Many years ago I owned a huge Chevy window van. I traded the very first car I ever owned for it, thinking I was going to do “youth work.” Well that didn’t materialize and I was stuck with a vehicle that got about nine miles to the gallon. I remember going to a car dealership, finding a car I really liked, and so I sat down with the salesman. He did a masterful job of describing the deal and how it was good for me. I apparently did something he wasn’t wanting–I hesitated. I mean I really balked. I remember thinking, “Well that’s good and all, but I just can’t do that.” Then the salesman did something I didn’t expect. He just dropped the pitch, and said, “Look tell me what you want.” Well, I told him, “I need the loan on this vehicle paid off, or I can’t trade.” He left the room, came back shortly and said he could do that. Wow! It really was just what I needed–a nice car, better gas mileage, and it lasted through those final days in college and a couple more moves up life’s highway. When I honestly looked at what I needed it opened the door for that “great exchange.”
Recovery calls for us to honestly see what we have and what we need. Often we do not want to see it, evaluate it, or in any way admit to it, like my big gas guzzling van that was costing me a lot. Many things tackle our lives. We have the need to look at them and admit their influence and deterioration on our lives. Here are some categories we may need to face:
- Pleasure–For many it heads the list. Why did we walk (or maybe run) down this road? Because it felt good, really good! That first high is in our cross hairs, and we are shooting for that from then on. The costs are great, the consequences mounting, but that didn’t matter–it was just too good. So we’re not going to listen to someone trying to tell me there might be a problem.
- Pain–For many this comes out of a need to reduce or not feel the pain, be it physical pain invading my body, or inner pain that grips our soul. At some point we may be willing to settle for the numbing effect, “At least I don’t hurt when I’m using.” So we zone out–at the cost of life going by, or necessary things to do being left undone. It leads to a grave deficit, one that seems never to get balanced.
- Problems–When life gets heavy we look for relief. So that first experience of the load being lifted was significant and defining. We go to the well again and again. We stop making any progress forward because we don’t have to–we just run away. Soon our escape brings outcomes that outweigh the minute placidity our frequent exits from reality afforded us.
- Pressure–-So many of us can owe our detour into use because of the influence of someone we knew. A buddy, a brother, or being introduced to a stranger that has something to enjoy. We played off each other, we competed with each other, we battled each other. That thumb in the back kept us edging closer to the cliff. But we were there for each other, right?
There may be other categories of how we entered the chase, but these can represent a lot of what we experience. Like my realization that my old van was a greater cost than an asset, there comes the meeting for the exchange. When we see we need to “trade in” what we have for what we need. Often we first tried to do this on our own, and often that failed miserably. So we finally see the need to take it to another, the God who is able to restore us to sanity. In that turning we find something–Someone– of value.
- We exchange our pleasure seeking for the Presence of God. We trade our short-lived fun for abiding joy. What we chased is now a heart-warming gift. Our broken, leaky cistern is mended and holding all that God pours out. (Jeremiah 2.13) The living water of Jesus can flood in and satisfy much better than our best elixir. What a great picture in John 4, “living water,” moving, fresh, quenching, life-giving. In reality–just what we wanted! The exchange is clearly described: “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (4.13-14)
- We exchange our pain for God’s Power. We exercised our will, found our way to “handle it,” and it profoundly worsened. Enter Someone greater than us, power to not act upon our circumstance but to work within us. We exchange the effort to change the world around us and surrender to the power to change us, not turning over a new leaf, but creating it new through and through, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5.17)
- We exchange our problems with the Promise of God. We sought escape, we needed healing. We were discouraged, we needed hope. Yesterday haunted us, tomorrow shriveled us, but today became the beginning of an adventurous journey. Such great promises: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11.28-30) “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40.29-31) “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13.5b; Deuteronomy 31.6) And many, many more…
- We exchange our pressure with God’s Purpose. God gives us a “barometric” change: his inner work overcomes the pressing of others on our decisions, dreams and plans. Single-mindedness helps us bypass what may call out to us. When we discover the purpose of a loving Heavenly Father, the adventure begins. It firewalls our souls from relapse because it fills the life we live. When recovery rules, life matters, we have a course to run and a race to win. “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand, I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42.6-7) Step 12 shows us we move outside ourselves to carry the message to others that need it. We experience the exponential help that moves to help them and returns to us galvanizing us to the journey of recovery in Christ.
Yes, my friend–it’s time to trade in that old van…