Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
When under the influence of a pill, my behavior was altered by that which I ingested. I took the pill and it, in turn, took me. As the drug acted on receptors in my brain, my thoughts and actions changed. I grew physically and emotionally dependent on the drug and my life came to revolve around acquiring and consuming it. In the end, I pursued the pill above all.
Substance abuse was apparently a problem in Paul’s time as well. Several times, Paul addressed the destructive effects of intoxication and here, insisted that as we once filled ourselves with wine, we are now, to be filled with God.
It is a compelling analogy of two opposites, a mind-altering chemical versus the spirit of God. Paul said that just as I once chose to ingest a chemical repeatedly, I must now regularly fill myself with God. Just as I turned to pills to deal with sleep and stressors, I must now, turn to God with every trial. Where once my behavior was affected by the drug, it must now be under the influence of God. As I became dependent on a pill to satisfy my appetites, I now am to remain dependent on God for my strength, purpose and meaning.
An inmate once told me that just as he had once spent all of his energies in pursuit of drugs, money and women, now, he was to expend that same energy in pursuit of God. Likewise, as I once spent all my efforts on obtaining and consuming pills, I must now do the same with God. Recovery and faith do not mean that I sit back and do nothing. It is my responsibility to pursue God continually if I desire his influence in my life.
In my addiction, I lamented God’s distance. I wanted God but I consumed pills. I prayed for him to magically work in me but refused to consume him. Then, I was horrified to become known as an addict. In my recovery, I had the audacity to tell God that I did not want to be seen as a religious nut. God reminded me of my reputation at the time and suddenly, living under the radical influence of God did not seem so bad.
My life will be defined by that which I pursue and consume. If I fill myself with drugs or wine, the effects will be obvious. If I daily read, pray and meditate, then my life will be marked by the God in me. When I pursue God instead of self, where I once wrought destruction, I will now grow life.