Friday, March 16, 2007

Detox: Resurfacing

In January of 1999, about eighteen months into the detox journey, I remember having nachos and Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale (Canada’s finest brew) with a good friend, and suddenly having an epiphany that – when all detoxing and debating and deconstruction is said and done – I and only I am the one who can choose what kind of person I am going to be.

And I decided that I was tired of feeling dead. Another friend referred to his struggle with being “twisted and bitter”, which became as common as phrase as Brother Maynard’s CLB (church-left-behind) would later become.

It was a simple but profound moment, one that I was probably incapable of in the early stages of the disillusionment of the detox, but now – suddenly – it became possible.

In the next few weeks, almost as confirmation from Someone Else, I was asked to lead worship at a youth home group, which eventually translated into leading the group. Andrew Smith invited me to play bass on a cross-Canada worship tour (meaning a five week vacation from The Meaning of Fish), which was an incredible time of soaking in a worship band environment, complete with digital loops, acoustic vibes, and good old-fashioned Delirious?-style abandonment.

It was a season of “coming back to life”.

Some things I noticed during this part of the detox:
  • It’s not a return to “business as usual”. You don’t happily re-integrate with the existing structures as if nothing had happened. You’re different and like Neo in The Matrix, you realize “I can’t go back, can I?”

    “No,” responds Morpheus (the prophetic voice), “but even if you could, would you really want to?”

  • At the same time, you begin to see (the worship tour was very helpful for me in this regard) that there are “people of the Spark” in almost every configuration of gathering, across many denominational lines. Your focus shifts and you start seeing healthy trees (people of the Spark) instead of only the forest (the “system” of church).

  • You begin to recognize that some of those around you appear to be aggressively committed to Crabby Detox, and while you don’t avoid them altogether, you realize that you need to pull back somewhat in order to pursue life. (They may or may not understand or like you as much if you break the unwritten but monolithic Rule Of Perpetual Crabdom.)

  • You find a greater freedom to affirm what God is doing through the imperfect vessels called “church”, blessing people at whatever point of the journey they find themselves at, while still being an advocate for change.

    After all, at some point, all of us were part of “the system” – perhaps even defending and enforcing it – and we have to show the same grace to people still in it as we would like them to show us. (And recognize that, as imperfect people ourselves, we haven’t arrived yet, either!)
And very significantly, you begin exploring and advocating – from a REconstruction motive – for a Christo-centric, Spirit-empowered missional community, for the sake of the King, and to partner with Him in the advancing of the Kingdom.


  1. i like this:
    "Your focus shifts and you start seeing healthy trees (people of the Spark) instead of only the forest (the “system” of church)."

    in every group there is always one or two that really want the REAL stuff.

    in discussing my out of church, turned off by church, children and how my husband in a panic wants them to attend something somewhere....they should be going SOMEWHERE....i said "where? I would not want to go anywhere here in this town." i dont blame them. i will trust that DAD can handle talkin to them and loving them where they are....i dont want them to have fight the whole religion system again to find Jesus for real, as adults. I want them to find that He is as real as their best their lives, living room and car.

    i am rambling...time for bed.

  2. After three years 'detoxing' I am shocked at how strong the urge still is in myself to remerge and reinstitutionalise.
    Really thoughtful reflections

  3. It is when you are able to see past the "perpetual crabdom" people and see the the people that really do desire a true relationship with God that it helps with your own journey.

    It incorrages you to keep deal with that next issue that God so gently nudges you to deal with.

  4. Rob,
    This series has been amazing and insightful. I encourage you to consider expanding it into a more comprehensive offering, perhaps (if you are ambitious) your next book??? This material is really useful to those of us who find ourselves on a journey without any familiar landmarks.

    In thinking about this... "I and only I am the one who can choose what kind of person I am going to be", I was reminded of a story from Tony Campolo that my mom sent me in an email.

