The church can offer a safe path through recovery from all kinds of idolatry, including substance abuse.
We can do better.
I have had a battle with alcohol – and a few more battles with people, places, and things I thought I could control.
Unfortunately, for too long I thought, I was a special case; self in the center of all things will do that. (Some go to church!) For too long, I was a defensive blame-shifter—not good, company at all!
Mercifully God stepped in, doing for me what I could not do myself. It’s a daily reprieve, over which He rules, but for which I have responsibility – like getting to meetings, praying and not picking up; or, climbing back on the throne of my heart.
In time, I read Psalm 119.
Psalm 119 has been a storehouse of hope and direction since I became a Christian, and got sober. I was not much of a Psalm reader, ever. But this was one Psalm, Psalm 139, and a few others, brought me up short: showing me maybe God’s word could explain some of the pits into which I wandered.
Specifically, when I read Psalm 119:65-72, an A-Ha! insight dawned.
Verse 67 says: before I was afflicted, I went astray. The psalmist made a connection between his current health and his former choices that helped me understand mine.
When read this, I took a deep breath of relief – because I felt some guilt and shame being lifted. Although, I accepted alcoholism was a disease, I wrestled with the shame that it was a character defect – a sin. (Drunkenness is, imho.)
Truth be told, though, early on and deep down inside, I was hoping for a cure that would make it OK to once again return to my first love, albeit safely. Sometimes well-meaning Christians don’t understand the power certain idols exert. For me, drinking is not wise – which is why I say I am in remission, acknowledging I am powerless over alcohol; calling myself and alcoholic, although through Christ, I can do all things . . . just not drink. 🙂
Do We Set Up Hurdles?
Now, sometimes others in the church can set unintentional hurdles for those in recovery. (Learning Through AA What Christ Meant for the Church)
As a new Christian I was told that since Christ forgave my sins, I could safely drink — by people who had never been my drinking buddies, obviously.
Some even insist that wine is the most excellent to celebrate the Lord’s supper, making a little difficult for those who choose not to drink.
Returning to the psalmist, steadies me reminding what my job is: stay sober, practice serenity and rejoice that my Higher Power as I understand Him is still on duty in His church.
His word does not fail:
65 You have dealt well with Your servant,
O Lord, according to Your word.
66 Teach me good discernment and knowledge,
For I believe in Your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
68 You are good and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.
69 The arrogant have forged a lie against me;
With all my heart I will observe Your precepts.
70 Their heart is covered with fat,
But I delight in Your law.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
72 The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Reinforcing the Path in Recovery
I am passing along several ARTICLES of INTEREST for those in the church, and for Christians in recovery to consider how to serve His Body. Please click through.
Thanks for reading – This is a topic close to my heart — Some dear Christians are in a fierce persistent battle. What are you thoughts on recovery and the church? How can we do better, strengthening a path through recovery.
Love in Christ,
Sober and Grateful
P.S. You might like Frederick Buechner on AA