I Got Sober Once
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
It would be absurd if I thought recovery simply meant getting sober once and then going back to life as I’d previously known it. I know it’s absurd because I’ve tried it a couple times. I stopped using, went to outpatient treatment, attended a few meetings and then went back to life as it had been. My sobriety didn’t last long. When life went back to “normal”, I inevitably relapsed into my normal behavior. Eventually, I learned that recovery was an ongoing process in which I must participate if I wanted it to continue.
Many of us have made the same mistake with our faith. At some point, we’ve made some conscious decision to put our faith in God, calling ourselves Christians. We didn’t really change much though. We simply kept on living according to our own plans and preferences. Yes, our minds were armed with a knew belief system, but that knowledge was not greater than our desire to live for ourselves, and so, our new life looked very much like the old one. We claimed faith, but we never truly followed Christ, and nothing really changed.
In today’s passage, Jesus, using the metaphor of a vine and branches, said that to truly experience life, we must continually abide in him. For the branch to remain healthy, producing fruit, it must remain attached to the vine. If the branch detaches itself from the vine, it may continue to exist, but in being separated from its source of life, it ceases to be what it was meant to be. Faith isn’t something we do just one time. Faith – if it is real – is something we must do every day, as we abide in – or live in – Jesus.
What does this mean – abide in me? It doesn’t mean that I lose and regain my relationship with God every day. It does mean that if I want to know joy, peace, satisfaction, transformation, and eternal life, that I must daily abandon my way, following Christ’s way. So often, I try to find my happiness and meaning elsewhere. Daily though, if I truly want to experience authentic, eternal life, I must point my life at Christ, following, loving, and obeying him.