The Life I’ve Got and the Life I Want
Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah . . . There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife. Genesis 25:8-10
In learning Addiction Medicine, I’ve been learning how to engage in Motivational Interviewing, which means I don’t tell patients what they should change, but rather, that I help them discover the changes they need to make. For instance, if I encounter a patient whose drug use is destroying his life, I can tell him that he should go to treatment . . . and he probably won’t listen. If, however, I ask him to describe the life he wants, compared to the life he’s got, he can see the discrepancy. If then, I ask him what it would take to get the life he wants, hopefully, he will eventually come up with the idea himself, that he must go to treatment. This kind of counseling has been shown to be more effective than if I simply tell the patient, Go to treatment.
I once met a man addicted to alcohol who’d found a facility where he could drink as much as he wanted. I asked him what he wanted out of life. He wanted to find a good woman, get married, and settle down. I asked what it would take to get there. I’d have to stop drinking. So, I asked what it would take to stop drinking. I’d have to move out of this wet house, go to treatment, and change my entire life. He said it. Not me. And he’s absolutely right. The cost of change is often tremendously high. Are you willing to do what it takes to get the life you want?
This is our problem. Part of our brain wants immediate gratification and part of our brain wants that which is healthy in the long run. The two are often incompatible. For those addicted, the compulsive need for immediate gratification rules the decision-making process and to disrupt that behavioral pattern requires a tremendous commitment to radical and uncomfortable change.
It’s worth asking ourselves though. What life do I want? Am I living that life? What would it take to get there? Am I willing to do that? In today’s passage, we’re told of Abraham’s death, that his life was full of good years, and that his people loved him. If we want that kind of life – where we can look back and say we lived well, experiencing the joy, purpose, and peace that comes only from following God – then we may need to radically change how we’re living today. What would it take to get the life I want? Am I willing to start doing that today?