The way we wash our clothes

I don’t know what it is in some of us that makes us think proper theology is the answer to all of life’s problems.

Like somehow, just by having the correct view of God, our troubles will dissipate.

I was reminded of this last night, sitting with a group of beautiful Christian women whose lives have been torn apart by addictions of all kinds — theirs or their husbands’ — and who meet together to talk, to pray, to listen.

Something someone said reminded me of the struggle I had had in my soul for so, so long. Christians don’ t have these kinds of problems. 

* * * * *

The only people I had ever known to confess to an addiction were instantly healed of it the minute they became a Christian. Or at least that’s what was said. . . or maybe it wasn’t said and it just seemed like they were.

But see, Dave and I were raised in Christian homes. We went to Bible college. We had “the best” theological teaching known to the evangelical world. And we were set on a path toward ministry and the church.

It was impossible that we could have this problem. Impossible.

Rehab was a blow. A painful blow to my pride.

Such a hit, that I believed it was the lowest point I could possibly reach and therefore merited the voice from heaven that would rebuke my pride . . .  but then restore my life.

In rehab, Dave admitted to the amounts of tramadol he’d been taking. 20 to 30 a day. So much in his system that the “cold turkey” withdrawal traumatized his body. The rehab doctors had to put him back on it and wean him off slowly.

When Dave came home, he had a “to do” list. 90 meetings in 90 days. Go to a recovery meeting every night. You aren’t fixed. You still need help.

But I don’t think either one of us really believed that.

After all, Dave had repented. He’d confessed and done time in rehab for his sins.

And we had church. He met with a Christian counselor once a week. He met with our pastor, too. And we prayed all the time. Dave didn’t need to go to a meeting each night with a bunch of alcoholics. Plus, a lot of them smoked. I didn’t think it was a good environment for him . . .

The important thing now was to get our life back together. He needed a job. We needed to figure out seminary. We needed to forget the past and move on. And really, we should keep this to ourselves. We would never have a ministry if people knew.

A few years later, when I heard about Al Anon, I was just desperate enough to toy with the idea. But I couldn’t bring myself to talk about our problems with people who might not believe what I did about God. What if someone recognized me? They would look down on me, and Dave, because my Christian Leader husband had a secret.

So much pride.

And an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

Like it was my job to make sure the name of Jesus wasn’t shamed by airing our dirty laundry in public.

What I didn’t know about AA and Al Anon is how crucial support is for true recovery.

I didn’t know the 12 Steps were actually Biblical principles. I didn’t know the beautiful bond that grows between people who share each other’s burdens. I didn’t know how much more like true Church it really was than what I’d been doing all my life. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16) Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

I remember how freeing it was for my soul that first time I opened up and shared in a recovery group about the things I had kept locked tight in my heart for years. Unburdening. Letting go.

* * * * *

I think back on the secrecy now and wonder at it. So short-sighted.

Hiding our struggles out of fear that people wouldn’t respect us. Believing we’d never have a ministry with people if they knew.

I wouldn’t trade what we have now for anything. Sitting with someone who is letting go of terrible burdens and admitting to soul-crushing pain. Being heard without interruption for the first time in her life — no one stopping her, no one patting her on the back and telling her to “just trust God,” letting her cry without being shushed. And then looking up to see faces filled with tears. Not out of pity. But because they know. And they pray for each other. For deep, painful things that they’ve never shared with another soul.

And then they talk about the things that resonated with them when Dave was teaching. Someone who gets it, who knows, who’s been there. Who talks honestly and openly about things that would make any other group of people uncomfortable. Encouraged to keep going by a man who in many people’s eyes forfeited his right to ministry years ago.

Sometimes people need to see your dirty laundry to know perfection is not the goal. And that your usefulness in this life isn’t in spite of your problems. It’s because of them.

10 thoughts on “The way we wash our clothes

  1. Deb and Dave,

    I thank you so much for all that you do. Having the faith to allow God to use you to help others with your story. Amazing and so inspirational. Last night listening to Dave’s talk I found so much hope…

    Jeremy

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  2. Deb and Dave…. Wow…. what a story.

    I mean the enlightenment you experienced and getting out from under trying to maintain the “Christian” appearance and expectations.

    I relate completely. I had been a very active church member and professing Christian for years. I then found myself re-introduced to alcohol in business and social settings. I discovered after years of virtually no alcohol…. say between ages of 21 and 30 when I was a young Christian… that when I began drinking socially, I had a hard time shutting it off. So it increased and got out of control. And through a long, painful, twisted road, I ended up a coke addict by age 37. All the time living the appearance of a text-book middle-class suburban Christian life.

