My Snow Shoveling Business
Then Jacob set out from Beersheba. The sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. Genesis 46:5
One winter when I was young, a buddy and I set out to make some money after a big snowstorm. We grabbed our shovels and took off down the street, talking about what we were going do with all our cash. We found our first customer easily enough – an older lady who asked our price. We told her six dollars. An hour and a half later, we were done but we were also wiped out, and suddenly realized that we had to split our profits. We each made three dollars that day as we headed for home and hot chocolate. We promptly gave up on our dream upon realizing how much actual work it was going to take to get there.
I experienced the same thing in my addiction. Addiction was a wretched life, one which I hated. Why didn’t I just stop? Because I knew how difficult it was going to be to get sober. I knew I’d have to confess to my wife, go to treatment, and change my entire life. I wanted recovery but I knew the mountain of misery I’d have to go through to get there. So, I wallowed in my despair, until my life fell apart. When I finally had to get help, or lose everything, I realized how right I’d been. It was a mountain of work to get sober. As my addiction had metastasized through my entire life, I had to change everything.
Jacob displayed this principle in today’s passage. In it, he wanted to see his long-lost son Joseph and he wanted to save his family from famine. To do so though, required a move to Egypt, which meant leaving Canaan, the promised land. God told him to go, and he did, committing everything to the move. He could have tried to leave a remnant back in Canaan, but we’re told he took everything and everyone with him, devoting himself entirely to his new life.
This can be a difficult principle to get others to accept. I see many patients who come to me, hoping to simply take a pill to solve their addiction. They’ve spent decades developing a self-destructive disease and now they’re hoping I have a magical pill that can fix it all. I explain how medications can help with cravings, but if their only plan is to take a pill, and change nothing else, that is a plan for failure. Behavioral change is profoundly difficult and it’s rarely as simple as taking a pill. The bigger the life problem, the more change will be required. Just give me the pill doc.
A lot of us have found ourselves here. We realize we have a life problem – food, lust, drugs, pride, greed, anger, or resentment – and so we go to God, asking him to remove it. We don’t want to change anything though. We just want that little annoying thing excised from our lives. It’s rarely that simple. Often, that little problem has metastasized through our entire lives and will require radical commitment to God’s way, instead of our way, to find transformation. At this point, many of us walk away. If we truly desire the new life though, then, like Jacob, we must commit to radical change, giving everything to God, seeking him and his plan, no matter what it takes.