upon visiting the alcoholics anonymous meeting in my neighborhood, i felt like i had been punched in the chest. i was stunned by the naked authenticity and i saw several things i desperately wished the church would/could incorporate. the first is the fact that the meeting did not have a leader.
the second is the way they own their problem.
commenting on yesterday’s post, my buddy, tony, wrote: “…it starts with a willingness to express the fact that we have a need/issue/struggle…There has to be some level of vulnerability that says – “I am just like you…no better…no worse… I need saving… every day.” that absolutely nails what i saw. as each person around the table introduced themselves and shared their particular struggle, i was astounded by their honesty. a few were trying to quit drinking. one guy was court-ordered to attend. several had been sober for years, but spoke of their perpetual need for the meeting. one guy spoke, near the end of the evening, in a voice barely above a whisper. he told how his drinking had cost him his job, his family, and his dignity. i wept as he tried to describe the hold alcohol had on his life. when he finished talking, i wanted to hug this stranger and tell him everything was going to be okay (that’s what i would’ve done in church), but it wasn’t. and he would’ve known i didn’t know what i was talking about.
aa is based on the twelve steps, a “set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction” (if you’ve never read the twelve steps, you should). they are chronological in nature in that the addict is supposed to finish step one before moving on to step two, and then, after completing step two, move on to step three. step one is a nuclear bomb. it says…
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
i watched a group of strangers sit around a table and confess that they were broken beyond repair, and i was devastated. i walked into that meeting a card-carrying, ordained evangelical minister–thinking i pretty well had it together–and was crushed by the profound honesty in that room. it rendered me undone.
i asked myself, “what if we did that at church? what if we started every meeting by standing–every single one of us, individually, one-by-one–and stating emphatically ‘my name is randy, and i’m a sinner’? what if we owned our sin problem like these alcoholics own their addiction?” if we all put ourselves out there (like tony says, “I am just like you..no better…no worse”) with brutal honesty, could we then begin to meet each other’s needs? what if we ruthlessly refused to put on masks?
what a pipe dream.