The first time i lost a sponsor, it was disappointing and a bit discomforting, but i didn’t feel utterly abandoned. I had not wanted to make a change, but his life circumstances demanded that he cut some things out of his schedule. I was shaken a bit, but i understood. i was perching dangerously between my fourth and fifth steps, which, as anyone who has been through the steps can testify, is a considerably difficult time in the process of Recovery, and no easy thing to walk through with a new and somewhat unfamiliar person. But God provided someone who i had gotten to know fairly well, and the transition was fairly seamless, mercifully. My new sponsor walked with me through some very trying times, and helped me get all the way to the end of the steps and even was instrumental in helping me transition into being a sponsor myself. When he, too, was forced to step away from the ministry, the blow was fairly severe. He had been my sponsor for the bulk of my time there, and had become not just a mentor but also a close friend. The absence of his impact on the program and on my life was felt immediately, and to some degree i am still recuperating from that loss personally.
There were really only two people left after that who i would have felt comfortable sponsoring me, at least in our particular ministry. i was just beginning to develop a dialogue with one of them over the last few weeks when he also made the decision to step away from Recovery.
To those of you who are not familiar with the 12 step process, having a sponsor is critical. They are the person who sharpens you, encourages you, prays for you, even slaps you around a bit when you need it. Granted, these things can be found in any true community, but it is true community itself that can be difficult to find. Sure, there are plenty of accountability groups and Bible studies and book clubs and whatnot out there, and certainly edification can be and is accomplished in those environments. But for an addict, there’s something about looking into the eyes of someone who has been exactly where you have been, and seeing all the love and severity of Christ reflected in those eyes, that spurs us on to living faithfully. Without that relationship, those shamelessly fierce and unabashedly forgiving people in my life, i would not be where i am today. So when one by one they are taken from me (and frankly from many other people in the program who are, on some level, even more in need than i), i am forced to wonder at God’s motives for doing this. Three men, two of whom were founders of the program, and all of whom had unparalleled wisdom and insight, all called to leave the program for various reasons.
i have no special insight into the mind of God, but i have my suspicions. At the very least i am fairly sure i know what these circumstances mean for my life. It is true that i gained some valuable encouragement from these men. They were teachers, sounding boards, accountability partners, and men of God. And there is certainly nothing wrong with soaking in the wisdom of those more experienced, unless it begins to be a substitute for developing your own relationship with Christ. i believe God is weaning me off of the crutch of other men, and wants to nourish me Himself. It is rare that i take things to Him first. If i am struggling at work, or in my Recovery, i tend to talk to one of these men, historically, or my wife, or my brother, but very rarely do i just kneel down and spill out my guts to Jesus. i believe this is what he wants from me, from all of us. This is why He came to sacrifice Himself: not chiefly that we might be able to talk about Him to one another, though this is certainly an effect which bleeds over from His purposes, but so that we might be able to talk directly to Him; so that if we needed encouragement we would be able to receive it directly from the One who is All Encouragement. This is what He has called men to experience, and the very thing to which He is now calling me.
A similar theme runs throughout the book of Judges, as time after time God is attempting to show the Israelites what He can do, rather than teaching them to rely merely on what they can do. Perhaps nowhere is this more prevalent than in the story of Gideon, during which God weans Gideon’s army down from 10,000 men to merely 300 before leading them to victory.
My army of 10,000 is slowly being whittled away, and if i am any judge of these things at all, i would guess that it is for similar reasons. If i am to have victory in my battles, be they of character or spirit, be they personal or moral, then it is going to be He who leads me through those battles, and not my own strength, and not the strength of my army. Perhaps it is time that i start running to Him whenever i have insufficiencies, rather than to other men. While i am by no means ungrateful for these men and what they have been to me historically, they are but dim and partial reflections of the One who wants to do for me utterly and entirely what they could only do for a season.
I must admit there is something terrifying and chilling about being spiritually naked before God. Perhaps this is why i have needed mentors in my life. There was a time when i was spiritually naked before no one. Gradually these brothers have taught me the way of grace and forgiveness, they have showed me the love of Christ to the best of their ability. Now He wants to show it to me Himself.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Phillipians 4 : 6 – 7