There is no way to sugar coat it, if you choose to be involved with any addiction related organization, you better be ready for the battle. We should stand up and cheer for the founders, the leaders, the ones who sacrifice the "good life" to choose to serve in this arena. Every day they face death and destructive behavior with the heart of a lion!
Bravo I say to you, and as for me, the good Lord prepared me as a Marine in Viet Nam to deal with the battle. Doesn't mean we always win, just means we won't run from it. Doesn't mean we enjoy watching people relapse, or not care to listen for a way to change their lives, it just means that disappointment, young men and women falling down, some dying, that part takes the attitude of never giving up on people, never wavering though at times it breaks your heart.
Wednesday night one of the men Pastor Darryl was working with at Life Church International found a man wandering aimlessly and brought him to our Wednesday night meeting. He slept most of the meeting, you could tell he was in distress. Darryl asked me to speak to him after the meeting and he was responsive but he was forlorn.
His girlfriend had just hung herself and died. They were using heroin, they had an argument, he left, only to find out later what had happened. After several moments of conversation, he finally let it out crying in the pain of maybe it was his fault, and in the reality that she was gone. Fortunately, his Dad was on his way to pick him up and we may never know what happens to this young man, but it only emphasizes that The Struggle Is Real!
When I ask people to volunteer to help at ATB I almost feel like I should read a disclaimer that they should not sign up for the battle unless they realize there will be some good, and when it is good, it is great and almost miraculous. And, there will be some bad, and this is the part where you use tough love, but you never give up on folks. And, then the ugly hits and you must be ready to stomach the disappointment and give it up to the God who is with you in every battle. It is, as I learned in war, next man up.
Choose any Psalm and you will see we aren't the only ones in a battle, and we aren't the only ones who cry out in desperation often to the Lord just to make it to another day. And, those of us who have chosen this battle, who have already gone through it ourselves, truly know that the only way to cope with this, to be ready for the battle is in the wonderful words of AA's promises.
God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves! That supplies our power to go on, and we will not run from a battle where God is behind us, beside us and goes before us.
I remember in 1984 how it felt the day I gave my life to the lord and was baptized. The feeling of being so unworthy to be loved by God was all over me until I came up out of that water as a new creation, and then it hit me. My sins were forgiven, but I still had consequences to pay as a result of those sins.
You see, the devil doesn't waste a moment to discourage us, especially after a great spiritual moment. He truly attempts to rob us of our joy because he wants us to always feel Unworthy. But, my next thoughts in my wandering just after giving up my addiction mind were, yes, I have consequences, but now I have a counselor, a confidant, a consoler and a comforter who can get me through whatever battles were ahead.
If we look around at all the overdoses, suicides and unhappy people in this world, we see people feeling unworthy, who feel like they need pain to remind them of how bad they are. But instead, if we can bring them some hope, we can tell them how good God sees them. If we can help them to understand that He made us worthy, it takes away the burdens of bearing the weight of our own terrible sins.
In truth, after my conversion, I paid much less in consequences than I deserved because he spared me whenever it was a testimony to help my family or someone else. What it takes is the same mindset that Jesus related to the woman caught in adultery. He removed her accusers, spared her life but he wanted her to have a mindset of "go and sin no more".
In other words, if we are forgiven but we still behave the same way we used to, we are pouring unworthiness back into our mindset and the devil keeps us locked in spin cycle. And our accusers come back and that pours more unworthy feelings into a broken and confused soul. The Prodigal Son felt that, but he also knew who really loved him.
The answer: as the prodigal son said ,"I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men. So he got up and went to his father." Don't run to the dope man, don't use that knife on yourself. Run to the father who loves you and makes you worthy.
Be one of his transformed, hired men or women. Hired through the redemption of Christ, bought and paid for!
As Memorial Day approaches it brings me back to the Viet Nam war and the men I fought with. When I visited the wall in Washington, DC some time ago, I did not find any names of the men closest to me whom I left behind when I came home, but I do know that over 50,000 lost their lives during that conflict.
It seems so useless now, after all history has been written, and being there I can say there is no doubt - we did not belong there. I love my country, but the constitution allows us to defend against enemies within and without, and in that war, we may have been our own worst enemy.
To me, it parallels drug addiction and subsequent overdoses and death as we face it in our country. It's another battlefield that is unnecessary and it is growing daily. Just last night Trey told the story of a man who wanted to come to his rehab and after several exchanges of phone calls told him he was ready to give it a try. While at the hospital the man died of a heroin overdose; so tragic, but yet so typical of what is happening today.
