Admitting Powerlessness

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.” – Step 1 (Alcoholics Anonymous)

More commonly, many Christians whittle down the great Gospel to some moral issue over which they can feel totally triumphant and superior, and which usually asks nothing of them personally.  The ego always insists on moral high ground or as Paul brilliantly puts it, “sin takes advantage of commandments to mislead me, and through obeying commandments kills me” (Romans 7:11,13).  This is a really quite extraordinary piece of insight on Paul’s part, one which I would not believe myself were the disguise not so common (e.g., celibate priests focusing on birth control and abortion as the core of evil, heterosexuals seeing gay marriage as the ultimate threat to society, liberals invested in some current political correctness while living lives of rather total isolation from the suffering of the world, Bible thumpers ignoring most of the Bible when it asks them to change, a nation of immigrants being anti-immigrant, etc.).  We see that the ego is still in charge, and it just wears different disguises on both the Left and the Right side of most groups and most issues.

Richard Rohr, “Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps.” page 4.

Surely it cannot be possible for the Gospel to be manipulated to be a clean cut, comfortable, and controllable morality?

Could it be, that we are all in some state of recovery?  And that we need to claim or confess powerlessness…

If we are all in need of this kind of admission/confession, what does this say for relationships?  It radically levels the playing field doesn’t it?  Is this justice?

What would it look like for you to admit powerlessness?  How would your spirituality change if you take the harsh perspective that you are in need of recovery?  How would this define who and how you relate with others?

*This book has been recommended to me by a number of different people, and has been a real blessing for me.  The questions I pose above, are the very same questions I posed to myself during my reading of the first chapter.


  1. Robert Martin · March 26, 2013

    The Celebrate Recovery ministry adopts the AA step model but applies it to all Hurts, Habits, and Hangups… for me, it was anger issues and forgiveness issues… for others it was substance abuse… for others it was co-dependancy issues… and the thing is, once you work through one, it seems there’s another one hiding.

    Do we always need a 12 step program to figure this out? Now… but there certainly needs to be an acknowledgment that, not matter how “with it” we may be with our spiritual formation, we all still have rough edges and such that need smoothing.

    • Chris Lenshyn · March 26, 2013

      Amen Brother!

      Everyone has their addictions and hang-ups. Admitting powerlessness is the first step… Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Jamie Arpin-Ricci · March 26, 2013

    Our next series at Little Flowers is going to be exploring the 12 Steps. Our series on the 12 Traditions was massive for us.

    • Chris Lenshyn · March 26, 2013

      That is one sermon series I would not want to miss. Re-framing spirituality in light of the 12 steps and recovery offers us a kind of counter-cultural (even counter christian cultural) spirituality.

      Cool man. Let me know how it goes!

      • Jamie Arpin-Ricci · March 27, 2013

        Actually, I think we’ve decided it would fit better as a small group study. Starting in 2 weeks, I think.

      • Chris Lenshyn · March 27, 2013

        Cool. Let me know how it goes. I am very interested in ways to engage this in community!!

  3. andrew · March 26, 2013

    I have no problem with the 12 step model, it’s very effective for many I know. But, I have to say, I’ve tried twice to read this book and I can’t get through it. Glad you found it meaningful though.

    • Chris Lenshyn · March 26, 2013

      Thanks Mug,

      Hats off for giving it a go twice. I am quite interested in going through this book and engaging the twelve steps. My interest was peaked by a conversation with a guy who runs a recovery center out of his church who operates on the premise, ‘we all need recovery, whether we know it or not…’

      • andrew · March 26, 2013

        When I was in 12 steps that was a common theme. There some things I couldn’t quite connect w my faith though. I’d start w the AA Big book. Start w the original source.

      • Chris Lenshyn · March 26, 2013

        Thanks friend! I will most definitely check it out! Thanks again!!

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  5. Irv · April 5, 2013

    (The following paper was inspired by Bill O’Reilly whose TV show favors God Dumpers and not “Bible Thumpers.” Quotes are from “Vital Quotations” by Emerson West.)


    ROBERT E. LEE: “In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.” (p. 21)
    DANIEL WEBSTER: “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper.” (p. 21)
    JOHN QUINCY ADAMS: “I have made it a practice for several years to read the Bible through in the course of every year.” (p. 22)
    ABRAHAM LINCOLN: “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this book.” (p. 22)
    GEORGE WASHINGTON: “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” (p. 22)
    HORACE GREELEY: “It is impossible to mentally or socially enslave a Bible-reading people.” (p. 23)
    THOMAS JEFFERSON: “I hold the precepts of Jesus as delivered by himself to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man. I adhere to the principles of the first age; and consider all subsequent innovations as corruptions of this religion, having no foundation in what came from him.” (p. 45)
    THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would by now have become Christian.” (p. 47)
    BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see.” (p.49)
    WOODROW WILSON: “The sum of the whole matter is this—-that our civilization cannot survive materially unless it be redeemed spiritually. It can only be saved by becoming permeated with the spirit of Christ and being made free and happy by practices which spring out of that spirit.” (p. 143)
    PATRICK HENRY: “There is a just God who presides over the destiny of nations.” (p. 145)
    THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Material abundance without character is the surest way to destruction.” (p. 225)
    THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus.” (p. 237)
    GEORGE WASHINGTON: “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low, that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” (p. 283)
    BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshiped.” (p. 301)
    CALVIN COOLIDGE: “The strength of a country is the strength of its religious convictions.” (p. 305)
    GEORGE WASHINGTON: “The perpetuity of this nation depends upon the religious education of the young.” (p. 306)

    Prior to our increasingly “Hell-Bound and Happy” era, America’s greatest leaders were part of the (gulp) Religious Right! Today we’ve forgotten God’s threat (to abort America) in Psa. 50:22—-“Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” Memo to God Dumpers: In light of Rev. 16:19, can you be sure you won’t be in a city that God has already reserved for destruction?

    / Hi Chris. As a Bible thumper, I thought you might like to see the above article which I collided with on the amazing web. /

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