As a “progressive Christian” I find myself qualifying my faith to those outside my church so that I can be clear that when I say I’m a Christian I’m NOT saying that I’m a right wing, conservative Christian who supports policy that is not in line with Jesus’ teachings. I know some of my clergy colleagues don’t say they’re Christian at all; instead they call themselves “Jesus followers” because the name “Christian” is so often misinterpreted by the un-churched world.
I’ve run into that same problem in my AA circles. My sponsor is not a Christian, but she knows God as Love, just like me. She’s liberal, just like me. She has 17 years sobriety, not like me. She helped me a great deal in my first 18 months of sobriety, but I found myself holding back when I talked to her about my Higher Power. For the same reason I hold back when I talk to the un-churched about my faith, being careful about my language, not using words that are loaded and misunderstood, I found myself being too careful with how I communicated how my Higher Power is working in my life. That’s not good. It’s not honest.
I know that I need to be untethered, free to speak, encouraged to work out how my recovery, faith and call are all intertwined. So, I lovingly (I pray) told my sponsor, who helped me in ways I can’t even explain, that it’s time I move on. It was so difficult for me to advocate for myself because quite frankly, one of my character defects is to please people, even if it’s at my own expense.
So, now I’m looking for another sponsor. I recognize how crucial it is to have someone who is farther along on the path than I am to help me navigate life on life’s terms. But I also want to be very intentional about who I ask and seek someone who can really hear the meaning of how my tradition’s stories and theologies shape my understanding of how my Higher Power is at work in my life and the life of the world. I don’t need, nor necessarily want, a sponsor who shares my belief system. But I also don’t want to have to qualify these stories or these concepts with the person I’m supposed to be most honest with. I feel like I have to do that everywhere else in the world outside church and it’s exhausting.