Tuesday, July 12, 2016

GETTING LOST ON THE JOURNEY


Last week I was hiking in the beautiful Smokey Mountains with my faithful lab mix, Marley, trotting beside me.  We ascended into the clouds, and Marley scampered off into the trees, getting in touch with her inner wolf.
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 I was having a grand time until I became hopelessly lost. After retracing my steps several times, adding unwanted miles, I finally had to admit defeat and call the ranger station. After the rangers arrived they spotted a tree that was supposed to have several trail markers. The one that I needed was missing.



My experience with alcohol also led me down an unmarked trail. At first the walkway was sunny and filled with laughter. We enjoyed days at the beach with a cooler full of beer, and fun times at football games.  There were humorous antics like the time I distracted the bartender while my friend climbed up on the bar and turned the clock back so happy hour could continue. Another time I found myself dancing on top of a park bench with a strange man who wore half of a soccer ball on his head.

 But it gradually became darker as I missed the trail signs. Like my recent hike, I was looking for signs that weren’t there. I knew that I was drinking too much, but I couldn’t possibly be an alcoholic. No one had issued me a trench coat and a crumpled brown bag. For heaven’s sake I used ice cubes!  My excuses had me retracing my steps, trying the same dead-end path over and over.
During the four years of my son, Chris's, cancer treatments I relied upon my best friend, Ethyl—Ethyl Alcohol. By the time Chris went to heaven Ethyl had become my higher power. 
 My family suffered. My grief festered. The arguments and hangovers were adding those unwanted miles to my journey.
I finally had to admit that I was completely lost. I turned to the Lord.
Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (ESV)

With the help of some twelve-step rangers I followed trail markers for a new way of life. The steps are designed to connect each person with God, but it is a gradual process. I had to be willing to hike the mileage. During the process I was gently loved back to health.

Matthew 11:29 ESV

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

The secret to my success (I have over 12 years sober now) was admitting defeat and becoming willing to follow directions. (Just as I allowed the rangers to lead me down the mountain.) Not everyone in my position needs a twelve step program to be successful, and I am not saying that is the only way, but one beautiful aspect of it is that it emulates Christ’s fellowship with his disciples. Great teaching occurs in small, intimate groups.

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (ESV)

Perhaps you are struggling with something that has you lost: childhood trauma, an unhappy marriage, work that takes you from your family—the list goes on. Are you following the wrong trial markers? Do you have the wrong higher power like I did? The bible calls them false idols. Maybe your false idol was fun for a while too.

Romans 7:19 (NIV) “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.”


But wait, there’s no “I Hate My Life Anonymous” group you say! Nonetheless, there are people willing to help. They might be at your church, at a counseling center, or sitting in the next cubical at work. Have you ever thought that you might be blessing them by allowing them to help you? One of my greatest joys was sharing my story with another alcoholic who had buried a child. Robert Ingersol said, “We rise by lifting others.” Your rangers are there, waiting for you to reach out.


Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”
 
There is also a savior ready to help. He doesn’t care where you’ve been, only where you are headed. He hung out with big time sinners. I’m certain that he understood the mind of an alcoholic because he was known to turn water into wine!

He understands your lostness too. But Jesus is a gentleman; he doesn’t go where he isn’t invited. The rangers didn’t come until I asked.

Titus 3:3 “At one time we were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures…”

Surrender, find a community to hike with, and you can be transformed.

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”