I could add to that at least seven deaths of folks who have come to our meetings in the past year, and as we remember them we must remember that this addiction is a complex and baffling thing, the weapons being fired against those in addiction are locked and loaded with pain and suffering after their initial few moments of peace.
It is our duty to stand up and fight against this within our own households, neighborhoods and with those who come to us ready to quit. Before it is too late, we have to tell them that there is hope and it begins in finding a relationship with our creator. Sometimes it sinks in, others ignore the call, but it is up to us to keep pounding the proverbial pulpit so to speak with that message time after time again.
Now I know why I was in Nam, to get ready for this present day battle, but this time there is a difference. Instead of fighting with one hand tied behind my back, I am coming out with both guns blazing in defense of these young people who are wanting to change, and we will not stop until the devil becomes our casualty, let him pay the price this time.
We remember, but we must remember to let the devil know just how much power the God who leads us into battle has, and how much greater His weapons are than those of the enemy.
We remember, and we fight on behind the ultimate general of victorious hope!
How many times have we asked ourselves this question despite the fact we know God is unconditional love? Not only ourselves but in our meetings and contact with those we serve this is always a popular topic.
There are many ways to answer that from over 300 references to "love" in the Bible, but these verses from Jeremiah 31:1-4 are our topic of discussion in a few meetings this week:
"At that time" declares the Lord, "I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people." This is what the Lord says, "The people who survive the sword will find favor in the desert: I will come to give rest to Israel." The Lord appeared to us in the past saying:
I have loved you with an everlasting love: I have drawn you with loving kindness. I will build you up again..."
Not enough time or wisdom on my part to make this a Bible lesson but this is a recovery lesson if we can envision ourselves in this passage. Here are some takeaways for us about why he still loves us:
+ We, much like those Israelites who acted in a most dysfunctional manner, have survived the sword of overdose, multiple addictions and the results of bad behavior, if we are still standing and not in a pine box. God has led us out of the wilderness and united us with his followers (Christians) to learn how to live life again. He saved us from that overdose and has given us the favor of his grace.
+ While we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 - God sent a way to bring us out of that wilderness and if he did it for those who created many false gods, had drunken orgies, and generally were always rebellious, he will do it for us, despite our frequent flaws.
+ Yes, But Does He Still Love Me? Just look at John 3:16 and 1 John 4:9-12. He said it, I have loved you with an everlasting love - that's love that defies logic. He said it in I have drawn you with loving kindness, he stands in the garden of grace with open arms inviting us in to experience the fruits of His Spirit.
+ And, finally he said I will build you up again, he can and will restore us to sanity if we realize the question may be Does He Still Love Me, but should be do I love him enough to join him in that garden?
Ah, the journey is real, from the wilderness to sanity and there was only one who stayed with me throughout my own personal return from one foot in hell, even when I did not love myself. His name is Jesus, the reconciler of wanderers in the desert! The giver of rest to a life of a restless soul!
"These are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for awhile; then, when tribulation or persecution arises, they fall away."
Love that Rocky Road ice cream, do not like being on too many Rocky Roads of life. One is easy and palatable. The other requires faith, determination, and the will to win. Problem with addiction, we love that ice cream because it is instant, easy, and so tasty. That road though, it is a test of will and often is what forges character, which is something we usually lack until we hit bottom or are court ordered.
What we miss while traveling on any kind of rocky patch of life is the blessing that comes from enduring. Blessing and confident assurance that if we made it through this one, we can do the next one too! Many Psalms say in so many words, "if God is with me, bring it on." There is absolutely no substitute for the forging of iron sharpening iron, to prepare for that next rocky road that you know is coming.
We never know what is coming next on that road, but our faith tells us before we travel who is with us in the struggle. So any attempt by us to shortcut, postpone or not pay attention to how that "word" Jesus mentioned was planted in us, is not allowing it to grow to maturity within us. And when it does mature, we won't be all giddy just to hear a great sermon, we will actually go out and live it!
And when that next Rocky Road comes along we will just consider it a normal occurrence that leads to a greater "root" growth and blessing! Faith is forged in the battle, not by sitting on the sidelines eating ice cream.
In honor of Willie Mae Bush and her struggle to beat cancer!
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.