The Addict’s God-Problem
Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39
According to AA, belief in a higher power is integral to recovery. There are those who will insist this can be anything palatable to the addict, Your higher power can be a doorknob if you want. Most addicts correctly understand however, that higher power means some version of God. This is where countless addicts struggle the most with the 12 steps.
Many will claim they disbelieve out of reason. I cannot believe in a God who . . . (insert objection). I don’t dismiss those arguments, but I suspect the problem runs deeper than mere logical objections. I imagine that the disbelieving addict has the same problem with God that I’ve had with him, which is really the same problem most of us have.
Growing up, I met missionaries from far off lands, returning home to tell their adventures. As a child, this sounded exciting, but as an adult, I grew wary. If I follow God, will he make me move to Timbuktu? (I didn’t know that was a real place). As silly as it sounds now, I understood and feared what the addict searching for recovery understands and fears: Following God isn’t just about getting sober. God wants all of me.
In today’s passage, Jesus confirms this. If we want the new life, we must let go of the old one. Christ demanded that his disciples take up their cross. At the time, the cross was an instrument of execution, not a symbol of faith. Telling his followers to daily take up their cross was like telling them to daily put the old life in the electric chair.
This sounds insane to those who like life the way it is, and this may be Jesus’ point. Only those desperate for the new life will find it. One cannot attain recovery while clinging to the bottle. One cannot know the joy, hope and meaning of a new existence while hanging on to the old one. To those desperate for a new beginning though, this isn’t a bad deal. Going our own way meant disaster. In abandoning our way to follow God’s way though, we experience the abundant life for which we were made.