Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ready to change

 "Chaplain Mark, I really need to talk.  I keep messing up," Don confessed. "I talk too much.  I argue.  I yell. I get into fights.  What is wrong with me?"

Don is a 19 year-old inmate at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.  I was meeting with another inmate in Don's unit when I witnessed live exactly what Don spoke about.

I watched and heard what he did. Later,  an officer warned him he could be headed for "the hole." He got there, later in the week.

It is as bad as Don presents it.  He is a follower--gang leaders influence him toward destructive actions.  A very willing participant in the misbehavior, his active participation consistently encourages the leaders to continue their subtle and overt games.  Not an innocent bystander at all, others are watching.

It is part of the craziness of incarceration. 

Don said, "You saw all that?...  Oh, man, that is bad....I was having a Bible study some time ago with another guy.  Or, we were trying to read the Bible together.  We said we know what the old life is over there.  The Bible is teaching us another way.  We don't want the results of the old way.  Then, we go back to it."

We carefully worked through Romans 7:15-8:2.

...For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me... 

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  Romans 7:15-8:2 

Don and I shared what real change begins to look like for him.  It challenges his personal loyalties.  The gang experience is what he knows. He is taking halting steps, knows gospel truth, and considers what a different life might mean.  How ready is he to change?  The "hole" may or may not lead to heart change.  We may talk again, soon.

                         MOVING INTO GOD'S CHANGE

Steve taught about being ready to change at Celebrate Recovery on a recent Thursday at Kent Covenant Church on the east hill of Kent, Washington.

"I clearly remember 13 years ago, I was lost, hopeless, and depressed around my alcoholism," Steve admitted.  "There were countless times I desired to stop drinking.  I was sorry and took steps to stop.  Then, I'd drink all over again and the cycle would repeat itself once more."

From 2 Kings 5, Steve recounted King Naaman, a  leper, seeking healing and the directions given to him by Elisha to wash seven times in the Jordan River.  

There were several other things this leper could have done.

He could have washed other places.
  • Why wash at all?
  • Why did he need to be washed in the Jordan?
  • Why seven times?

Three times in another creek would have been good enough...

Naaman obeyed God's clear instructions to receive healing.  Steve remembers similar obedience with first halting, stumbling steps to remove his patterns of alcohol addiction.

"I had to go to the meetings, work the steps, and let the Lord remove my shortcomings. I had to do the work. I realized I am an alcoholic and it came time to stop drinking. I lived with other resentments.  I was self-centered and greedy. I needed to control the way other people did things.   Those sinful patterns developed over long periods of time--30, 40, 50 years."

Principle 5 is about being ready from the Celebrate Recovery step series:
Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask him to remove my character defects.

The accompanying step 6 states:
We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

The Scripture used for these teachings on spiritual readiness for God's change in our lives is based on:
"Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires," Matthew 5:6


"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:10

Every change... really?  Every change?  Character defects are sin.  Three letters.  Moral failure.  This is very personal. It is not merely a shortcoming.  These character defects are attitudes, choices, behaviors before God. The people who follow Jesus repent of sin.  We make a conscious decision to turn away from character defects of sin and turn to God. 

                     TAKING STEPS TO CHANGE
Using an acronym based on READY, Steve presented a Celebrate Recovery pathway to humble change around addiction and related character defect sins. 

Steve admitted struggling with his lifelong desire for control around his family and marriage.  He gets upset if meetings don't end on time.  In many ways, he doesn't want to give up control. I don't want to give up control around many things.  How about you?  What are you struggling to give up?

There are no quick fixes to overcome longstanding character issues established from childhood and rooted in our family backgrounds. It takes a long time to build changes in our habits.  Our character defects can be removed over time with God's help.

THIRD, ACCEPT THE CHANGE.  1 Peter 1:13-14
Those who are needing to change accept God's help in steps of transition.  God brings people alongside us to walk through significant steps.

Steve uses "Roundup" to spray for dandelions in his yard. "I spray a lot. You spray and then for two weeks nothing happens.  You get worried.  You keep looking and then you notice those ugly weeds are dying out.

"Change starts slowly.  Then it begins to happen.  You notice dead weeds.  In the same way, as you do the work and pay attention, our defects begin to disappear," Steve explained.

It may seem like we are like we are wasting our time.  Nothing will change, we surmise.

Everything seems just like when you were struggling at a very low point with your character defect.  Or, maybe you see clear evidence of change but there is a big hole in your life.  You used to do things with people who you know you can't be with.  They may make is clear they don't want to be around you.

You need a replacement.  People involved in meaningful change need positive, productive activities, replacement activities and people.   It is really helpful to seek out hobbies to have fun.  Recovery means replacing defective habits with things that are positive and fun.

With God's help, real changes happen.  He works out lasting changes in and around us.  We will be challenged to go back to the old ways.  We need supportive people to hold us up and remind us where we came from.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Those are helpful steps to recovery. Good post.