The Alcoholic Bartender
So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:13
In treatment for chemical dependency, the addict is surrounded by those who encourage him in his sobriety. With the distractions of the normal life stripped away, he can focus on recovery. In this environment, not using is normal and because drugs aren’t available, saying no is actually pretty easy. This is a new feeling for the addict, who has been unable to stop for a long time.
Then, a few short weeks later, he returns home to his previous environment. Maybe he stays strong for a while, saying no, but if he’s changed nothing except his mind, then it’s likely that nothing has changed at all. Soon, those around him, who are using, wear him down. Come on, just have one. Once he says yes to that first drink, he’s straight back to the old life.
We aren’t necessarily the sum of those around us, but we cannot deny the power of our environment. If we surround ourselves with people going in a certain direction, it’s likely that we too, will eventually find ourselves moving in that direction, whether we ever intended to do so or not.
In today’s passage, the crowd in Jerusalem enthusiastically welcomed Jesus, embracing him as king. I imagine there were those there, who, unsure about Christ, were drawn to him by the adoration of the people. Then, when the people turned on him a week later, those same individuals again likely followed the crowd.
We may not be able to choose the disposition or actions of those around us, but we can often choose to change who is around us. For the alcoholic bartender, this means finding a new career. For the one whose friends use, this may mean the end of those friendships. We don’t necessarily need to move into a monastery, but if those around us are dragging us down, we need to make some radical changes.
This will be painful. Transformation often is. If we truly want to the new life though, we must be willing to do what it takes to get there. We won’t live in faith and recovery until we become so sick of the old life that we make the painful choice to abandon it.