    When I finally admitted I had a problem… privately…. I poured so much energy into keeping up appearances. I thought I had to. I thought I had to protect God from the disgrace I was. Plus, the church culture I was a part of wasnt equipped to handle such proplems as mine. I middle-class yuppie chugging vodka and doing coke? I didnt have a place to put this and neither did they. So I never got the help I needed until I hit AA and NA.

    Neither of which are perfect organizations. AA had been a Bible-based program but has since drifted significantly. But for me, I still get great value out of it. “God as I understand Him” is God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If the guy sitting next to me in an AA meeting doesn’t see it that way (yet), should that challenge my faith? No.

    I think we Christians need to be humble enough to be completely honest with someone. Even if it means we fail to keep up appearances. Were we ever called to keep up appearances anyway?

    If you do a web search on Dick B, AA Historian, you will find some great material on how AA started as a Bible-based group. You may find it helpful and inspiring.

    I had the privilege of meeting Dick last year and have read some of his material. It has been very helpful to me in balancing my belief in the Bible and membership in AA.

    Glad to hear your of your journey.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

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    1. You said it exactly! A lot of what I will write on this blog is about me trying so hard to “keep up appearances.” I’m writing this blog, in part, because I believe there are more Christians caught in addiction than anyone imagines. And also because I didn’t know how to deal with it and neither did anyone I knew until 4 years ago. Addiction is a problem the Church has to learn how to handle.

      I’m so glad you mentioned Dick B. Please feel free to post some links.

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  3. Hi Deb … check out dickb . com

    Yes, there is tons of addiction in the church and amongst Christians. Christian culture in my experience can act as a smoke screen of self-deception that we are imune to such things. Especially when addiction can be to many things other than substances.

    How many Christians are addicted to pride, attention, control, gossip, drama, and middle-class comfort, just to name a few? These are all subtle yet largely acceptable vices. And yes, many of us develop hidden substance addictions.

    I personally don’t believe that the Church will be meaningfully effective in being a place to help with addiction until it realizes how easily we ourselves can and are becoming addicted. The self-deceived cannot help the self-deceived. This to me is the modern-day manifestation of the blind leading the blind.

    When we are putting on a fascade, we cannot at the same time be real. Our energy is poured into one or the other, not both.

    When we finally crash under the pressure, we are forced to be honest. Our survival depends on it. For me, losing nearly everything was the best thing ever to happen to me. I had nowhere to go but real. Or as real as I could be at the time. I have no illusions that I have arrived at the ultimate real. More will be revealed in time… forever hopefully.

    Enjoying the dialogue! Glad to see you are getting lots of support.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

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    1. Thanks, Chaz. It sounds like we’ve been through similar journeys. My facade struggles are coming — so much of my own story is really about that. The book “Everybody’s Normal Til You Get To Know Them” by John Ortberg is where I was first very convicted about my own addictions. And you are right, there are many “acceptable” sins that we just gloss over. This topic is actually going to be a series of blog posts here. Coming soon!

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  4. Thanks to Chaz and Deb. I hope both of you will follow my blog http://www.mauihistorian.blogspot.com and now the new
    Dick B. YouTube Channel: For quick access, click http://goo.gl/rCtH6

    Though I have published 42 titles and over 600 articles, we are continually reserching and disseminating information–usually free–on the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible played, and can play in and as to the origins, history, founding, original Christian Fellowship of early Akron A.A., and the astonishing successes.

    I wish you well in this site.

    God Bless, Dick B., Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
    dickb@dickb.com; http://www.dickb.com

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    1. Thank you so much for coming to my blog and commenting! And thank you for the links as well, they will be helpful to many of my readers. My husband and I are both very much 12 Steps believers. Can’t wait till I get to that part of our story. And I really appreciate your support.

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  5. Hi Deb… yes, I concur with the title of the book. I remember how I used to think so many people were so “normal” and I was the only one that was blowing it. The only one with a hidden vice. Fast forward several years and a lot of experience and I am now firmly of the belief that it is the exception to not have a major issue in one’s life. Yet, the tendancy is there to presume about others. We look at a few external indicators and presume they are clicking along nicely. Yet, many, many people who I made these presumptions about only a short time later revealed a major calamity in their lives. Including but not limited to addictions, affairs, financial crisis, depression, etc. Things we would never presume when looking through our rose coloured glasses.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

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