Play the Tape Forward

Play the Tape Forward

And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” Exodus 32:9-10

With my last relapse, 10 years ago, I could feel God imploring me to stop. Do not do this. You will regret it. I told myself that it would just be a one-time thing and that I’d repent the next day. I knew God had to forgive me and that no one would know. I can get away with it. No harm done. Blinded by my appetite for the drug, I couldn’t see what I was doing to my relationship with God. The next day though, I couldn’t look at him. I’d stared God in the face and defied his direct will. I felt awful. But I knew how to feel better – more of the drug. In my defiance, I chose opposition and disobedience to God. In doing so, I made myself the object of his wrath, and he eventually allowed me to suffer the consequences of my actions, which was terrible. I knew I was courting disaster, but still, when my life came apart, it was quite a shock.

In today’s passage, the Israelites made themselves the object of God’s wrath. In the story, they forged a golden calf – an idol to worship – in direct violation of God’s commandments. Blissfully ignorant of their offense, they planned a feast to God while worshipping the golden calf. God wasn’t impressed, but rather was so offended that he planned to destroy them and start over with Moses. Though they should have known better – they knew God’s commandments – they carried on in their idol worship, ignorant of how close they were to annihilation.

What’s the lesson? The lesson is that even though, as a Christian, I may be forgiven eternally, I can still incur judgement and painful consequences here on Earth. In recovery now, I’ve got to learn to play the tape forward, considering the consequences of my actions. In my addiction, I made my decisions based only on my appetite. In recovery, I’ve got to learn to think about how my actions will shape my future. Living on God’s side, attempting to daily put his will above all, has been a life of freedom, joy, and peace. I don’t ever want to go back to living in the path of God’s wrath, and so, daily, I must make a genuine attempt to abandon my way for his. When faced with a potentially self-destructive choice, I must always play the tape forward, considering the consequences of my actions.

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