
I found such safety in the presence of brokenness. Some shared about addictions to sex, alcohol, or drugs. Some confessed battles with depression, anxiety and paranoia. Others talked about wrestling with being controlling, angered, and resentful. No stuttering or stammering...it just poured out almost unpremeditated and unmediated. I'm not used to that. It makes you want more of that in life. There is such freedom in the presence of freedom. Maybe that's why Paul says in Galatians 5:1 - "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." The reason is also the destination. The hope is also the help.
I've been toying with the idea that I may need that group in my life. They don't need me as much as I need them. I need a place of unadulterated truth where the shell is shed and the soul escapes the trappings of pleasant presentation.
I'm a broken man in constant need of recovery.