Making decisions can be extremely hard, especially when your prayers for direction have silent answers. In those moments, is it possible we have everything inside of us to make that decision, including God's own counselor, the Holy Spirit? But are we still waiting for God's approval? Let these words sink in before you answer.
There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.
Now for a moment, let's assume that all of us have been saved, and have the presence of that Spirit in us, Do we dare to follow those words because God has already planted what we need inside us, or do we continually look for the approval of others before we move on it? To Do Or Not To Do becomes a dilemma, because it requires not only faith in an almighty God, it requires confidence in our instincts, ourselves and our plan, and the courage to execute it.
When your background is addiction which instincts are the right ones, even if you have surrendered to Jesus? The confidence may waver because we are not sure which one of us in charge, the old us or the new, transformed us? Are we thinking with our heart or our soul? This is a true contradiction that exists within us because we want to do good (Paul - Romans), but when a few of our decisions made in a sober state turn out wrong, we wonder, doubt tends to creep in.
The old Glenn defied logic, upset his plans, which often seemed scary to others and complicated life. But every time I have stepped out in some shape or form for this ATB Ministry, the logic, the complications, the craziness all came together because it was God's plan, which is normally not conventional by human standards. The difference is obvious - my plan fails - his plan works - and it is all inside every one of us when we feel like that prayer hasn't been answered.
If we have planted the seeds of knowledge of the scripture, of that intimate relationship with the Lord, then wisdom will grow (Proverbs) within us that will allow us to process good from evil, good plan from bad plan. And the To Do Or Not To Do comes down to the rich words of the serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
If we quit banging our heads against that proverbial wall we cannot change, we will often see an open door right next to it that only requires us to have the courage to walk through it.......Selah!
Wednesday night at our ATB Summer Celebration I looked out at the very diverse audience of over a hundred people, the thought occurred to me that we may have made the good Lord smile. No agenda, no denomination, no one got paid- just pure, unadulterated love, grace and mercy spread around the room. And the name of Jesus was exalted.
There were several different recovery facilities represented, life coaches, addiction counselors, mentors, recovering addicts, jail ministries, and just folks who offered support. It was a group that showed out with emotion, expression and interaction that was everywhere. Some days I can look out over a meeting and pick out the darkness. Last night I saw nothing but light.
Our singers, Candace, Dawn Jenny, and Megan, absolutely nailed it. The message delivered by Trey was off the chart. Hhe was for sure no dancing monkey. I could not hold back the joy nor the feeling of a proud father that had Something To Smile About.
To me it is very simple. When we toot our own horn, the notes that come out usually do not flow in harmony. But when we play the flute of foundation, the trumpet of redemption and beat the drum of courage to change while keeping our eyes on the conductor, the musical harmony is amazingly breathtaking. We let go, God takes over!
Could have been the free, awesome food, especially the home cooked touches of David, Willie Mae and Tabatha. Could have been the singing, or the preaching or just an opportunity to connect that brought in the crowd and gave them a jolt. But I think it was something else.
We have most of the elements in place of a revolutionary spiritual movement in this field of addiction, and though we are paving the way, the best is yet to come. God continues to bring more and more folks into this ATB ministry, people with skills, potential and purpose. It has taken some time, but we are well on our way to putting together that orchestra that will play the conductors music, and people will come and they will come often, to hear it.
That's Something To Smile About!
That fairy tale life we learned about as children with its phrase "And they lived happily thereafter" has now become clear to us that it is just that, a fairy tale. We can surely be happy, but there are moments of life that test our faith and resolve, and it is in those moments when we find out if our faith was real or of fairy tale proportions.
God does not heal everyone. He does not fix everything. He created mankind in such a way that we are accountable for our own actions but cannot always predict the actions of others. Things happen that we do not understand, that we question and ask God why? And when that disease comes, that relationship breaks up, or that job goes away, we are often thinking You Dropped A Bomb On Me.
It is in those moments that God really shows up. He is our comforter, our healer, our friend, our mentor, our source of peace even in the midst of a violent storm. Yes, things happen, but no one can take away our attitude of how we deal with it, and he is there with us every step of the way. If he chooses to heal, we say hallelujah, but if he does not, we must understand there is another purpose. Our attitude must be a lot like that of Jesus himself, humbly thinking of the greater purpose of it all.
This doesn't mean we give up and do not pray for the situation to improve, it just means that while we are doing that, there is a calm over us that transcends all understanding because we realize He is with us, He is for us, and He knows what we need.
In my life there have been many such tests, many very painful. But in the end, I always found that when God goes through the storm with us, we get stronger to face the trials every time. Not only for ourselves, but so that we can encourage others.
We are forever hopeful that bomb never explodes, but when it does, we are always under his protection, here and in heaven.
And then, we will know the real meaning of those words, "we will live happily thereafter"!
I was asked a very good question this week that has been a well debated topic in the brotherhood of recovery for many years. It went something like this "Do you still consider yourself an addict after 30 years of sobriety?" They asked because people still haven't figured out why we identify ourselves as "recovering addicts/alcoholics".
Not sure we can answer it all here, nor do I have every answer, but I will give it a shot from my personal perspective. But first, I ask this question, "Is a saved sinner still a sinner?". Paul (surely saved) said, I am the worst of sinners....., referring mostly to his past, as we do in our meetings. Is he still saved? Does he still sin? Was he cleansed and forgiven, and we know without a doubt he was.
But he still identified himself as a sinner because it kept him humble and he was not ashamed because of who he had become through the mercy and grace of our Lord. His example of transparency surely drew others toward him and the message of salvation. Now other apostles may not have been this bold, I don't recall Peter re-telling his story of denying Christ. I am not sure Matthew went around saying he was a recovering tax collector.
So my point is that we do what we feel is right for us in identifying who we are, wherever we are. It is our personal choice. However, if our main purpose is to stay humble and attract others to the program of recovery, they must know who we were, and how far we've come. It is way wrong to think identifying ourselves this way make us feel less than others.
Why do we feel this way? To Be Or Not To Be - identifying that way does not define who we are. Usually it is who we were. But we still maintain that addictive personality that takes years of work to channel in the right direction. Paul also said he had a thorn in his side. Maybe that was the story of who he was before, a murdering scumbag (no reason to tread lightly.) Maybe our identification as "recovering addict/alcoholic" remains a thorn to us but a blessing to others when they hear our story.
And when they know we are real, that we care, and that we are not afraid to let it out, they respond. And then their question becomes, do I want To Be Or Not To Be like them, always an open book and full of humility, which our Lord so aptly demonstrated for us?
And then we don't have to worry about how we identify ourselves, as long as our identity is in Christ!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.