What Has Made the Difference?
“Sarah your wife shall have a son.” . . . The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” Genesis 18:10-12
As I introduced myself to a patient in jail yesterday, telling a little bit of my story, I reported that I was eight years sober. I suddenly realized that’s not true . . . This week marks nine years of recovery. Every year, this week causes me to reflect upon the catastrophic consequences of my addiction, but it also causes me to be profoundly grateful for where I am now. I will always insist that God saved me from myself, but it’s not as if I just discovered God nine years ago. I grew up believing in him. So, what made the difference between the old life and the new one? I’d say the difference between the old life and the new one is the difference between knowledge and faith.
This contrast was on display in today’s passage. In the story, God told Abraham that his wife Sarah, who was 90, would soon become pregnant. Abraham, who was 99, laughed in astonishment. Oh man. We’re really old. This is going to be crazy. Abraham had knowledge of God and he practiced faith, believing and responding appropriately. Sarah on the other hand had a very different response. When she heard the prediction, she laughed in disbelief. I’m postmenopausal. We don’t even have sex anymore. This is absurd. Sarah believed in God’s existence, but she didn’t respond to him in faith, living as though his promises were true. She claimed to believe one thing but lived another.
That is where my life was nine years ago. I’d always known of God, but I failed to practice faith, making my actions follow my knowledge. Instead, my behavior revealed that I followed me. Recovery then, has been a process of learning to daily abandon my way for God’s. This is meant to be the normal Christian life (Luke 9:23). Some may object, insisting that I found recovery not in church, but by going to treatment and following the 12 steps. I’d say that going to treatment was what God asked me to do and that the 12 steps are Biblical principles which God also asks me to follow. So, did I save myself then, by doing all these things on my own? No, Jesus Christ saved me from myself. I did, however, have to respond appropriately by daily following his plan instead of my own.
I don’t live perfectly now. I still have my struggles and failures. The difference now though, is that I daily attempt to live what I know to be true – My way is disaster and God’s way is life. In daily abandoning my way for God’s, I’ve found authentic life, joy, and peace. Nine years ago, my life was a a calamity. Now, I’ve got a precious new life. I’ve always known of God. Now however, I daily attempt to follow him – and that has made all the difference.