He was drunk. He had called me, asking for prayer. His words of confession flowed as freely as the alcohol he had consumed. “I have a drinking problem. I’ve made so many mistakes and hurt so many people. I really want to change.”
I assured him that Jesus was in the life-changing business. Jesus loved him and was there to walk with him to complete freedom.
After I prayed, he thanked me and said he would see me at church next Sunday. He was true to his word. He came to worship service, sober and smiling. He was excited about the good things that were ahead. He was ready to change. That was the last time I saw or heard from him. Many years have passed, but I still wonder about him. To me he is a reminder that change is difficult. Change requires more than wishful thinking.
You may not battle with addiction; however, the need to change is something we all face. Our eyes are opened to where we are, and we long for something different.
It may be our eating and exercise habits.
Or the way we manage money.
Perhaps we have a short temper and lash out at others.
Or maybe our negative attitudes sabotage our progress and relationships.
Like the gentleman in this story, we feel inspired and start off strong. Our intentions are good, even great. Unfortunately our old habits have a way of following and eventually overtake us. Without an understanding of what is required to change, our change efforts will run out of steam.
The 12 Step Program developed by Alcohols Anonymous, and used by other addiction support groups, offers guidelines for lasting change that can extend to any area of our lives.
Step One states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Again, we may not relate to substance abuse as our issue. Substitute your own area of struggle for the word “alcohol.” My word would be “chronic depression.” Whatever we face, we will not change until we recognize that we are powerless. It won’t be enough to exert our own willpower. Left to our own devices, we will not improve. This realization can be discouraging until we experience the next two steps as well.
Step Two: We “believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Step Three: We “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God…”
For the Christian, our higher power is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is He that will restore us, if we turn our will and our lives over to Him. We surrender to the Lord, admitting our weakness to conquer our bad habits and responses. Before we experience God’s strength, we must come to terms with our weakness.
The second part of Step One is that we admit that life in the present state is unmanageable. Until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change, we will continue on our current course. The pain we know is safer than the unknown, and will keep us rooted to where we are.
Once we start moving forward into healthy choices, we must remember the pain from where we came, and remember it often. Otherwise we end up being like the Israelites who were miraculously delivered from slavery and in a few short days began complaining about the good life they had left behind in Egypt.
The addict begins to romanticize the effects of the substance of choice and forgets that destruction is the price tag. The person given to anger begins to justify his behavior and blames others, overlooking that relationships are being damaged. Speaking from experience, the one struggling with depression stops examining the deeper issues that brought her there when her mood temporarily lifts.
The other nine steps are also helpful in establishing a new way of life. However, these first three steps, when practiced continually, provide the foundation needed for successful, lasting change. Admitting our weakness and then surrendering to the Lord—moment by moment—are key to moving in a positive direction.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2, NIV).
Heavenly Father, thank You that a transformed life is found in You. Please take my life and make it what You desire it to be. I surrender my (mention the area needing change) to You. I admit I am powerless to change. I turn my will over to You. Have Your way in me, and empower me to move forward. In Jesus’ name. Amen.