So the past few weeks have been a bit of a trial . The number of speed bumps on easy-street made going forward cloudy, and stirred a great deal of anxiety and doubts. Stretches like this remind me how thankful I am to have a routine. My morning starts with time in the word and some time for reflection and prayer before the world is awake (certainly those in my home). I’ll freely admit it’s not always something I look forward to, and I make excuses why I shouldn’t spend the time and energy. Barring an illness though, that consistency continues on like it or not. It’s the muscle memory I need. Despite being tired, having some difficult conversations with God and everyday stress I continue. It’s so important that I do, I’m committed to God and want to continue taking steps towards being a fully-devoted follower of Christ. For years, I floundered. I thought that by accepting Christ, and praying as it fit into my schedule or needs made me better, showing my commitment. I knew where my Bible was and attended church (when it wasn’t inconvenient). Not surprisingly I thought I had the keys to getting it right by dipping my toes in my faith. How many times my will, the faith I put in myself that I could figure it out myself instead of having my faith come first and transform me.
I could even turn to the above passage, but the words were empty and hollow as they fell on me. I leaned on my own understanding, and made that understanding fit my life and schedule. My recovery in the early days was eerily similar. I thought I could apply the basics, go through the motions and be cured in a few months. I’ll wait for you to stop laughing…
I skimmed through things, I said the right things and I applied the things I thought were best and most prescient to me. Certainly not everything, and certainly not anything inconvenient. I took pieces from this, plugged in that, followed trends, heard wise soundbites and made in turn I believed I was making myself wise. *Mastering* my recovery, I was going to fast-track things be a model of recovery and show everyone the power was in me. I was going to be able to successfully circumvent the process.
I could recite Steps 1 and 2 verbatim, but stopped there because the rest didn’t fit my idea of what recovery is. A lot of it was downright inconvenient. After floundering for a bit not surprisingly after a bit of sobriety I fell flat on my face 4 months in. It was a wake-up call in hindsight I needed. I couldn’t just dip my toes in recovery, I had to immerse myself in something I never had. Full commitment, and full surrender. Step 3.
*We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him*
My wanting recovery isn’t enough. A favorite quote of mine from someone whose recovery I value stands to this day, burnt in my memory. *Recovery isn’t convenient.* It really, really, really isn’t. Phone calls, meetings, therapy, more therapy and a commitment to myself, God and others. When that realization dawned on me things began to change. I began to see that I couldn’t define my recovery, I need a tried and true recovery plan to define me. I had to slow down and trust the process. I couldn’t take the things I believed were best, most relevant or the most convenient. I couldn’t *plug and play* a fad, the tools and systems of recovery were there for me to use with my commitment to them. The result was one that began resonating within me, and carried over to my faith.
Philippians 13: 13-14 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I don’t have it all figured out, but the tracks between faith and recovery are similar. There’s a visual that’s been used before at Willow I’ll try to explain. On a straight line there is a perpendicular line a third of the way over from the left side. In our faith, we start as non-believers, move into being a believer and then we cross over that perpendicular line into baptism as we accept Christ as our savior. But then many-times once we step over from merely dipping our toes into acceptance we get stalled. We stop taking tangible steps to move closer to being fully-devoted followers of Christ. We need to keep pressing ahead, not hanging on our own understanding but by diving into the Word, by being a part of a community and by being challenged to dig deeper.
Use that same visual for your recovery. We all start by getting past our old beliefs and stepping into and past recovery. But for far too many, that’s as far as it goes. We get stalled by taking control, forgetting Step 1. To make it past mere acceptance and sobriety, we have to commit ourselves to recovery. We have to press ahead when it’s not convenient or is too hard. We have to stop trusting our own thoughts and beliefs about recovery. More often than not our thoughts are corrupted by our past. We need to be part of a community that encourages us, directs us and challenges us.
We can’t merely dip our toes in, think of recovery and your faith as more of a cannonball in the deep-end of the pool. The ripples are larger the closer they are to us and decrease as they move away. However regardless of their size they continue affecting others at the furthest points from us. Anyone who is their path is impacted by the steps we take and conversely we’re affected by their ripples.
I needed people in my life to inspire and help me jump into my faith and my recovery. Those that encouraged me to overcome fear. Those that challenged me to leave behind my own notions and be washed clean. To take steps by choosing a lane and committing to it. We all have the same choice to make and the same opportunity to be washed clean. The same joys to look ahead, not back. The same loving Father who wants us to not just proclaim Him as our savior but to take steps towards Him. But it can’t be on our terms. Negotiation gets us exactly what we say in recovery meetings, *half measures availed us nothing*. Which means recovery and your faith have to be done without taking short-cuts. I pray you choose the more difficult path of commitment, it will take you someplace so much sweeter than where we’ve been.