Tag Archives: proverbs

Maybe Jesus wants us to take the wheel

The other day my 13-year-old son, Maddox, did something miraculous.  Without being told, without any promise of reward or punishment, without this being on his chore list, he lifted a bag full of garbage out of the can and carried it outside.   I’m not exaggerating when I say this simple act brought tears to my eyes.

If you are a parent you get why this made such an impact on me.   But even if you are not a parent, you get how much sweeter it is to see a good deed done from the heart rather than because they’ve been told to do so.    Like when an apology is offered freely it is far more meaningful than one offered from cajoling, isn’t it?

I am moved far more deeply by an expression of love, a kind gesture, a wise choice when I know it springs forth freely from the heart as an act of will rather than when I know it is done due to adherence to my instruction, my principle, my law.

I think this is what Paul meant when he wrote about the difference between a life lived by faith versus one under the law in Galatians 3:

The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

The law makes for a good nest as you grow your feathers and get your wings, but what is true of my children it is also true of God’s children:  one day, you gotta jump out of the nest and, hopefully, fly.

Ryan May, pastor of The Net Church, shared a message yesterday that was secondarily about how the Bible is not black and white on many matters, which means we need wisdom to determine which course to take depending on our circumstances and context.   But this message was primarily about how important this understanding of the Bible is to having a healthy, vibrant, functioning relationship with Jesus!    He shared a wonderful analogy that drives this home:   When his 10-year-old son asked him if he could drive, Ryan decided to let him sit in his lap within the neighborhood and steer.    He realized, however, that  a day will come when he, the dad, is going to have to switch seats and entrust his son with the wheel.    If in 6 years his son is still needing to sit in dad’s lap to drive we would think something was wrong, wouldn’t we?

In a similar fashion, God is happy to let us sit in his lap when we need the help but like any good father, his desire is to teach his children how to drive.

When we treat the Bible like a law-book of do’s and dont’s, depending upon it to answer all of life’s questions, we are in essence choosing to live by the law rather than by faith.  We are choosing to stay in God’s lap and play it safe rather than jump out of the nest and fly.

This applies to recovery in many ways, least of which being that we often begin our journey in recovery due to external forces (law) impinging on us.  We do it to save a relationship or a job or to appease a judge.   Law drives us to meetings and sometimes that is enough – and thank God for them! – to get us through some grueling stretches of the road.    But eventually living by the law will burn us out and not be a big enough reason to carry on.    In my experience, deep, lasting recovery will not materialize until we accept and believe that we are worth recovery.   Until we accept that we are children of God and worth redeeming – that we want serenity and joy and peace and love in our lives – not to save our marriage but simply because we believe we are worth it – than real recovery will always elude us.

I love that the 12 Steps do not contain a single negative.   There is not a single “Thou Shall Not” or “Stop doing this” in the entire list.   Rather, it is a program of action.  It’s an invitation to jump out of the nest and start living life the way God intended.   The steps  don’t tell me exactly how to respond in every situation but rather they give me tools to enable me to respond to life on life’s terms with wisdom and love.     And ironically, with seven years of higher education in Bible and Theology under my belt, it’s the Steps that are most helping me read the Scriptures in ways that inspire me to trust that my Father delights in watching me, and you, drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Proverbs and Programs are not Promises (and that’s good news)

I heard an important message Sunday at church.   It was part of a series on the book of Proverbs and the pastor began with this warning:

Sometimes it doesn’t work.

Sometimes we do all the right things, make all the right plans, follow all the right advice, cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s and still things go sideways.   To quote one prophet, Forrest Gump, life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.

The sayings in Proverbs, the pastor went on to say, are not so much promises but probabilities.   Following the wisdom found in Proverbs will better situate a person for a fulfilling, rewarding life than not following its advice.    But nothing in life is a guarantee and sometimes you’ll bite into a coconut cluster when you were totally expecting caramel.

In the same way that Proverbs cannot promise a smooth-sailing life, working the steps of recovery will not guarantee rainbows and unicorns.   I can be working the perfect program but still get laid off tomorrow.  I can recite the most beautiful amends to someone I’ve hurt and still be kicked to the curb.   I can rise each morning and seek to connect with my Higher Power and hear nothing back in return.    I can strive to give back to the world what I’ve learned and be rejected or ignored.

Neither Proverbs nor the Steps are a talisman promising good luck if rubbed just the right way.    And thank God for that.

Thank God because who wants a Proverb or a Program that works like a vending machine?  Actually, as I type that question I realize that at times many of us want exactly that.   We want to be able to recite a verse or work a step and because we have done X we can be certain that Y and Z are sure to follow.   Deep down we want to feel we have earned our reward.   Yes, we may want that at times, even most of the time, but thank God that is not what we get.

Because here’s the deal.   Not one of us ever has nor ever will work a perfect proverb or program.   Not one of us ever has nor ever will get it right enough

Moms and dads, on a scale of 1 to 10, just how often are you operating at a consistent 10 when it comes to training up your child in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6)?   I often strive for a 10 but there are days when I know I just phoned it in.

Fellow addicts, on a scale of 1 to 10, just how fully are you turning your life and your will over to the care of God as you understand God?   I often strive for a 10 but there are days when I realize I’ve been running on my own steam and stubbornly clinging to my own will.

I am so thankful that both Proverbs and my Program are probabilities for a better life rather than promises because if they were promises than that would mean I would be accountable for perfectly performing those promises in order to get the promised prize.  My relationship with God would be based solely on how well I performed each transaction, how perfectly I lived out each proverb, how precisely I worked each step.

Probabilities, on the other hand, create room for grace.

Grace, God’s unmerited favor and goodness towards we who strive and stumble through life, makes up for the days I’m operating at a 5 at best.   Grace enables me to be gentle with myself and let go of worry about the future because while I know I may never be a consistent 10 when it comes to parenting, God our Father, is.

Grace is those moments you see your child respond to someone with compassion and you can’t remember having done it quite so beautifully as they or had no idea they were watching if you did.

Grace is what makes up the difference on those days when I know I haven’t had time to work a great program but I’m sober today and a text from a group member reminds me that I am not alone.

Understanding that my program, like proverbs, is made up of a list of probabilities releases me from the bondage of performance anxiety.   So long as I am setting my sail in the direction these steps suggest I can be hopeful that I’m going to make progress even if – no, when! – I don’t do it perfectly.    The Big Book, in the chapter titled How It Works, after listing each of the 12 Steps has this to say:

Many of us exclaimed, “What an order!  I can’t go through with it.”  Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles.  We are not saints.  The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress.  We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

So, if you are struggling today with keeping a bunch of promises and worried that your sub-par performance is going to sink you or those you love, know this:   Because of Grace, if you continue taking it one day at a time, moving one step at a time in the right direction, the probabilities that you’ll make positive progress are really, really high.   Don’t give up.