Emptying My Hands


Last fall marked the beginning of my 6th pass through the reGROUP journey. Whether categorized as a participant or a leader, in reality, each time I am still very much a participant. I walk beside the gentlemen I am tasked to guide as someone who knows the path, not someone who has everything sorted out myself.

This year brings something new for me: the incorporation of sobriety tokens into the reGROUP process. Since I personally didn't enter into the reGROUP community to address an addiction, these aren't something I initially embraced. In fact, I tend to want reGROUP to be less identified with addition recovery than it often is. I believe it truly is for everyone and therefore I want to cast a wide net in framing its purpose and value. Nonetheless, they are now a part of the process, so for 60-ish days last fall I carried around an exquisite looking wooden reminder of a life ever-increasingly marked by the craftsmanship of a 1st century carpenter.

While the tokens are new to the process, the notion of moving away from something unhelpful in our lives and replacing it with good things isn't. For me, this looks like emptying my hands of something that is stealing life so I can grab something God wants to place into that empty space.

...this looks like emptying my hands of something that is stealing life so I can grab something God wants to place into that empty space.

But that too has been different for me this time around. I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person (and through my previous reGROUP journeys, I can see the basis for that is exactly the same as those of an addict). Because of those tendencies, I have typically chosen something really big and then committed myself to the process and expected God to show up big. And He has, often using this experience to show me that things I deemed impossible really are possible. As I have done this year after year, I can now look back at where I am versus where I was and see His workmanship. He has been faithful in using my stubborn refusal to settle for second best and He has also been faithful on the days I have settled for so much less.

This year I chose a small thing. That perfectionist rearing his ugly head felt like it was a cop-out, but it truly seemed like my next right step. In reGROUP, we ask the participants to get 30 continuous days of space from something unhealthy. But instead of doing something impossible for 30 days, I decided to lay down my all-or-nothingness and pick one little thing with an eye toward a permanent change just one small step closer to the goal line. That small thing: stay off those not-actually-harmless trending links that line the right side of Facebook and the baiting links that inevitably show up on most websites. Those ones that seem benign enough but if I'm honest, I have no good intent when going there. With all the customized content now delivered to us based upon our demographic information and our browsing habits, the web is a dangerous place. Click any link, and no doubt 100 similar ones will follow in the days ahead. Any time I take the bait, I am pretty much guaranteed that getting away will be harder tomorrow.

So there's a lot I didn't learn in those 30 days. Not surprisingly, I'm no worse off without this "valuable" information. Over those days, I gained precious minutes, likely hours, to put to better purposes. And it feels really good that I haven't allowed myself to be played. I haven't taken the wooden nickels dangled in front of my face.

I've got one in my pocket that is much better. I have learned that having it there is a small but helpful thing.



Our recovery ministry, reGROUP, is a process of spiritual formation that addresses people's hurts, habits, and hang-ups. reGROUP returns tonight, Monday, February 8th at 7 p.m. at the Herndon campus. Newcomers are encouraged to jump in at any time — just show up and we’ll help you get plugged into a smaller group to walk through the process together.

John Bartels has been attending Summit since our early days in the Aloma Cinema Grill. He has been involved with our reGROUP ministry as both a participant and leader for over six years, and prior to that he was a volunteer in Base Camp Live! 

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