La de dah de dah! So says the famous duo of Sonny & Cher, and so goes the world of recovery. Every day a new challenge, every day the unexpected happens which requires many new moves if you wish to dance as this beat goes on....La de dah de dah!
I have often wondered how Jesus did it so well, facing so many new challenges each new day. Of course he was and is God, but he was also human, so he must have felt the emotions as we do, he wept, he had compassion, he got angry; so he must have felt a little disappointed when they heard his message but still walked away. Or, in our world, they came to recover and had a relapse.
Since we are nowhere near being God it affects us differently, we often have feelings which cause us deep concern and grief, as well as anger, hurt and the occasional joy when someone gets clean beyond a year. I say a year because from what I have experienced this past year, very few make it beyond that point, maybe 1 or 2 in 10. So, we are always serving in the midst of disappointment though we are serving with hearts that do not just stick around just for the good times. We are there for the good, the bad and the ugly!
Which brings me to this point, serving requires an almost unconditional love for those we serve. May not be possible for us as humans to experience this God like expression because we are finite, but we can get as close as possible if we lower our expectations of those we serve, and understand our own reward, our own joy will come later in heaven. My best human role model of this may be Mother Theresa.
And we must understand that no matter how good we preach, teach, love or serve, the results are in the hands of those who receive it, they make the choice and we cannot do it for them. But we can show up, keep grinding and let the beat of the Lord's rhythm go on.
Then one day, someone we touch will get in that same rhythm and we can dance without stepping on each others toes!
"They" can take away from us anything they want. But they can't take away our attitude. The great violinist Niccolo Paganini, regarded as the greatest of his time in the 1800s, gave us a wonderful example of this. Not only did he battle against his health, including tuberculosis, he also had to make a major adjustment in one of his concertos.
Playing in front of a packed audience, the first of his strings broke, and he kept playing without missing a beat. Another broke, he kept playing, another broke he kept playing, and he was down to one string. Story is, he not only finished on that one string but played an encore on it. Needless to say, he received a rousing standing ovation.
The Apostle Paul gave us his one string concerto when he spoke of his attitude of gratitude no matter what was going on in his life. In Philippians 4:12-13 it says: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.
Paul's one string was THE one thing, Jesus Christ. He flipped the happy switch every day of his life even after he faced much despair, persecution, and multiple hardships. His strings of education, scholar and standing in life were stripped away only to be left with that one and only string. He proved that attitude is a choice, and we can look at it as down to our last string, or we have one string left to play with all of our heart.
Oh and that last string, if it is THE string, we can do all the rest of the things, even if that's the only one we can play with. Our attitude then becomes all about gratitude.
Clap - clap - clap! That's the angels giving you a standing O! Keep on playing!
It was more than compelling drama, as my friend Trey Lewis likes to say, it was another comeback story. And we all love comeback stories. This one however, played itself out on a national stage, and was watched by millions and cheered in person by thousands.
There was fist pumping, hard charging Tiger Woods in search of his first win in a very long time, having sunk from first to #10,387 on the world rating of golfers performances. This man who had fallen from public grace through marital infidelity, spinal back infusion surgery, prescription drug addiction, DUI and never thinking he could swing a golf club again, was making a surge and the crowds watching were cheering wildly.
He had just struggled a short time ago in even being able to play with his kids, but on this day, the last day of the prestigious PGA Championship he became the people's champion once again. Fallen, forgiven and fused back together, he was a champion again even though he finished second. He won by just showing up, and showing he still had that incredible ability to carry any generation of golfers to new heights of popularity.
He became larger than life by becoming just the right size.
Part of our problem with struggles is that we create many by thinking we are much greater than we are, by trying to always be #1, achieving our way to constant attention. This creates the need to do more, to be more. Another part of the problem is that we do not like the hand of cards life has dealt us so we try to be somebody else. We are always struggling the find the right size to stay.
Why is this so important? Because going through the struggle with God by our side leading us out of it makes us stronger, make us understand the perspective of man vs. spiritual powers trying to destroy us, that continue to leave us wanting more. In Ephesians 6:10-12, the struggle is outlined and concludes with this in verse 13:
Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Sounds wonderful, but unless we become the right size, the armor never fits. It never works because we are always doing our will, being our own self-centered universe, and always elusive through a struggle. In fact we learn very little because we are so full of pride. I know, that was me; that was the old Tiger Woods.
