A drunken man wanders into a baptism service on a Sunday afternoon down by the river. He proceeds to stumble into the water and stands next to the pastor. The pastor turns, notices the inebriated fellow and says, “Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?” The man turns and says, “Yes sir, I am.” The pastor then dunks the fellow under the water and pulls him right back up. “Have you found Jesus?” the pastor asked.” No, I didn’t!” said the drunk. The pastor then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up and says, “Now brother, have you found Jesus?” “No, I did not!” he says again. Disgusted, the pastor holds the man under for at least thirty seconds this time, brings him up and demands, “For the grace of God, have you found Jesus yet?!” The old drunk wipes his eyes and pleads, “Are you sure this is where he fell in?”
This is funny. Being an alcoholic or an addict of any kind however isn’t.
Many people have difficulty with themselves. So often people feel as though they don’t measure up, and they’re failing or a failure. We often see ourselves as inadequate. Many folks are very hard on themselves.
We don’t correct ourselves in just measure, as scripture says. We bring ourselves to nothing. Proverbs 19:8 says, “To acquire wisdom is to love oneself.” We’re definitely our own worst enemy so often. We have no problem forgiving others what we won’t forgive in ourselves. Many hold themselves up to a much higher standard than what they expect from others. We say things like, “I should’ve known better.” Or “There’s no excuse for that.”
It’s much better to care about yourself than pass such strong negative judgments against yourself. Stop being so hard on yourself. You aren’t failing. You’re not inadequate. The Lord loves you.
There are differences between guilt and shame. Whereas guilt is a right or wrong judgment about your behavior, shame is a feeling about yourself. Guilt often motivates us to want to correct or repair an error. In contrast, shame is an intense global feeling of inadequacy, inferiority, or self-loathing. You want to hide or disappear. In front of others, you feel exposed and humiliated, as if they can see your flaws.
Shame’s power is to cause you to lose touch with the other parts of yourself, and to feel disconnected from everyone else. It induces faulty, often unconscious beliefs, such as: I’m a failure. I’m not important. I’m unlovable. I don’t deserve to be happy. I’m a bad person. I’m a phony. I’m defective. As with all emotions, shame passes. But for addicts and codependents it hangs around, often beneath consciousness, and leads to other painful feelings and problematic behaviors. Shame’s pain becomes so intense and yet unnamed that almost anything will be done to save someone from feeling it. This is the cause of the rise of addictions or addiction cycles.
While there are many reasons people begin to feel ashamed of themselves, there is a certain false belief that I consider most important: We believe falsely that we have more power over our lives than we have.
Scripture tells us this is incorrect when it says, “…the way of human beings is not in their control.”
But when something goes wrong we tend to see ourselves as the one who caused it or wasn’t capable of stopping it. This is especially true when it happens to us. We think, “I should have been able to stop by sibling, my uncle, my mother, my neighbor, my friends from doing what they did to me.” We blame ourselves; we find fault with ourselves; we start to dislike ourselves. This is where shame begins. The beginning of future addictions is found here.
There is a coin of absolute truth. One side of this coin says we’re much less responsible for what happened to us in the past from the outside and what happens to us today from the outside than we think. The other side of the coin says we’re a lot more responsible for and have more power over what happens to us on the inside than we understand and practice.
This second side is the secret to the possibility of the new you, the better you, the ripe for recovery you.
Instead of focusing on what’s going on around us and how to control and be responsible for it, we need to pay attention to what’s going on inside of us. Something happens, and what do we do? We go off running after whatever is going on out there, letting our immediate reactions dictate our responses. Time and again, we react the same way we always have. Past habits and present blindness dominate. We’re not free. That needs to stop.
When someone is saying something or doing something, don’t just accept your immediate reaction. Instead, find yourself first. Recognize what’s happening inside of you. Doubt the necessity of this first reaction. Tell yourself to relax and let it go. If you do this, you will free yourself from the tyranny of the past. You will intuitively know what’s your responsibility and what isn’t, what you have power over and what you don’t.
Let go of the false belief you can control what’s going on in the outside. Be renewed on the inside. Find your peace. Let the joy God has promised you in Christ Jesus be yours.
We could all use recovery. Some however need recovery in order to save their lives. They’re active addicts or people who suffer from addictive cycles. There are millions of people, with a wide variety of addictions. For some of us, this issue isn’t a number, it’s their loved one. For others, it’s their own life we’re talking about.
One person had this to say about what it’s like for people suffering from addiction (alcoholism) cycles. “From the moment addiction and alcoholism begin they have started the worst job in the world, with a lunatic of a boss screaming at them from inside of their own mind, without a single moment off. And the more the addict/alcoholic uses/drinks the worse it gets, as the addict then becomes the living dead. Addiction is a greedy disease, first it will take your money. Then it will take your friends and family, your home, your ability to function in society, then it will start eating away at bits of your body until it takes you alive, body, mind and soul. Very often the addict would prefer to give his or her life away than give up the addiction. Addiction robs (us or) our loved ones of almost all of their psychic energy to love, create and live full, complete lives in harmony with The Universe, God – (whatever you choose to call this force), and others.”
Life in every age is filled with anxiety. Our scripture this morning, Psalm 91, seems to be the work of a teacher who seeks to nurture the trust of the faithful by encouraging each of us to take the Lord as our refuge from all the troubles of life. For the psalmist speaking in his day, these dangers and dreaded experiences were given more poetic phrasing, such as “terror of the night,” “the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,” and “the destruction that wastes at noonday.” Although they were poetically recorded, they must have been fully understood.
Against them stands the shelter of the Most High, the refuge and fortress of God. The Lord is a mother bird with wings to comfort and hide those worn out by life’s troubles and dangers. The psalmist believed we aren’t alone in this difficult word, no matter how often this appears to be the case.
We need to turn to God in trust. Find the Lord to be your highest power. Let go of what is worrying and weighing you down. Find protection in God’s care for you. This is what faith in the Lord promises and delivers.
But so many people turn to other things in order to be comforted or feel protected. What starts out first on the surface as promising quickly plummets to dangerous and then disastrous. What promises we believe in prove to have more impact in our lives than we normally believe. This is why the promises of Alcoholics Anonymous are famous, at least among those who are attempting recovery through this Twelve Step program or one like it.
I want to read the promises to you. Actually I’d prefer to ask if there’s anyone here personally familiar with the promises who would like to come up here and read them for us. These are the promises of Alcoholics Anonymous: If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
We all need recovery, some need it as a matter of life and death. Wake up to your life. Wake to the Lord’s love for you. Awaken to what still lies ahead.
A life of recovery begins today, right now. Focus your thoughts and energy on things that matter. Connect—connect to yourself, connect to God, to others. Tell the truth and forgive easily. If we’re going to feel better and do better, we ought to take care of our bodies. They’re miraculous.
Live cleanly; don’t numb out on substances or substitutes, with busyness and material things. Limit the time spent on screens and increase time spent with the Lord, yourself, and others. When someone is in need, stop and do something about it.
Find Christ’s love for you, daily, hourly. Let peace rule in your hearts minute by minute. Let your strength be in the one who shelters you and hides you in the wings of his love, now and forever.
Can the church say Amen?