Powerlessness and the Walking Dead
So, Step One ["We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable" ~ Alcoholics Anonymous] is the hardest one, I think, for anyone who happens to be human. It’s a step that requires the person seeking help to admit they are completely powerless over their addiction (you can substitute addiction for shortcomings, or the human capacity for messing things up, or just plain ordinary sin).
What is it about being powerless that is so repulsive? I guess it goes against everything we’ve learnt from a world who’s motto is only the strong survive.
In the popular series, The Walking Dead, the people in the story are trying to survive the ‘zombie apocalypse’ and form a new community. I don’t recommend the show if you don’t like graphic violence or feeling scared, but the idea of what makes us human, what makes us ‘family’, and what a community is supposed to look like is fascinating. In a "war zone" situation, soldiers are taught not to feel – not to show weakness, not to show mercy, kindness or anything else that makes us fully human. The results, even for professionally trained soldiers, are high rates of suicide, depression and addiction.
The people in the TV series have to make some tough choices every day. Choices about survival and human instinct and strength... They also have to make a choice about staying human. And this is the poignant thing. Surely, strength is key to survival but weakness is key to humanity. Without weakness there is no kindness, mercy, love, intimacy… there is no ‘need’ for each other. But for some reason, although we long for self-sufficiency – it never satisfies – perhaps because it’s never the truth. There is no one strong enough. No one able enough. No one who is without the human condition ‘aka – sin’ (check out Romans 3:23).
Compassion, kindness, humility, grace… all of these are required for us to be fully human. But in order for them to be needed, wanted, and nourished, they require the admission of weakness.
When we were welcoming some new people into a community we had started in a poor neighbourhood, I asked some friends to come pray and give some advice to the newbies. One of my friends gave this advice, ‘don’t be afraid to admit your need.’ I thought that was incredible. See, we’ve been taught our whole lives not to let our weakness show… but the advice for entering community – for grace and mercy and love to be multiplied is to not be afraid to admit your need. Go figure.
So, here’s to step one. I admit. I’m powerless over my addiction. Over my addiction to strength among many others. I’m powerless over my human capacity to choose wrong. I’m completely weak and in need of saving. I’m not a zombie, I’m a human. The secrets out. My posture has me on my knees… thankfully, God gives grace to the humble.
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