If you took a good glance at Win finishing up his junior year of college, a few words you may use to describe him could be independent, blessed, successful, talented, etc. He got good grades, leader in a growing ministry, surrounded by a community of incredible people across the state. Has the best job ever. Constantly going on spontaneous road trips and anticipated concerts. Has a stable, loving and supportive family. Is currently typing this while on a bus under the shadow of Mt. Kenya.
So why am I speaking in third person? One, because a good friend I met in East Africa does it and it makes me giggle. Two, because even though that was me, I was completely empty on the inside and unaware of how to be filled. I think you can agree that my life fit a pretty solid picture of success as far as a 21 year old college student goes. But why did this picture perfect life that I was living leave me so empty?
As I embarked on Journey 2015, I was really pumped when I heard that one of the guys was formerly a drug addict. That may sound funny, but just knowing that there would be someone from such a different background was so exciting to me. I have been around mostly the same type of people my whole life, fitting a description my pastor used to use, “don’t smoke, drink, chew, or run with girls that do!” Now that has definitely changed some in college, but the point still stands that this guy would be different than most of the people I had ever met.
In my self-righteous heart, I held a sort of superiority complex because he had been out of rehab for less than a year, and yet I had been in church my whole life. What I would soon learn is that the sparkling record that I thought I had could be described as “filthy rags” like Isaiah said so long ago. (Isaiah 64:6)
One of the first things that I noticed about him was that he was incredibly self-aware. He knew where he had come from and he knew that he was at Journey for a reason. I knew that it was by the grace of God that I was funded and on my way to Africa. He knew that it was by the grace of God that he wasn’t dead. But one of the parts of his story that captivated my attention when we were in our first community was his experience in rehab. In his words, rehab is “a way to rewire your head and heart from loving your destructive, sinful desires to knowing, loving and serving as Jesus did.” That sounds like an incredible opportunity for those that are addicted to substances and that need help. Turns out I was a much better candidate for it than I thought.
Journey is such a blessing in the respect that from day 1 we were heavily encouraged to remove our “masks”, or the things we pretend to be so that people don’t know who we truly are. When I had first heard that I thought to myself “what you see is what you get! I have nothing to hide.” In reality though, I had been wearing masks so long that they had just become a part of me and I didn’t even know they were there. Well, it was about the time that he told us his story that God began to peel back those masks and show me my brokenness. Turns out you can be addicted to something other than a substance. I had an addiction to myself. And I needed to be checked in.
Turns out, the only kind of person God can’t/won’t be in relationship with is a prideful person. James 4:6 says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, meaning that God is literally at enmity with the person that is prideful. Wow. I don’t know about you, but the thought of looking across a battlefield and seeing God isn’t one I’d like to be a reality.
So the first step of rehab is admitting you have a problem. Problems come with pain. I had avoided pain like the plague, so when I started asking my friend for guidance about how to go about this process, I was scared to death. He described the addicted heart as a place filled with razors and barbed wire, and that in order for it to be healed that has to be removed. And that removal process is quite painful. I felt similar to when you jump in cold water with clothes on and don’t want to move because no matter where you go you get a shock of cold. But then I was reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite songs by Andy Mineo. It says,
“I’ve got two choices, both require pain. One’s the pain of change or the pain of staying the same. One of them leads to joy, the other one leads to pain. One of them leads to freedom, the other keeps me in chains.”
Ultimately, it is up to me whether or not I want to continue in the dull pain of suffering in my sin, or just accept that I'm broken so that God can refine me. Those are the two choices.
So when I finally came to terms with the fact that I had to make a choice, it didn’t seem like a hard one. It turns out that God knew what he was doing when he took me halfway across the world in order to take me out of all of the things I would run to in order to distract from dealing with my heart. Turns out God has a plan. Who knew?
See, a cool aspect of God is that he doesn’t say, “wow, you are a train wreck. We need to clean you up a bit so that I can use you.” It turns out that the reason people are so willing to die to themselves and follow someone you can’t see, is because that someone has a love unlike anything else in all the earth. Once I started listening, God told me very quickly that I was in a place where I wasn’t receiving any love, and therefore couldn’t extend any love to anyone else. So He led me to sit with my friend on our sabbath day before leaving for a community, and then to an office for a few hours where He broke through some long standing walls and showed me His love. He showed me He knows me fully AND loves me. It’s not a chore for God to love me. And He literally dwells inside of me. The God that spoke the stars into existence and breathed life into man is the one that is my Comforter and Counselor through His Holy Spirit.
So I’m taking my first few steps down this road of rehab, and it involves a painful amount of being honest about just how prideful and selfish I am. But the cool thing about God being the light of the world is that when you bring your sin into His presence, there’s no more struggling on your own. Sin may be ugly but when it is put in the light, God can work his almighty power to make us new. So not only has he given me a group of 22 other like-minded people to be in community with, and not only has he given me a friend that has been there and can offer guidance, but the Savior of the world has offered this invitation,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
So check me in.