    Dr. Tony Campolo -- Chapel-October 9, 2001 "It's Friday... But Sunday's coming! (I'm just giving you the part that applies to your comment) "When Bill Clinton met Nelson Mandela for the first time, there was an incredible conversation. Bill Clinton asked Nelson Mandela, "When they released you from prison, I got Chelsea up at three in the morning because I wanted have her see this. I knew it was a historic moment and I got her out of bed to see you released from prison.

    "As you walked across the courtyard, from the cellblock to the gate of the prison, the television cameras focused in on your face. I have never seen such anger, such animosity, and such hatred. I mean, you usually can't see that so clearly revealed. It was all over you. It was intense hatred, intense resentment. President Mandela, that is not the Nelson Mandela that I know today. Could you explain what was going on?"

    Nelson Mandela says, "You're the first one that brought that to my attention. I didn't know that anybody noticed that. But as they released me from the prison block and as I walked across the courtyard to the gate, I thought to myself, 'They've taken everything away from me, my family is destroyed, my cause has been crushed, my friends are dead, anything, anybody, that meant anything to me, they've destroyed it all,' and I hated them with a fiery hatred. And then God spoke to me, and said, 'Nelson, for 27 years, you were their prisoner, but you were always a free man. Don't let them make you into a free man, only to turn you into their prisoner.'"

    There are many people I know who have let their abuser/oppressor keep them in prison long after God has given them their freedom, in fact, many of them actually were free men even while in "the system" but in gaining freedom have enslaved themselves to their past.

  5. thank you KSG...i needed that story.

    have a friend who is letting her past make her a prisoner......


  6. As you know...I'm finding myself following in your footsteps a bit.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. KSG,

    That is an incredible story!!

    I know I can even relate that to habits and mannerisms (sp?) that I embraced before becoming a Christian.

    Even though I am a Christian, if I don't keep reminding myself who is in control, those habits and mannerisms can imprison me even though I am free in Christ

  8. Hey Neil, I never applied it to the Christian life in that way but yeah I can see that, in many ways this is what Paul is saying in Galatians 5... we have this new found freedom so let's use it the right way.
    It can even apply to those of us who grew up as Christians in a Christian culture and yet get trapped by that culture and so find ourselves unable to relate and interact with those that Jesus misses. This Christian culture that is so great for protection becomes a prison of ineffectiveness.

  9. i love this post.
    really well written and articulated.

    i think i might steal some parts, but don't worry, i'll give you some MAD PROPS.

  10. Hey everyone,

    Been super busy getting ready for the next DTS here at YWAM, so please excuse my tardiness in responding to the comments!


    Yes, Wendy & I have found that no matter what situation or denomination we found ourselves in, God was always faithful to bring some people of the spark around us. That made everything worthwhile.


    The urge to institutionalize is heavily resident in each of us, no matter what kind of faith expression we prefer and get life from. I think half the battle is recognizing that we can be as much a part of the problem as any church "system".


    And for me, it was also recognizing that I probably appeared (at times) to be one of the crabby detoxers. I decided I wanted to be the kind of person that others drank life from, instead of hemlock.


    I know several others have already said this, but that was a powerful story! Thanks for taking the time to write it out for all of us.


    Having people to walk with during these times is a great blessing. I've appreciated our email conversations, and you have been encouraging to me, as well.


    I absolutely LIVE for mad props from you! :) I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  11. Rob:
    I'm not usually prone to posting on these type of forums because to be honest, it often feels like a merry go round that won't stop and that you can't get off of.

    Nevertheless, what's your advice for those of us who feel like God's on the island and any former means used to access him has been taken away by the very institution that built those access points in the first place? Why is it that ANYTHING even remotely religious or spiritual that used to be a source of strength now feels difficult and even at times repulsive?

    How does one even begin (again) to find access points to God that bring life and refreshment? Where do I find these "sparks" you are referencing?

    I know you've heard all this before. Regardless, I'm reaching out.