No transformation without God

December 14, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 24
Ken Warkentin |

Recently, our small group embarked on a series entitled “Exploring spirituality through powerlessness.” The intent of this group is to take a look at a 12-step program—designed originally to be used with folks who struggle with substance addictions—as a way for any person to experience and understand the transforming power of God.

At the core of the 12-step program is the fundamental belief and understanding that all of us need the transforming power of God to save us from self-destruction. This transforming power is accessed, not through intellectual assent, but rather through the gut-wrenching epiphany that without God there is no transformation possible.

My imagination has been captured by the fourth step, which asks us to “make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Make a list . . . but do it without fear. Make a list of your defects without trying to justify them. Make a list of your shortcomings without trying to explain how you have come to this point. Just make a list.

This is not easy work. This is the kind of work that often deeply offends our pride (our ego) and our sense of righteousness, and yet the necessary inventory is to be taken without fear, knowing that in our quest we will be aided and abetted by angels.

How in the world do we search the depth of our character without fear? How do we acknowledge our own brokenness without dread?

This year I have found the story of the holy family whose preparation for the coming of Jesus was fraught with fear and yet the angels who came to Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and the shepherds began each visit with the words, “Be not afraid.”  This was not an admonition to “buck up and be braver”; rather, it was the revelation that the transforming power of a loving and gracious God was about to become very real in their lives. The appropriate response to God breaking into life was not to be one of fear, but it was to be joyful and filled with wonder.

As we approach 2012 I am hopeful that I will find opportunities to continue to take a searching, fearless moral inventory of my life and that this will inform my participation in my corporate life with others in the body of Christ. In the ongoing graceful process of “Being a Faithful Church,” we have the opportunity to fearlessly read, study and journey together. And I long to do it with the angels’ voices ringing in our ears: “Be not afraid.”

Ken Warkentin is executive director of Mennonite Church Manitoba.

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