Jesus did it! He told the story so eloquently in a short, concise, and caring manner in a simple parable:
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won't he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one he has lost? (Pause) Now why would he do that - because one is important. He had ninety-nine good obedient sheep but the shepherd went after the sheep addict because he was lost. He did the same thing eating with tax collectors and wayward sinners. I would bet he went one on one with many of them.
And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father's will that even one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14
We can, as evangelists, leaders, business owners, preachers and recruiters go after the ninety-nine for volume, but it is the one that matters most to our Lord, the one who is lost, and the only way to keep that one in the flock is to go one on one with it to teach it how to remain with the flock, or in today's jargon - stay connected. It got lost because it got disconnected.
The opposite of addiction is connection and at ATB we will always be about the one, because we have a whole bunch of ones. Therefore, we can develop Strategic Plans, Business Plans and all other kinds of plans, but I personally believe that we should follow the growth blueprint Jesus gave us, and engage other volunteers to spread the message of hope as he did with the Apostles.
We have some incredible numbers in our 9-10 meetings a week, but we measure our success in one's. They need the connection, we need the connection, and we all need to be connected to the One who does not want any-one to perish!
It happens at the end of every meeting when we hand out the recovery milestone chips that range from 24 hours clean to multiple years. May not mean much to folks not involved in addiction recovery but these are for the courageous efforts of recovering addicts and alcoholics to come in from the darkness to find light in sobriety.
At the end we hand out the "Encouragement Chip" which has the footprints on one side and this quotation on the other, "Follow the footprints of the Lord they will lead you through troubled times and brighten your life". Needless to say these small metal coins the size of a quarter are our most popular. Why? Sometimes the Lord has to carry us through times of trouble when we have no strength to make it ourselves. The history of this dates way back to the Book of Deuteronomy. Listen to Moses words to the Israelites:
The Lord your God who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. Deuteronomy 1:30-31
When my oldest son was very young we were on a winter trip in the mountains of Pennsylvania sledding and snowmobiling in -5 degree weather. Somehow he lost his gloves and we were about a quarter mile away from the building we were staying in. He kept screaming how cold he was. My wife told the story how I picked him up and ran with him all the way to save him from frostbite.
As a father carries a son in that passage has been lived by me when I carried Tom, but also when God carried this broken man when he was down and out and frozen in his heart. Footprints is not just a word to me, it is a sign always that the Lord is still with me, even in multiple pandemics and social unrest.
I have one simple job now, point the way to those footprints that walked toward that cross and out of that tomb so that any alcoholic or drug addict could follow them or be carried by them, to home where there is healing.
That has brightened my life, it can enlighten yours!
I love the song "Friend of God". It reminds me of how far I've come, from that despicable alcoholic lost in the darkness to being a friend of the creator who knows my name. That comes from the refrain: I am a friend of God, he knows my name! My new identity came from a process of Transformation that is best described in Romans 12:2.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.
How it worked for me was by surrendering to Christ, then learning how to drop my pride for humility, then by losing the condemnation of myself for the affirmations of a changed positive life. We are certainly what we think we are and what we think turns into words, then into actions which show our true intentions. And we must remember that in addiction behavior our intentions were usually bad which reflected our selfish thoughts and that was manifested in our harsh words.
So I had to ask myself a question, what did I tell myself daily versus what God was telling me? Some words change entirely in their meaning by one word. I can/I can't or I love/I lose or I need hope/I need dope. We are so easily swayed as the Devil proved with Eve in the garden - one letter changed an entire world outcome.
So, aside from understanding that humility heals the pain of our past and generates an opportunity for learning how to be transformed, I had to begin telling myself affirming things daily that I would also suggest to you:
1. I can recover from addiction (or fill in another sin word)
2. I will not repeat my past mistakes (took several times to learn this one)
3. I am smart and trustworthy
4. I am handsome (beautiful for the women)
5. My fear of life is disappearing
6. My life is just beginning
7. I am a friend of God
And remember what being a Friend of God means, no condemnation through Christ, plans to prosper not harm, we are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, and select any chapter of the Bible and read how God treasures us. He longs for our friendship.
Yes, when we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, we know His mind. That tells us everything we need to know.
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.