Been There, Done That. No T-Shirt Needed!
I love facebook.
I probably should be embarrassed to admit that but I’m not. It is what it is; I am what I am.
Facebook not only lets me keep up on my teenagers’ schedules (yes, I stalk sometimes…), but this “social media” has also given me an opportunity to reconnect with ghosts from my past. Fleeting memories, brief moments with folks that have played a part in making me who I am today. I love people and I love hearing their stories, getting to reconnect even if it’s only through a social media context, learning where life has taken different folks who once were such a major part of my life.
And I love sharing what God, through Jesus, has done in my life.
Recently a new found friend from “back in the day” wrote the following to me:
“Religion, in my view is similar to a drug. It’s an escape. I cannot imagine religion doing anything for me unless I decide to no longer accept responsibility for my own life. God does not care anymore for me than the next guy.
I guess Religion, God, or any of that is kind of a sore subject for me. The way you describe who you used to be sounds more like who I am today. But getting drunk or doing drugs can also make you feel good inside just as much as religion.”
And I want to say that I have been there, done that (no t-shirt needed) with various methods of “escape” and feel somewhat qualified to explain the difference between alcohol and drugs, religion and Jesus.
Alcohol is definitely an escape that I am familiar with. As a shame-filled, hurting, awkward teen, I began my journey with alcohol when I was 13 or 14 years old. By the time I was a senior in high school, this “escape” that had made me feel so confident and funny in its initial stages had such a grasp on me that I was experiencing black outs on a regular basis. It went from an escape method, a place where I could forget the pain of every day life and feel witty and beautiful at the same time, to a snare that had me so caught up in its deceitful, insidious clutches that I didn’t think I would ever pry myself free. (And I didn’t. God did.) Alcohol as a means of escape has so many dangerous repercussions – from ruined relationships, to addiction, to the danger of injuring someone while driving under the influence to hangovers, poisoning, and many other negative consequences – and it cannot possibly be compared to the goodness of God in Christ.
I’m also familiar with “religion” as an escape. I want to be careful to define my terms here. By religion I am referring to me changing my behavior to be accepted by God and those in the “religious” community. Oh yes, I have been there too. And like alcohol, religion has the initial ability to make one feel so much better. Going to church, serving in ministry, memorizing Bible verses can indeed create a kind of “high,” especially when it is followed by pats on the back and people essentially worshiping you. But like alcohol and drugs, when the initial “high” wears off, you are left right where you began. Or worse. You need more and more to feel better. It, too, is a temporary high.
And then there’ is Life in Jesus.
Oh, how I wish I could do justice to the truth of what He has done in my life. He’s not a temporary fix. He has radically changed me from the inside out. No more gritting my teeth-not-gonna-get-angry moments…He has removed the anger. No more I-gotta-somehow-impress-others-with-who-I-am moments. He has shown me who I am and it’s enough. No more bitter, cynical heart. He has replaced it with a love beyond anything I can ever have dreamed of. Life in Christ is a constant, abiding joy. For me, it’s a life radically different from what I planned, praise God! It’s laughter and delight and love and hope and peace. Consistently. It’s a beautiful marriage and it’s wonderful friendships and a happy family and home. And it’s a constant state of awe and gratitude for life. It’s an opportunity to be there for many hurting teens and to counsel others who are struggling with life issues. It’s healing and forgiveness. And joy. Deep, abiding, giggles-in-the-heart joy.
Alcohol was a temporary escape. And when I was sober, I wouldn’t have wanted you to see the “real” me because I was ashamed of who I was. Still a hurting, cynical person.
Religion was a temporary escape. I looked good and said the right things at the appropriate times and others even looked up to me…but I wouldn’t have wanted you to follow me home, look inside my heart. I was still a hurting, cynical, angry person.
I’m sure it’s the same way with money and careers and fame and beauty…they give you a temporary high but at the end of the day, when you look in the mirror, you feel the emptiness, the loneliness, the depression, or longing for purpose. And you need another “fix.”
Jesus is a permanent fix. The cure. The remedy. The Healer of Broken Things. I simply don’t know how to explain Him. I guess the difference between religion and Jesus is the difference between doing and being. With “religion” I was trying to “do” all the right things to be accepted as a Christian. Now I am abiding in who I am in Christ regardless of what others think.
There are those who will shake their heads because I have secular music on my play lists (though more and more I prefer nothing but worship music) and drink an occasional glass of wine. So be it. I am not out to please them. There are others who will shake their heads because I say I love Jesus, who has changed me from the inside out, and because I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. So be it.
If Jesus is my “crutch” then I shall limp along, grasping Him, until eternity and beyond. Joyfully, passionately, peacefully.
I pray the same for you.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11