Tuesday, March 23, 2010

We Become What We Believe We Are

Now that Jeremy's story is out there, I can reveal some insights that I have learned on this journey these past two years. The first few weeks of learning of his addiction were, to say the least, a nightmare for all of us. I remember being in a daze going to an information meeting for parents of the kids in a particular outpatient program that he was going to participate in. A smiling lady met us and offered us pizza and people in the room were friendly and I thought, "This is weird, are these parents of kids with drug and alcohol issues?” It turned out that it was actually a "net users support group" we accidentally walked in on. I just heard the words "users" and "support" and assumed it was for us. I told Cindy that someday we would laugh at the mix up that gave us some free pizza! She wasn't amused and I think she still doesn't think that was funny.

As I attended the parents' week, where I was to educate myself about the problem of addiction, I did learn much that was helpful from this secularly based program. But one thing I could not accept that was being taught and believed: One of the instructors referring to our kids called them "your little addicts." How demeaning and how wrongly defining of our kids! I refused to believe that, though my son struggled with addiction, he was going to be defined for the rest of his life as an "addict." Was I in denial here or were the Spirit of God and the Father-heart of God in me rising up and saying, "Jeremy is my son, whom I love, whom My Son, Jesus, died for so that I can forever be well-pleased with him."

Shortly after this, I talked with a man in Arkansas who directs Capstone Treatment Center and told him of my problem with what I heard there. He was a Christian man who understood the power of addiction and I was impressed by the way he described it as a struggle and not as an identity. As Jeremy has journeyed and moved from treatment into transitional living, he has come to refer to himself as a "recovered alcoholic." Now that is not to say that he doesn't need to walk the God-dependent steps, stay sober and recognize that he will always have a pull towards addiction. It just means that he will not be defined by it.

I have a friend who has a ministry to men who struggle with same sex attraction. He doesn't refer to them as "gay" or "homosexual" because those are identity words and once a person allows himself to be labeled with an identity, then behavior will naturally flow out of it. In other words, it is legitimate to admit a struggle in a particular area but it is harmful to allow that struggle to define who you are as a person.

A verse that is helpful in this regard is I Corinthians 6:9-11.
"Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you WERE once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

Paul acknowledged that the Corinthians had in the past indulged in some terrible sins but because of what the Lord Jesus Christ did by the Holy Spirit they were changed. This identity was past tense. The particular sin would no longer define them. Identity is a powerful thing for evil but also for good. Because of Christ's death and the Holy Spirit's work the believer's identity can never be the sin he or she did, no matter how habitual, addictive or destructive it was. Once we grasp our true identity as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father our life, our behavior WILL flow out of that.

I am so thankful for that passage of Scripture that affirms the check in my spirit that I had when that well-meaning lady called our kids "your little addicts." That is not my son. Not now, not ever again.

The link to Jeremy's blog with an opportunity to pledge or donate is up and running. He started in Georgia and is now in North Carolina. He is doing really well and is enjoying his hike. If you want to follow the progress of Jeremy's Journey, click here.

Becoming more and more of who I am,


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