The Treatment High
Other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold. Mark 4:8
Some of those in treatment for chemical dependency will experience what is called a treatment high. Newly sober and having made it through withdrawal symptoms, their brain is coming back to life. Surrounded by others who are also pursuing recovery, for the first time in a long time, life is looking up. Overjoyed by the possibility of a new future, they’re convinced they’ll never go back, and they get a little cocky about it. I’m fixed! I don’t need to do anything else to work on recovery because I’m a new man now!
I saw them when I was in treatment and I see them when I speak in treatment facilities now. Maybe it’s judgmental, but I know their odds at staying sober aren’t good. I know part of them wants recovery, but if all they have is an emotional high keeping them sober, it’s not going to last. Emotions can be powerful and overwhelming, but they’re also fleeting and unstable.
We can be guilty of this as Christians. On Sunday morning, when the lighting is right and the music is playing, we can be consumed by the experience, only to return to a very different persona once we leave church. Like the addict in treatment, it’s easy to do right while sitting in the pew. The test of whether or not our recovery or faith is real, is whether it results in any actual life change or not.
Authentic transformation is rare and difficult. In the parable of the sower, Jesus used the illustration of a farmer scattering seed on different types of ground to describe our various responses to his word. The seed that fell on the path, rocky ground, and thorns proved to be unfruitful, but the seed that fell on fertile soil grew, producing real fruit.
This is the difference then between authentic and fake faith. We don’t earn God’s love by what we do, but if we truly believe, then that belief will result in changed behavior. If all we have is an emotional high on Sunday morning, then we’re simply pretenders. Do we have only an emotional experience – a church high – or do we truly believe? Does it make a visible difference in our lives outside of church? Authentic faith results in authentic life changes.