I was recently reminded of being an early Christian, also in my early recovery and wanting everything “right now”. I thought everyone should trust me, I thought I had it all figured out, I thought I was ready to show people “how to do it”. The truth is that I had alot to learn! I needed to work on my foundation in Christ and my foundation in recovery. I’m so grateful that I quickly plugged in to the ministry of Celebrate Recovery which helped me to figure this out. Now, don’t get hung up if your not involved in Celebrate Recovery, it’s not the only way to become discipled in Christ, I just happen to think it’s the best way that I’ve found. It’s not necessarily about recovery, it’s about discipleship or, in other words spiritual maturity.
As Paul says to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3:2, “I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,” As a young Christian I believed I was ready for meat. I believed I had it all figured out much like others that are young in their Christian walk or recoveries. However I was not ready, I still needed milk in order to grow in to the person that could withstand the storms of life, to learn to live life on life’s terms. I remember being in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during a few stints in treatment and I remember them telling us to be quiet for the first year, just listen. While I believe newcomers need to be able to share about their lives and struggles too I understand this concept of listening and learning before thinking we are ready to be the teachers.
I meet many new Christians who are ready to take on the world and I love the enthusiasm. In fact I remember when I was young in my Christianity and some folks telling me that I’d calm down soon. Well, I haven’t calmed down yet. That’s why this can be a tricky subject. I would never want to discourage, disappoint, or steer a young Christian the wrong way. I would never want to douse the flames of excitement that people in early recovery and Christianity have. I would bet that over half of the people I meet, in their first year of recovery, decide they’re going to be a substance abuse counselor. That’s an admirable goal however I would say that only about 10% of those actually move in that direction. Sometimes it’s because of the amount of work it takes, school, experience, internship, etc. The process to become a substance abuse counselor is difficult but can certainly be achieved. I meet many new Christians who want to go on to school to earn their degrees in theology, to become church Pastors or missionaries. But the reality is that many never move on to become either.
Young Christians and people in early recovery are not lazy or wrong to want to find their purpose. In fact, finding our purpose is a God given desire that can lead us down the wrong path many times because we can become frustrated trying to figure out what we were created to do, what we were created for. I try to encourage these folks to follow their dreams, to continue to make smart choices, to continue to drink the milk until their ready to transition to solid food. A foundation in recovery and in Christianity is so important. So many times people that are new to both think they know what they want to do. But, like a child, they are simply trying to figure it all out before it’s really time to figure it all out. In other words, it’s hard to decide what our purpose is, it’s hard to figure out what our God given passion is before we’ve grown in to the person God wants us to be, the person He’s created us to be.
When I was young we would make the trip to Clinton Indiana where my parents were from and my Grand parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins lived. It was a 750 mile trip. I can remember after a short time on the road asking my dad, “are we there yet?” Many times it would feel like it was taking forever to get there. However we would get there, then head home, and it would feel like it all happened so quickly. As a child I had no concept of the time it took to get somewhere, during the monotony of the trip time seemed to drag by. But then, when we arrived, the same amount of time seemed to fly by.
I’ve learned that we have to go through the travel time to get there. As a young Christian in early recovery I thought I knew where I was going, I thought I knew the plan God had for me. I was going to be a pastor of a church and possibly a missionary to a foreign land. The problem is that I had not become the person God intended me to be. I was feasting on milk but was still a baby. As I continued to grow in God’s Word, in His Grace. As I continued to allow Him to build a foundation in me and be willing to many times do what needed to be done rather than what I wanted to do. He began to reveal more to me little by little. The road I’ve traveled to get where I am today has seemed long at times, I’ve been through some scary places, I’ve struggled with not knowing where God was taking me at times. But I continued to trust Him and have continued to know the importance of growing in my Christianity and recovery.
I recently had someone ask me, “how can I do what you do?” The truth is no one is supposed to be more like me, everyone should strive to be more like themselves. We all have something we were created to do, we were all created for a purpose but finding that purpose isn’t just something we decide is our purpose. It’s a process to arrive at the place where God can use us at the full potential He created us for. I told this person that letting God work in them, refine them, and grow them was the first, most important part. Learning to be faithful, learning to know the Truth, to walk by faith and not by sight. Being available, teachable, pliable, and patient. Learning to do what needed to be done rather than what they might want to do are all ways to grow in to the person God created us to be.
The short version, surrender, sacrifice, service, and sharing are the ingredients that bring us to our purpose. Finding a life of purpose takes time, commitment, patience, and courage. Paul said it in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”
Paul is telling us a couple of things in this scripture. One, we have to throw off everything that hinders us. We have to become spiritually and emotionally mature in order to run the race. Two, we all have a particular race! That’s right, you need to run your race and I need to run mine but if we have things that hinder us, sin in our lives, compulsive behaviors, addictions, and other bad habits they entangle us and prevent us from running the race effectively.
Bottom line is, none of us are there yet! But we need to continue to focus on our personal growth in Christ. We need to dig in for the long term and strive to be the person God wants us to be, needs us to be. We need to learn to say, as Jesus said, “not my will, but yours be done”. I had no idea 15 years ago or 10 years ago what God’s plan for my life was. I had no clue that I would be who I am today, doing what I do today. All I knew for sure is that I didn’t have anything figured out but God did. I’ve continued to work on me. I’ve continued to work on becoming spiritually mature. I’ve continued to be faithful in what God has given me to do. I’ve continued to be available, teachable, pliable, and patient. And God continues to rock my world!
Are we there yet? Well, we’re still on the trip but I’ve learned to not focus on the monotony of the trip but to see the adventure along the way. I am Heavenly minded and I do anticipate getting there one day. I’m not there yet but I’m well on my way and in the meantime I’m going to endeavor to be the best me that I can be. After all, when I do get there, He’s not going to say, “Jeff, why weren’t you more like John?” No, He’s going to be happy that I was doing my best to be more like Jeff, the Jeff He created me to be!