Often, I will get people to circle one or more of the following that they think is true about them.
Do you really want to change? Circle that which applies to you:
- No, not really.
- Yes, but I know that this isn’t going to work
- Yes, but only when I don’t have strong cravings
- Yes, but I don’t know how I am going to cope with my bad feelings
- Yes, but only because I am supposed to want to change
- Yes, to keep my family/friends happy
- Yes, but I don’t want to give it up completely
- Yes, but only after I have one last blow out
- Yes, but I don’t think it’s that bad a thing in my life
- I don’t like being told what I can and can’t do
- I hate what I do but I also love it
- I don’t want to try and to fail again
- I don’t really need to change that much
- I want to change for my kids/family/myself
- I want to get right with God
- I am sick of getting into trouble
- I don’t know
The point being that most of these reasons are not enough to help a person change their life. They may work for a time but they are not strong enough motivators to keep addicts on the straight and narrow when cravings begin, or the voice of folly comes. we teach people that there is only one person powerful enough to bring lasting change into their life and that person is God. Only He can give us a reason to say, “no” to our addictions and only He can offer us a better way of life. But the problem for many people is that God is an irrelevance to their life. If they think about Him at all, it is usually with anger, bitterness and a sense of detached disdain. The idea that somehow a person can have a “relationship” with God is so ridiculously foreign to their ears that it takes some work and time trying to establish the truth of this claim.
I try to encourage deeper thought in this area by reminding people that every single human on planet earth has problems with relationships in our lives.Everybody in the room can agree on this point. addictions haven’t gotten a grip in our lives without causing “collateral” damage. Loved one have been hurt, robbed, abused, rejected and left by the wayside in the deadly pursuit of the love affair of addiction. There is fractures and mess at every turn. My point is that, even though people may be completely unaware of it, we all have a relationship problem with God too. The tension that most addicts feel in their life is this:
I don’t want anything to do with God but maybe I do need Him. Maybe you hate God and wonder what He has ever done for you. Maybe you are angry with God over the death of a loved one or some difficulty in life. Maybe you blame God for your current life situation and the choices you have made.
We need to give people time and space to think through some of these questions and issues. It is worth noting at this point that even those who claim to be atheists are often angry at our “imaginary God” for the state of their lives. That is often down to the fact that they have been raised in a culture that does not let them take any blame for their actions. They must blame somebody or something for their behaviour. The question then becomes:
What do we think about God and spiritual things?
Now, remember, that we have discussed the fact that all people are double minded. That we are always at war with ourselves. We need to show them that this war is not just about our addictions and problems but that it also has to do with our souls as well. Most of us have spent our lives avoiding God or ignoring Him and we have been fighting His claim to rule over our lives. We must ensure that we emphasise that ignorance is not a defence here! Often I will choose anger as an emotion to illustrate my point. So, will say something like the following:
Maybe we are angry with God (if not Him then something or someone). The first human response when we are angry is to blame someone. (Example of Judo player in Olympics who smashed up a judge. He was disqualified and when asked to apologise for his actions, he said that it wasn’t his fault – the ref made him mad!. He didn’t confess his problem. He passed the blame). That’s what we try to do when we mess our lives up. We look around for somebody to blame. Our parents, our friends and, very often, the God we claim not to believe in. But these things are not the problem. The problem is deep within us. People believe all sorts of stuff about God but they don’t really know anything about Him. What if I summed you up saying you were a junkie, an alkie, a miserable depressive and a liar. Does that sum up who you are? People stereotype us all the time and they don’t even know us. You’re from Niddrie? Already, they have written us off. People do that to God all the time. You think you know stuff about God. You think you know stuff about the Bible. Maybe you went to church or heard some stuff from a priest years ago (local, cultural context), but you don’t really know. If you have lived your life without Him up until this point then you better believe that you don’t know very much about Him. He, on the other hand, knows all about each of us. He knows us very well indeed.
The question is, in our battle for change, if we’re serious about turning our lives around, then we have to pay attention to God and what he has to say and to offer us on these issues. There is a war raging within us. There is the one that we see all around us every day and there is the invisible war against the God of the universe. Internal peace can only be found when we have dealt with the latter problem first.
Part 4 to follow.