Freedom from Religious Addiction

I was raised by a mom who has a servant’s heart. Many times while growing up my dad would have friends come over and various holiday celebrations were also in our home. Ours was a home that had people over often. My mom had a knack with preparing large feasts and she would have me assist her in the kitchen. Many times we stood in the kitchen rolling deli meat, arranging lettuce leaves, and setting the feasting table. Preparing a home for visitors became such a part of my life. When I entered into a growing church I was excited to be able to serve others. It all began with the natural spontaneous movement of God to be able to do even the simplest things for others. 

I began noticing the incredible amount of praise that was given to others when they served and when I began receiving thanks and praise it seemed to validate me and make me feel appreciated for serving. But that validation and praise became an addiction. Over time the validation and praise shifted towards those who served more than I did and I began striving to serve and that’s the pothole we get ourselves into. I was striving to serve, as opposed to serving out of the abundance of love flowing from my heart.

table setting by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere
I wanted to be noticed, appreciated, praised..I wanted to be somebody. There was so much glory given to those who were striving to serve more, sacrifice more, and commit to serving as a full time career. These were the people that were getting all the praise and validation. Then came the messages of full time service. I was told that serving God full time was God’s plan for everyone and I wrestled with some thoughts that just didn’t add up for me. It seemed illogical to me that if everyone served in the church full time then who would actually work in the community to provide or the salary of all the full time servants? Someone has to be the policeman, the doctor, the nurses, and the farmers. Then I was led to believe that the lay people were to remain in the community and we were to raise our children to become full time servants, but that seemed illogical to me as well. I was informed that I shouldn’t think about God through logic. 

As a matter of fact, I was told that I shouldn’t think at all. I was told to memorize the responses the pastor felt God would want us to make so we wouldn’t have to think. Well, that seemed easy enough. I would no longer have to really make decisions; I could just memorize and obey. My addiction for striving got worse. I was now responding only as the pastor indicated we should. I was told to keep striving, keep serving, and never give up. And as such a servant we were not to have more than two Sundays away from the church a year and when we did decide to travel for holidays we were instructed to go to church wherever we were vacationing. This meant that if we only had three days to be gone, one of those had to be in church, which really only gave us two days to have family time away from home.

bed towels by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

I was ‘assured’ that God was pleased with this kind of commitment to serve Him and that if I were to decide to step down I would most certainly no longer be ‘right’ with God. Now I was not only addicted to serving because I was striving for validation and praise, but I was now obligated to continue or else. It reminded me of a drug addiction. I had such a difficult time understanding what happened to my sincere desire to serve from the heart and how it became this yoke of obligation, fear, and selfishness. I was no longer really serving God, I was serving myself.

In substance abuse recovery the best way to quit, depending on the severity of the addiction, is to go into a recovery facility. In this facility you are taken away from your environment of addiction to detox, given time to rest, and go through counseling. This is exactly what I needed to do in order to detox from religion. Something about detoxing is the withdrawals one goes through. Taking drugs or alcohol away from an addict and taking a religious addict away from the ritual of church life can be so similar as well. And regardless of what anyone tells you, departing from religion does not equate departing from God. Religion is ritual of man’s traditions with a false designer label that man applies God’s name to.

When I left religion God began revealing to me the things He wanted me to decompress from. My detox from religion was an unraveling of what I got bound up in. Decompressing takes time and we need to be gentle with ourselves, as God unravels us with kindness and mercy. This kind of unraveling is commonly known as pulling down strongholds. God was pulling down such powerful strongholds in my life and it wasn’t easy. Imagine a bandaid with the strength of duct tape being ripped from a wound and you will have a good imagery of what it’s like to remove a religious straight jacket from a religious addict.

When God pulls down strongholds He does so by presenting Truth to us and that Truth is a proper noun, His Living Word wrapped in flesh. Truth is the remedy to religious addiction. So how does truth do this? Is it by explaining Martin Luther’s interpretation of scripture? Or John Calvin’s rendition of the epistles? No, man’s interpretation is not the truth and it is not equal to The Truth, Jesus Christ. I’m not talking about the literal fundamental perspective of the Bible, but the very nature and person of Christ in you, in us. The truth about Truth is that He is in us. 

{Colossians 1:27} Christ in you, the hope of glory.

That is the key to the freedom He gave me from my addiction to public validation and praise from man. My value and worth was not in striving to religious perfection. No matter how many Sundays I attended, children I taught, how often I placed the hymnals neatly back in the pew pocket, or even how much scripture I read and memorized daily, none of that was making me worthy or valid in the eyes of God. He gave me clearer vision to see that I am already valid and praiseworthy, because Christ is in me. He wants me to rest in Christ and enjoy the very present Living Christ in me each and every moment of every day. But accepting this validation meant giving up man’s validation. This is what it means to repent, to change our minds. But consider this, if mankind was able to repent on their own, then Christ would not have come. It is Truth that changes our minds. What an exhilarating revelation for this striving religious addict! I didn’t even have to strive to repent, it was not up to me, it was up to Him. Father revealed His Truth in me and Truth is who changed me, Truth is who brought me to repentance. It was not I who decided to repent on my own, remember that if we were able to do that He would not have needed to come.

John15.5-2 by christin, on Pix-O-Sphere

My freedom from my religious straight jacket has been the person named, Truth.

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Anonymous at: October 26, 2010 at 5:36 AM said...

Excellent post.

{ Kimber } at: October 27, 2010 at 6:14 AM said...

Fear of man can get a grip on folks, for sure. I know that when I began to see these traps and snares of the enemy, then struggle to wrangle free from "approval addiction", it was literally "all hell to pay" from folks trying to keep me bou...nd. I remember the day that I decided to leave it all behind, I literally called my sister and told her that I felt like I was going through DT's, whatever that felt like, because I had never gone through Detox. or Rehab. before. I still wrestle with that from time to time, but am learning that we truly are transformed by the renewing of our mind and Daddy God is just so good and His LOVE heals and sets us free to be the very best that He created us to be...He already sees us complete and whole in Christ ~ Yay!!!!!

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