Jack Watts’ weekly column is aimed at helping those who have been wounded, including those who have been abused by the church. If you are in pain—or if someone you know is in pain—you will find real comfort, wisdom, and answers right here. Based on his book, Recovering from Religious Abuse, published by Simon & Schuster, Jack will teach you the value of working the “11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.” Remember, recovery is a process—not a destination. The answers are simple but not always easy. Look to the Lord and allow His Spirit heal you. If you do, your life will become everything you ever envisioned it would be.
To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking—Goethe
Refer to Step 1: I acknowledge that my life is shipwrecked and not where I want it to be.
On the surface, the first step may appear to be the simplest in any type of recovery. All you have to do is recognize your situation accurately and acknowledge it. That’s simple, right?
In one sense, it is the easiest step, but for more people than not, it’s by far the most difficult. This is because you have to “admit” you’re not okay the way you are; you need help. For nearly everybody, especially believers who think they should “have it all together,” acknowledging they do not, can be the most difficult thing in the world. Facing reality often is.
For nearly everybody, it takes substantial time and enormous heartache to be willing to seek help. This just seems to be part of human nature. But this is what is required—seeking and accepting help. You have to admit you are not all right the way you are, and you will not be all right without getting the help you need.
Step 1 is about denial—about lying to yourself, believing the lie, and insisting it is true. Denial is the false belief—maintained steadfastly—that you have everything under control, when you clearly do not. It is the inability to look at life and say, “How have I allowed myself to become like this?” Those in denial insist:
- I’m fine.
- I’m okay the way I am.
- There’s nothing wrong with me.
- I don’t need help.
- Leave me alone!
Denial can be more pervasive for those who have been religiously abused than for alcoholics or drug addicts. The reason is simple: you are never put in jail for driving under the influence of being abused. This kind of devastation is primarily internal. It’s in your heart and in your soul, where the destruction manifests itself in negative emotions and attitudes. Shame, bitterness, resentment, hatred, and revenge are its fruits.
Unlike the effects of alcoholism, you will not develop cirrhosis of the liver—just hardheartedness, which can be equally devastating. This is why it’s so difficult for many to admit their lives are shipwrecked. They can’t see the destruction from the outside, but it’s there—just below the surface, poised to wreak havoc in their lives.
This is certainly no way to live, nor is it God’s Will for your life to have so little meaning. So, if you’re ready to be done with the high price of low living by lying to yourself, please quiet your heart and join me in this prayer of surrender.
I’m not where I want to be—
Not even close.
I’m not the person I want to be—
Nor the person I’m capable of being.
Even worse, the gap between the two
Is increasing, rather than diminishing.
If I’m being honest with myself,
Which I routinely try to avoid,
I constantly and repeatedly excuse
My poor behavior and my poor attitude.
I don’t like myself the way I am.
I’m a pathetic substitute for what I should be—
For what I know You want me to be.
But it’s even worse than this.
Nearly everyone who knows me well
Recognizes that my life is shipwrecked.
I may look acceptable to casual observers,
But to those who know me—
To those who know what I’m capable of being,
I’m certain they don’t like what they see.
How could they? Neither do I.
My intimacy with You has evaporated,
Even though I pretend that it hasn’t.
Father, I know who I am,
And I acknowledge this to You.
I will no longer pretend to be what I am not.
I have traveled the wrong road for so long
I’m not certain I can ever
Follow the correct path again,
But I want to more than anything.
Admitting this truth to You frightens me.
I have refused to face the truth for so long,
But I am now willing to do so.
I know I can’t change on my own.
Without Your help, I have no chance at all.
Will You meet me on my journey?
Will You hold my hand and touch my heart?
Will You be there for me and not leave me behind?
Will You, Father? Will You?
Without Your help I will never make it on my own.
I come to You humbly, in Christ’s precious Name.
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25a)
To see more on recovery, check out The 11 Steps to Recover from Religious Abuse.
Jack Watts won the award for the “Most Inspirational Memoir” in 2011 for Hi, My Name Is Jack, published by Simon & Schuster. They also published Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.His daily blog, Pushing Jesus, is read in more than 140 countries. Jack lives in Atlanta, where he broadcasts two weekly Blog Talk Radio shows—Jack Watts Live and Jack Watts on Recovery. Single, he has five children and nine grandchildren.
To see more from Jack Watts please visit https://mcgee-andme.squarespace.com/.