I can already see/hear the errors of my thinking displayed in this post being pinned to the wall – pointing out I’m not staying true to Biblical Christianity. However, I will trudge forward because I believe I’m raising something valid.
In many ways what I do professionally, helping people with drug addiction recovery, is much like teaching people to follow Jesus – in that both demand a total about-face, moving in the complete opposite direction they were before. Saul first persecuted the very group of people he would later join as Paul, and people who formerly led their friends headlong into drugs of abuse & addiction now help people find their way out.
From what I’ve found in my years working in treatment is that in order for someone to stay clean they must change as much as possible. I’ve seen people slip because their couldn’t differentiate their old life of using and their new life of sobriety, and (often not so) eventually they’re right back in it as if they’d never knew there was another way.
But here’s the fundamental flaw – though a total change is needed, it can’t come overnight. Not that it isn’t possible, but that if someone tries to quit smoking cold turkey they are far more likely to return to cigarettes than someone who tapers down. If you’re someone who has terrible eating habits suddenly switching to a vegetarian diet – it probably won’t last. You need a transition zone – that new thing in your life was just too drastic.
There’s a reason why the number one used word in most Christian’ vocabulary is “journey.” We’ve fallen in love with the tales of instant transformation – because their romantic, and, well, easy. Its far easier to simply be magically different than do the difficult and far longer work of making conscious decisions to be different.
It’s a seeming paradox – that ultimately drug addicts need to completely change their life – but not instantly. How many people return from retreats/conferences/services claiming they will now do everything differently – but it is all too much? We are creatures of habit, after all, and maybe following Jesus is about creating new habits (which take time, practice and often errors) than instant & magical transformation?