We were sitting around George and Janet Antle’s table, about ten of us in all, and we were planning the next young adults meeting. I had an idea, I thought it was a bright idea, I still kind of do. I wanted to run the night (the night we were planning for) like an AA meeting. So the meeting began and I thought it would be smart to introduce ourselves and such, since it was our first official leadership meeting. Bethany started, and then as soon as she was done our special attendee interrupted. His name was John Brown. He attends AA meeting still, and has been for a number of years. I thought it would be good to bring him to the meeting and kind of give everyone an idea of what a real AA meeting was like. He talks with a Scottish accent, and always was a lot of fun to be around.
He got the wrong impression from me obviously; he must have thought that there, at the leadership meeting we were attempting to run an AA meeting. We weren’t. He interrupted Bethany because he thought we were doing it all wrong, and wanted to clarify. We never did get around to introducing the rest of us. John Brown talked for almost an hour straight. I think it was one of the most revealing talks in my life. He talked about how we need to be honest with each other, and how when we are we become vulnerable to each other. He talked about the AA 12 steps of recovery. It was awkward at first, because he stared directly into my eyes the entire time. Then I started to enjoy it, I started to take in everything he was saying.
One thing that I will never forget is when he answered a question I asked him. The night began: ”
“Hi, I’m John Brown and I’m an alcoholic”
the room went silent, so I thought I would facilitate a little bit and keep him talking so I asked him,
“Hi John, how long have you been sober for?”
My jaw must have dropped. I didn’t know what to say. I must have made a mistake. I brought someone here that was hammered the night before and now he’s telling us about the recovery program. I could feel my heart beat racing, or maybe it was slowing down. All I knew was, no, wait, I didn’t know anything. He continued,
“Nathan, I fight this battle one day at a time. It doesn’t matter how many days before today I have been sober, because I’m fighting a brand new battle today. If I focused on how long I have been sober, I will be full of pride. I need to focus on the battle today and seek God for strength today.”
Those words changed my life. I believe John had been sober for several years, but he was making a point that I live by now. I am tempted every day. With lust, greed, selfishness, gossip and every other sin you can name. Every day is a brand new battle, every day I wake up and I have no other option but to fully depend on Christ for strength to get me through the day.
This is, I think, my one and only problem with the “Save the Kittens” idea. Well at least the way a lot of us treat it. It’s always “how long have you gone without killing any kittens” or “I’ve gone [put your amount here] many days without killing any.” It’s not just with that though. It’s a number of other things. “I haven’t been drunk in three weekends” or “I haven’t smoked up in so many days.” All these questions, or mindsets are based on the length since we have sinned. It’s great. Haven’t killed kittens in 3 months, amazing. I think we are missing the point. The point isn’t how long have you gone without sinning, I think we need to focus on two other things. “How are you doing today, right now?” and “What are you doing to strengthen yourself and depend on God for future battles.”
It’s good to focus on past victories, but if we do that too much then we will think that’s enough to last us for today. It isn’t. Only Christ’s strength is. I find that when I get like that, full of pride of my lack of sin over a certain amount of time I fail. It’s as if I’m tempted a hundred times more and tit gets harder and harder until all of sudden I fall. Could it be God humbling me and reminding me that I can’t do it on my own. The last length of time wasn’t something that I accomplished, but something he gave me strength for.
So may we be thankful for our past victories but never let them be our fuel for the present ones. Christ is the only thing that can empower us for the present.