Hi. My name is Megan and I’m a recovering addict. It’s been a little over two months since I quit church. Worshiping at a Quaker meeting, attending a Baptist school, participating in nondenominational youth group, leading interdenominational summer camps and campus ministry, and hanging out with friends of various Christian creeds, church was a constant presence throughout my life. But familiarity bred carelessness. I never anticipated church becoming a problem.
After college my career didn’t pick up like I thought it should and I had to move back into my childhood bedroom. Depression soon took over and I turned to church to take the edge off. Leadership was my drug of choice. I threw myself into teaching Sunday school classes and volunteering for service projects. Each lesson, each board offering more responsibility, each charitable endeavor gave me a hit of control. Everything else in my life was crumbling, but I could perform well in God’s house. Nobody seemed the wiser or, if they were, seemed to care about my circumstances outside the sanctuary so long as kids got taught and committees got manned. It went on like that for another year and a half.
But eventually I crash-burned into bitterness when church, despite the time and energy I poured into it, didn’t fulfill me like I thought it should. So I went cold turkey. No Sunday morning services. No meetings. No classes. No church for 10 weeks. And for the first time in a long time I heard God clearly. Though Alcoholics Anonymous has yet to start a religious addiction branch, the same 12 steps applied:
I admitted I was powerless over church – that my life had become unmanageable
Came to believe that only God could restore my sanity
Made a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God as I understood him
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself (And man was that eye-opening!)
Admitted to God, to myself, and to other human beings the exact nature of my wrongs
Was entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Humbly asked him to remove my shortcomings
Made a list of all persons I had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Continued to take personal inventory and when I was wrong promptly admitted it
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of his will for me and the power to carry that out
And now, having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, am trying to carry this message to fellow addicts and to practice these principles in all my affairs.
Church isn’t God; it’s his vehicle. I made the mistake of expecting church to meet needs only the presence of God within my own heart could. Now, as I reintegrate back into church society, I know it’s the church’s people I need, the relationships that point back to Christ, not the programs or performance.