This week marks the three year anniversary of my blogged Confessions. When I began sharing my thoughts in 2016, I had no plan, imagination, or notion I would still be doing so three years later or any clue all of the twists, turns, bumps, hills, and surprises which lay ahead. I never truly intended to take the path I have now followed and never imagined I would oppose and disagree with so much I once held dear. I labeled myself a churchboy as the most accurate description of the life I lived and was leaving behind: a life of performance, a life of striving to achieve a standard often unspoken yet expected, a life of constantly comparing myself to others to ensure my efforts exceeded any they may put forth to please God. The churchboy moniker was not intended to identify one who attends church, to me it was simply a name to identify what I had become . . . a modern day religious expert concerned more with complying to rules and traditions rather than living with a humble and loving heart. Last year at this time, I took time to expound on my definition in What Is A Churchboy? This year I want to take a look at a different part of the blog title.
I’ve often heard those who have overcome addictions refer to themselves as a recovering addict. Even when interviewed after they’ve been clean or sober for twenty, thirty years or even longer, many still use the term. Per the definition above from Merriam-Webster, recovering is being in the process of overcoming a disorder or shortcoming. Does this mean they are still fighting the sames urges, battles, and temptations just as strongly as they once were? Is it indicative of a lack of growth or progress in their battle to put their demons behind them? Quite the contrary. They are not living in a defeated or pessimistic state of mind. It’s a point of humility, a reminder of who they once were, where they came from, the hills they’ve climbed and the valleys they’ve walked. It keeps the awareness alive in their mind of the possibility of slipping back into addiction and serves as a connecting point to others battling the same addictions which once held them captive. The term recovering sums up in a word the oft quoted phrase, “There but for the grace of God goes I.”
Being a recovering churchboy is a similar journey. Having been set free from a prison of religion, it’s easy to slip back into “religious” habits as the pendulum swings to the opposite extreme of what I once believed. If someone doesn’t value the freedom I’ve found but instead chooses to criticize, condemn, or attack these new-found freedoms and beliefs, the churchboy inside would seek to condemn them and lash out at them for being wrong and not truly understanding the gospel. As one who is now willing to admit vast uncertainty about many issues I once claimed absolute certainty on, I bristle when encountering others who remind me of my former self. It’s not always easy to avoid being just as harsh and critical as before of those displaying the same close-minded, smug, self-righteous attitude I once carried. Once again, the churchboy inside seeks to commend himself for now being more acceptable, more open, and more loving than he once was all the while refusing to be accepting, open, and loving with those who disagree with him. The long held churchboy tendencies to only associate with those who share similar beliefs and exclude all who disagree seek to rise to the surface but as one podcast host shared recently, “Exclusive inclusiveness is still exclusiveness.”
No one who has overcome an addiction desires to ever again become enslaved to the addiction which once held them captive. To lessen the likelihood of this happening, it often requires a complete change of life which could include anything from new hobbies or friends to help pass the time all the way to relocating to a new city. Likewise, I have no desire to return to the holier than thou, judgmental life of a churchboy. The key to overcoming the churchboy life also requires change. Our change comes through repentance. Repentance is a word thrown in Christian circles quite often to imply a time of great sorrow and remorse accompanied with tears and confession of shortcomings and sins committed. To define it in such a manner is short sighted and inaccurate. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it means a change of mind and according to Strong’s definition it means a reversal of one’s decision. For churchboys to recover it requires a change of mind to understand the Father’s unconditional love which exists regardless of anything the churchboy may or may not do. According to Paul, the sole reason for God’s kindness was to bring us to that change of mind. Our decisions are reversed when we stop striving to meet God’s standards through our accomplishments and squash the comparisons of others to ourselves. True peace comes in realizing if God has offered me his love and kindness with no requirements and no strings attached, he has done the same for everyone. Waking up to this knowledge should truly allow us to love our neighbor as ourselves just as God loves us which fully embraces the idea of recovering.
I am beyond grateful for the freedom I have discovered in God’s love and for the ability to share the journey over these last three years. Do I have everything figured out? No! Am I confident what I now believe is what I will always believe? No! Is it okay to live with uncertainty and live a life of perfect imperfection secure in God’s love? Absolutely!
Thank for you taking the time to share the past three years with me and I look forward to sharing many more with you. I will forever be a recovering churchboy.
5 thoughts on “Forever Recovering”
Thank you for sharing. I needed to read this and refocus! I am often very defensive around church people because I can’t handle their criticism. I am learning to see them as still imprisoned and not letting it bother me but it’s a process! Thank you for sharing your journey!
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Thank you, Cindy! Isn’t it amazing how religious we can become in our non-religiousness as well? Keeps us humble and dependent on grace.
I’m a more recent follower but have been enjoying your posts (from New Zealand). It seems like we’ve some similarities in our backgrounds – I strongly identify with many things you share, and in particular this post. Have you come across the blog “Looking for God in messy places”? I find the discussions here really encouraging and helpful. At: https://jakeowensby.com/blog/
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Thank you for reading and following all the way from the other side of the world!! Staggering to me how words written in East Tennessee in the United States reach that far but I know it’s truly just a testimony of the universal love of God! I am unfamiliar with that particular blog but will definitely check it out. I love reading other people’s journeys as well.
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My pleasure! Yes, please check out Jake’s blog, he generally does a post once a week, the latest post being about an hour ago
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