29 August 2013

Sober Mercies: Important Reminders from a "Christian Drunk"

Might as well write an inaugural blog post about a good book!

A friend of mine sent this book to me a few months ago, and I did what I usually do with new books: read bits and pieces while atop the porcelain throne. (My friend, Debbie, suggested this method to me, but it didn't make me read any more than I used to.) Finally, last week, I sat on the couch and actually started at page 1. To my amazement, I finished it in a week. That's a great improvement from my usual 2-3 months.

I could relate to a lot of the book, but one thing in particular stood out for me: author Heather Kopp's struggle to figure out what it means to trust God.

Christians don't like to admit that God is a giant mystery to them. How do tell other people about His love if you don't have the foggiest idea what it means to tap into that love and make it the foundation of your life? Namely, how do you place your trust in a God who doesn't promise that every outcome will be the one you want?

What, then, is the point of prayer? I have always felt that when I ask God for something - whether it's for me or someone else - there is a little voice in the back of my head saying: "...but You probably won't do it anyway." It has never made sense to me that we can influence God's decisions with our prayers, but if He's got His mind made up about something, then that's just the way it's going to be.

I arrived at the end of this book having no new answers, just a better sense of direction. Kopp doesn't have it all figured out, either, and maybe that's why I liked her writing so much. There were no trite answers, nor a step-by-step guide to believing like you really mean it.

On her journey, Kopp discovered what I, too, have discovered: that lost, wounded people seem to have a better grasp on God than the well-versed, well-churched Christians. They come to God with no religious background to speak of. No one has told them what to think or how to feel. They just come and they show up out of pure desperation. A desperation that I have the hardest time expressing to God, no matter how deeply I feel it. Because to be desperate in the church indicates that you haven't been seeking the Lord hard enough to begin with.

This kind of desperation isn't about longing to know God more, or longing to be more like Christ, or longing to see what type of ministry He wants to roll out for you. This desperation is drought-stricken, a kind of starving where the buzzards are circling your emaciated soul overheard. It's a desperation to be recognized by a Maker you can't see, and to know that His love really does reach out to the least of these, not the best of these trying to be even better.

Kopp enters rehab and subsequent 12-step meetings with an urgency to find someone "like her." Someone better than the dirty bums in the gutter with needles stuck in their arms. After all, she never did jail time. She never killed anyone in a drunk-driving accident. She was never homeless. And she looked put-together. It turns out that's the thing keeping her from desperately seeking God.

I can admit to the same thing. When I started Celebrate Recovery, I, too, thought I was better. I thought that all I needed was a little boost in my recovery before I would be ruling the roost with my wisdom and insight.

Sober Mercies reminded me you can't repent of sin until you acknowledge it lives and sprawls in your heart, and that you played a major role in letting it grow so out-of-control. It also reminded me that you can't expect God to fill you until you admit that you're empty. You can't search for God until you realize you are lost.

It reminded me that, to quote a Rich Mullins song, you can't follow until you let yourself be led.



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