Treatment or Jail Anyone?
Luke 8:14 As for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life…
One does not need to go to jail or treatment to meet God, but it helps. While in treatment, I quickly realized that it worked by stripping away the distractions of the world. I had little contact with my family. I was not working and I had no internet access. It was a giant time-out that forced me to focus on that which I needed most. It was there that I finally accepted my absolute need to start out every day turning my gaze from self to God.
This passage, appropriately enough, was the first one I read on my first day home from treatment. Looking back, reading my thoughts from two and a half years ago is moving. I had met God and realized my need for him. I did not have it all figured out, but I could see that growing my spirit life while in treatment was the easy part. Leaving the isolation of treatment and reentering the real world was the danger zone.
Here is what I wrote: I will daily need to center my focus and follow Christ, each day taking inventory of the last. How did I do yesterday? Did I get distracted? Did I follow Christ?
I was not wrong to worry about life returning to normal. When I am in pain, I seek God. When life turns around and starts to normalize, my perceived need for God fades and my gaze turns back to self. For better or worse, my life did not return to normal very quickly. Though I am sure I do not see my need perfectly, I have been fortunate to remain desperate for God.
I meet many in jail, who, when stripped of the distractions of the world, also find themselves desperate for God. They come to bible study and swear that life will be different when they get out. When they are free, they promise they will remain as hungry for God as when incarcerated. Honestly, it rarely lasts. Why?
Jesus, in the parable of the sower, perfectly explains our condition. God, the sower, plants the seed in us. We were created to live in communion with him and we can have his very real, tangible, spirit life in us. We bear no small responsibility in the relationship though.
It is up to us to water and grow that seed. We however, abandon our part of the deal. When life goes well, our spirit life chokes on desire for what the world has to offer. We suffocate our spirit life, spending our days pursuing self. Our pursuits do not need to be obviously evil to distract from God. An honest career can ultimately be just as destructive as a dishonest one if it consumes our gaze.
The tragedy of the inmate who leaves God behind when he leaves jail is a warning for me. If I find my spirit life to be weak and dying, I need to look no further than my own pathetic efforts. My life is full of opportunities to meet with God if I will but turn my eyes to him.