Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Galatians 3:3
Whenever people tell me they’ve relapsed into drug use, I ask them to explain how it happened. In the story, they usually tell me how they did well after treatment, changing their lives, and going to meetings. Gradually though, they stopped doing all the things they were supposed to be doing, at which point the old life just crept back in. The fault and the flaw are usually obvious to me as an observer – Why would you stop doing all the things that brought you success?
I’ve been there. In my first two attempts at recovery, I initially put some work into my sobriety. I went to meetings. I got a sponsor and I pursued recovery. I worked at abandoning my old life to follow the new life in Christ. As life went back to normal though, I gradually stopped doing all the things that got me there. Then, I began a gradual descent back into the old life. Looking back, I later had to ask myself – Why did I stop doing all the things that brought me success?
This seems to be Paul’s tone in today’s passage. In it, he confronted the Galatians for adding to the requirements for salvation. The Galatians, he said, knew they were saved by faith in Christ alone. That’s what got them to the point they were. Why then would they return to the old ways of relying on circumcision for salvation? Why would they stop doing what brought them spiritual success? In abandoning salvation by faith, they embraced a lie, returning to the misery of the old life. For this, Paul chastised them.
In my last (and current) pursuit of recovery, I realized I needed to do things differently. If I wanted to stay sober, I needed to daily abandon the old life to follow the new one. I couldn’t allow myself to grow apathetic and simply slide back into drug use. So, I committed to daily doing what it takes to point my life at Christ instead of myself. For me, that means getting up early every day, to read, pray, meditate, and write. I now daily pursue faith and recovery, actively and purposefully avoiding relapse.
It may not look the exact same for all of us, but if we desire transformation, then we must daily work at abandoning the old life to pursue the new one. This isn’t something we do once and then stop, slowly sliding back into the old ways. It’s something we must do every day, for the rest of our lives.