No one gets to start in the middle. You learn your A, B, C’s before you can read. You sit before you stand, walk before you run. Painting 1 is required before you get to take Painting 2.
When I was young, my dear mother dreamed of passing her love and talent of sewing to me. Not only did she make most of our clothes, but her famous Easter dresses should have been entered into the county fair and not wasted on an unappreciative four year old. Rows and rows of detailed smocking, cinches here, coordinating trim there all added up to an impressive accomplishment. Today, I appreciate her handiwork and a few of her masterpieces hang in my closet. For mom, it seemed so easy. As if it was the gas pedal on a Ferrari, she made that Singer sewing machine sing.
First, a pillow
I remember Mom’s enthusiasm the first time I expressed even the slightest interest. I found a pattern for a halloween costume, a hideous jumpsuit with wide bell bottoms and flouncy sleeves. With the right material I imagined being transformed into one groovy disco dancer. Moms response… “great sweetheart, but make a pillow first.” “What? Why? How hard can it be?” My pillow was a catastrophe. I rushed, didn’t follow the directions, and so desperate for the quick result, I skipped critical steps. Debbie + sewing = DISASTER. I tried to start in the middle. My lack of willingness to start at the beginning, resulted in a regrettable lifelong disdain for sewing.
12 Step Recovery
Do you know what step 1 is for any 12 step recovery program? Admit that you have a problem, and that you are powerless to overcome it. Success in any 12 step program demands mastery of step 1, before there is any hope of triumph in the end.
A friend reached out privately. She admires my faith and wondered what suggestions I have for someone like her who is struggling with her own weak faith. Honestly, I am humbled. I’ve been scratching my head. How have I gotten here? What tips could I pass along?
Of course, there are the obvious “disciplines of the faith”… prayer, bible study, connect to a church etc. But what I keep coming back to is the CRITICAL need to start at the beginning. The beginning of growing your faith, is not unlike that of a 12 step program. Admit that you have a problem and that you are powerless to overcome it.
What’s Your Problem
Your problem is the same as my problem. Our problem is that we can’t possibly make it on our own. We’re all sinners in desperate need of a savior. And His name is Jesus. That’s it. That is the gospel. And asking for Jesus’ help is the essential first step. How is this for a reward…. After just that one simple step… (not 12 steps, not a lifetime of service, not a mastery of sinless behavior) that humble first step grants you eternal life.
Faith is Born
My faith was born the moment I fell to my knees powerless. I admitted, I’d messed things up and I asked for help. “Jesus, please take over from here!” While my first step happened many years ago… my control freak personality keeps rearing its head. My faith gets stronger, though, every time I affirm my weakness and need for Him. It is as if, I keep remediating step 1. There is hope in that first step. We can’t be helped until we admit that we need help. We prefer to be master of our own life. But we fail miserably. Step 1 grants us freedom from ourselves.
I dislike religion as much as I dislike sewing. Religion skips over step 1. Religion says you’ve got this. Just pray harder. Go to church when you feel like it. Be a good person. Religion insists that you hang on to control and encourages you to be strong, to muscle through. Religion makes it about you. With religion and no relationship with Jesus, things turn out as badly as my first pillow.
When the storm hits
The differences between a religious person and a Jesus follower may seem almost undetectable. In fact, in the pew on any given Sunday morning, you may not even recognize the person sitting next to you. Until a storm hits. Only then will you see their true colors. To help you follow my analogy, I’ve named the religious person, Pharisee. And I’ve named the Jesus follower, Grace.
When the storm hits, you’re likely to notice Pharisee striving to understand the inner workings of the storm. Pharisee is full of fear and concludes that either God isn’t powerful or God isn’t good, otherwise, THIS storm would not have happened. He keeps trying to muscle through and he feels alone. In the end, blaming God for the storm, Pharisee decides to ride it out alone. And He sinks.
Notice Grace. She is a victim of the very same storm. Grace is concerned for sure, but her prayers are focused on the faithfulness of her Father. She doesn’t understand much about the storm, but believes God is still powerful and still good. Grace is grateful for His lovingkindness as she senses His presence. Grace has come to know God’s character and in spite of the storm, trusts Him. She cannot see the outcome of the storm, but she refuses to let go of hope. And She floats.
If you’re in the midst of a storm, and you identify even a little bit with my friend Pharisee, I have good news! First, God loves Pharisee just as much as He loves Grace. Second, In God’s economy, storms are NEVER wasted. Storms provide the ideal conditions for pharisee transformation. No striving. Go back to step 1 and humbly admit your need. I promise Jesus will meet you there. And in an instant, you join your sister Grace floating on the life raft of hope, for ever and ever. It IS that simple.
Living it out
It’s Week 2 for UNM classes for my handsome ginger. And so far so good. Ian is no stranger to accommodations in a school setting. But… with a traumatic brain injury, the preparation to succeed with adequate support in place requires extraordinary fortitude. The emails, phone calls, advisor meetings, approvals, and technology adaptation has my head spinning. Thankful that extraordinary fortitude is in the Hucke DNA.
Ian’s village has expanded. I’m grateful. But still, that 22 yr old, handsome ginger, desperate to fly under the radar as “normal” must ask for help. Everything is in place, but he has to ask for it. And he resists.
Ian’s resistance reminds me of our human tendency to admit weakness and resist help. Why is step 1 so dog gone difficult for us? Who wants to appear weak and powerless? Who wants to fail at having it all together?
Jesus, our accommodation
Here’s the thing… Whether we like it or not, you and I need accommodation too. Without help, we won’t graduate. Jesus Himself, is our accommodation. Regardless of your checkered past, your sketchy bible knowledge, and your lack of any special worth, no extraordinary fortitude is needed. In fact, it’s expected you check all human effort at the door. Everything is in place. You simply show up, without an appointment, broken and empty handed and ask for help. Accept the accommodation that is already in place for you. Jesus is there waiting.
If I’m honest, the strength of my faith has very little to do with me and everything to do with Him. I’ve just become practiced at step 1. So if you see strength in me, I am humbled to say, you are seeing Him.
Dear Father, Thank you for the accommodation of Jesus. Thank you for Grace. And, thank you for the storms in our life that draw us to you, our living Hope.
2 Corin 12:9. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”