One Day At A Time: Admitting Powerlessness

Pastor Jay Voorhees is facilitating a  new study/discussion group based around Trevor Hudson’s book One Day At A Time: Discovering the Freedom of 12 Step Spirituality.” This group meets at 5 p.m. in the church library, and all are welcome. 


“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.”
Romans 7:15,18

Trevor Hudson begins his book “One Day at a Time” this way:

There is one subject that we tend to avoid. Strangely, it is not the subject of sex or money or politics or death or even religion. What we often prefer not to talk about is the topic of our weaknesses.

It’s funny that I should read those words today, for the notion of weakness and vulnerability had been on my mind due to a daily e-mail meditation I receive from Father Richard Rohr. Rohr wrote:

“Weakness” isn’t a trait any of us wish to be associated with, and yet the apostle Paul describes no less than God having weakness! Paul says, “God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). How could God be weak? We are in a new ballpark here. Let’s admit that we admire strength and importance. We admire self-sufficiency, autonomy, the self-made person. This is surely the American way. This weakness of God, as Paul calls it, is not something we admire or want to imitate.

One of the foundations of 12 Step spirituality is the willingness to confront and admit our weaknesses. The steps begin with three focused offering an invitation to acknowledge that we are not in control, and to let God take charge. The first may be the hardest for most of us — to admit to ourselves that we are powerless and that left to our own devices our lives will be unmanageable. Jesus reminded his followers again and again that there is a power to be found in weakness, and yet more often than no we in the church are the worst about admitting to ourselves that we are struggling to make it, that we are unhappy with life, that we are not experiencing joy, and that we struggle in all sorts of ways.

Do you doubt this? Trevor offers a short quiz to think about our human weaknesses:

  • Do you struggle to admit to problems when you have them?
  • Do you struggle to ask others for help?
  • Do you find it easier to serve than to be served?
  • Are you afraid to cry, to show deep emotion?
  • Would you struggle against going for counseling?
  • Do you tend to blame others for your failures?
  • Do you sometimes wear a mask of self-sufficiency and confidence?
  • Do you struggle to listen without judgment when others speak of their witnesses and their failures?
  • Are you sometimes too tired to keep running and too scared to stop?
  • Are you reluctant to go to the doctor when you are not feeling well?

I know I’m guilty as charged to several of the questions above, and if you answered yes as well it could very well be that you are one of the many who find it difficult to admit their weaknesses.

The first step may be the hardest and require the most courage — the willingness to admit that we don’t have control over our lives and that we have weaknesses. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable before God, others, and even ourselves, but without taking that step we cut ourselves off from the experience of God’s power to change us from the inside out.

And yet it’s hard because most of us in America have been programmed to avoid vulnerability and to admit our weakness. Brené Brown has written extensively on this, and her TED Talk on the Power of Vulnerability has been viewed by over 5 million people. I think she offers some insight as to our ability to be vulnerable is helpful:

This Sunday night we are going to be talking about the strength of our weaknesses, and challenging one another to consider how we might admit our powerlessness and weakness.

As Trevor writes:

When we admit our weaknesses in this way, we discover one of the greatest secrets of the spiritual journey — that in our weakness lies our strength. This is one of the most powerful spiritual truths that we will ever discover. Rather than rejecting us because of our weaknesses, it opens the door for God to come alongside us and help us overcome what had previously defeated us. God’s strength can lead us to grow spiritually strong. It is where we limp the most that we can experience the power of God. This is why, many hundreds of years ago, one well-known recovering sinner once wrote, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:10, NIV)

In our weakness we are strong. May we all find the place to admit that.

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