Being Weak and Powerless Is Better, Somehow

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This week, I read a book called Sober Mercies by a woman named Heather Kopp, who shares with incredible openness her difficult journey to sobriety as what she calls a “Christian drunk.”

It was a remarkable book for so many reasons. I highly recommend it to anyone, whether or not you or someone you know struggles with alcohol addiction.

Toward the end, Heather shares a bit about why she believes the 12-step recovery process “works,” even though it’s hard, and says:

“So much about how recovery works feels counterintuitive. How do you explain to people that it has little to do with willpower or being strong, but almost everything to do with knowing that you are weak and powerless?”

I am not in addiction recovery, but in reading those words, I found myself.

I thought of my journey into grace, how grace eventually became known to me in a real and visceral way when I stopped trying to do everything right and instead allowed room for the belief that an unending pillow of grace would always catch me, no matter what. I let go of my “strength,” and when I did, I was surprised to find God.

This is true for me in daily life today, too. So often, I find myself seizing up on my strength, my mind buzzing with defenses or all my reasons I think I’m right or good. There’s no room for God in that posture; it’s all about me and what I think or want or need.

But when I let down my guard, when I un-scrunch my shoulders and allow room for vulnerability, there’s suddenly place for God to show up and be present. When I let myself go by the “little way,” as St. Therese of Lisieux called it, no longer needing to scratch and claw my way to the top — or simply to visibility — then there’s room for God to come near and be with me.

What motivates my need to be strong? A fear of failure, maybe. Sometimes a desire to be loved and wanted. Or a need to prove my worth.

Relaxing into grace, giving up control … these movements rest in a belief that I am loved and wanted, that I am worthy already — quite, in fact. I don’t have to prove it anymore. I don’t have to white-knuckle my way through, trying to hold on to that worth or shred of dignity.

It just is.

This is easier said than known. Earlier this week, I shared on Facebook that I think grace, though freely given and abundantly available, takes real effort to receive. It’s so much easier to turn to our particular addictions and fixations, the usual tools in our toolbox that we think will get us what we want. It’s easier that way, and faster, and we’re easily fooled to think they’ll give us what we seek. But grace — the thing that reaches its arms out to us in our utter belovedness always, no matter what — is what we really seek. It’s about letting go of power and receiving love instead. 

This is another thing Heather Kopp says in her book about that:

“When we think we want a drink or a drug or an emotional fix, when the wind blows through our empty spaces, what we really crave is grace.”

Speaking of grace, here’s a really great song by a favorite artist, Jonathan Kingham, called (not surprisingly) “Grace.” May it encourage you today as it continues to encourage me.

How are you in need of grace today? 

Much love,