I cut my teeth on Baptist preaching. We were there every time the doors opened. Sunday morning: Sunday School and preaching. Sunday evening: youth group, preaching, and choir practice. Wednesday evening: preaching again. If there was a revival we were there every night of the week.
I found out later that although it was certainly not specific to my church alone, one thing I always heard the grown-ups talking about really intrigued me: “backsliding”. Even as a simple, literal term, sitting in the back sounded way better than sitting so close to the front that my mom could send withering, warning looks my way from where she sat in the choir while I sat doodling and writing notes with my friends.
But backsliding was always discussed in hush-hush, what-are-we-going-to-do-about-them tones. And for the record, I never heard my mom take part in these conversations. This is both to state a fact and also to protect myself from another withering look.
But what I picked up from my eavesdropping was that the poor backslider was veering off the Christian path and drifting into sinful ways, and if they weren’t careful they would soon be rushing downhill straight to hell. Bless their hearts.
The older I get the more I see that backsliding does not only refer to Baptist theology. It applies to everything from willpower and perseverance to Buddhism and yard work and probably everything in between. I routinely backslide and lose ground with my diet. Apparently the back row is where all the good snacks are.
Lately I’ve lost ground in another area: control. Not that I’m losing control, but that I’m trying to control too much. Initially I found myself getting anxious and crabby, and if I’m honest, a little panicky over things that wouldn’t normally bother me. The more I tried to quell my anxiety the worse it became. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling this way.
A few nights ago I heard a woman say she was trying to let go of the need to control things. She said the minute she let something go, she climbed up on her high horse and said, “Look what I just did.”
After I stopped laughing at both the irony and the image, it hit me. That’s why I’ve been so anxious; I’ve been trying to control everything myself, and the more I try to calm myself, the tighter my grip becomes.
Do you remember taking kids trick-or-treating, and you’d have to remind them after each and every single house to say thank you? It took quite a while for the habit to stick. And even after it did, sometimes they would forget and start backsliding.
As adults we don’t usually have the “luxury” of having someone remind us - mainly because everyone has other things to focus on. And that’s when backsliding happens. As adults though we have to figure it out ourselves and self-correct.
I’ve spent many years trying to release expectations, to live by faith, to let go and let God, to adopt an “it is what it is” attitude, and suddenly I’ve been holding everything in a death grip and trying to control every outcome. Out of the blue I forgot the goal and started backsliding. I have a feeling people at the old home church might just be saying a “Bless her heart!” aimed in my direction.