The part of that verse that always intrigued me was and after you have done everything, to stand. To me that means that the Strength Comes From The Struggle, and though the armor may protect us, we still have to stand through many difficult battles of life to become battle tested and proven.
For those of us who have fallen, the comeback story we generate by doing this has far reaching consequences, especially that of showing our fellow man that this scripture, this story is live and in living color, and it works.
We can weather any storm, fight any battle, if we just stay the right size (A.A. 12 & 12 Page 122)! He's God, I'm not!
This expression comes from seeing the impossible happen when it did not seem possible. Naturally there is no way you can make salad out of soup unless you invented a new way to solidify soup, dissect it marginally to tiny ions of cubes that could be merged together with atoms of lettuce, tomatoes and something like cucumbers. That certainly sounds impossible and makes absolutely no sense.
Then again, making enough food out of a few fishes and loaves for thousands, or raining manna from heaven seemed impossible, but it happened. Maybe I am wrong but do impossible things seem to happen when God is involved? The motivation of spiritual intervention seems to be behind virtually most of the impossible events of life.
One of my most treasured memories is of being present when my middle daughter was born in a natural, no drug induced child birth. My wife had been in a car accident that broke her hip and somehow Mom and baby both survived. My wife vowed to walk into that hospital without a wheelchair, take no drugs and deliver that child as naturally as she could. To me it was a miraculous sight I will never forget, a natural high and a spiritual answer to prayers from someone who had not quite found God yet.
So too, is the plight of today's Heroin and Meth users who make the transition from addiction to sobriety. It is God doing the impossible when all the other possibles failed. In a meeting of about 60 people last night, there were at least a half dozen cases of former Heroin Users who were proud to announce they were clean. So many have died and overdosed, yet there are the impossibles who make it and we rejoice in that situation, for it is certainly like Making Chicken Salad Out Of Chicken Soup.
The founders of A.A. proclaimed that addiction was a "spiritual Condition", the souls of human beings were being robbed of freedom by that addiction. Their solution? Have a spiritual awakening and, of course, when one of those happens, God shows up in miraculous ways.
They say kicking the heroin/meth habits are nearly improbable. He says nothing is impossible for me, and would you like that soup with noodles or rice?
A tantalizing thing to ask ourselves is what is really normal? I can tell you this for certain, and Jesus pointed this out distinctly, if you think you are "normal," you are not. So what is the real normal in 2018?
Addiction, this is n0w the normal. More families are using together. More doctors are writing prescriptions for opiates. More young people are dying from overdoses than natural causes. The new "normal" is what used to be abnormal. More people are hiding behind masks of prescription drug use in upper class families, and just as many kids that go to Christian schools are stoned as the ones who go to public schools. More people are using alcohol or drugs to cope with everyday life than ever.
When I mention this to those who think they are normal, they shake it off as if it does not exist. Sounds similar to the "whitewashed tombs" Jesus spoke about. This reaches into the very hierarchy of society although those up there blame it on the poor, the dysfunctional, and the unfortunate. Normal is now a moving target that bounces around and is most confusing and elusive if we are seeking it.
And the convenient solution we offer (and please understand I say this reluctantly and sadly) is a relationship with Jesus. I would agree with that if it was the 1st century Jesus, but it is now 2000 plus years later and we have altered our concept of him without totally understanding why. Suddenly that loving, redeeming and grace filled Jesus now has a new corporate white washed look that seems to be sanitized. To the outsiders who are now flocking away from church, he is now also too elusive because we have made him that way by the way we conduct our churches and our worship.
By thinking you are normal and they are not, there has become a divide that says you must do things my way to be set right. In truth our my way, may not really be Jesus way. Are we ready to really eat with tax collectors and sinners in their house, not ours? Are we ready to sit next to felons and tattooed five time heroin relapsers for more than one Sunday at church?
That 1st century Jesus would and so would his apostles after a few years of chastising. Normal? He was anything but that. In fact he was abnormal. He was God and he still is the way, the truth and the light, just maybe not like we portray him to be today.
There were no flashing lights back then, no special programs, just a Jewish carpenter rolling up his sleeves to meet people where they were at in the down and dirty part of their life.
Maybe, he was trying to show us what normal was supposed to be.
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.