Recently, I was challenged to spend time in the Book of Ephesians. So, this time as I read through it, I thought I would keep a journal of sorts on My Recovery Journey to Ephesus. I will be using The Message version of the Bible unless otherwise noted, I do not intend this to be a commentary on the book, just some notes as to what God is teaching me.
I, Paul, am under God's plan as an apostle, a special agent of Christ Jesus, writing to you faithful believers in Ephesus.
Since coming into recovery, I have started to notice, how, Paul and the other writers of the Bible that God used introduced themselves.
In Celebrate Recovery, we introduce ourselves by saying something like: “I am a grateful believer, who struggles with ______, my name is _____.” Our introductions are important in recovery, they are not just things we say, but they have a purpose for us. They keep us out of denial about our hurts, habits and hang-ups. By speaking them out and exposing them to the light, the power they once had over us begins to break. We are only as “sick as our secrets” they say, so by my introducing myself with a statement of my struggle, is just another nail in the coffin of the thing(s) that have kept me in bondage for so many years. More importantly, our introductions also remind us of who and whose we are in Christ. Statements like, I am a “grateful believer” or “grateful follower” or “grateful disciple” all remind me of the fact that though I struggle, I have experienced God’s grace, though I struggle, I was chosen by Him before the creation of the world, though I struggle, I am love and accepted by the Father. My introduction in recovery keeps me humble, keeps me honest and keeps me reminded of the hope I now have in Jesus Christ my Higher Power.
So, in Paul’s introduction he states first that “I…am under God’s plan…” Years ago, prior to recovery, when I read Paul’s introductions I would always think, “Gee Paul, a little arrogant aren’t we?” I always thought he was a little full of himself. However, as I read this now, I don’t think that he is trying to brag, at least not in himself.
Prior to his “recovery,” Paul went after followers of Christ, he hunted them down, he had them killed. Like me, he had a dark past, a past he would like to forget, but cannot. However, Paul also understands that, through Christ, God has forgiven him for his acts. I now think that this introduction is not Paul bragging about himself or his station, but Paul submitting to God. I think if I were to hear him say this, I would hear humility in his voice. I now can actually see him with tears in his eyes as he writes these words.
I think my struggle with Paul’s introductions prior to my recovery is because of a religious spirit or, what might be called, having a “religious mind set” or attitude. The best expression of this mind set is what some have called a “holier than thou” attitude. Ironically, this attitude held sway over me for so long because of the secret sin that I had allowed into my life, my own guilt and shame kept feeding it. I see this in Paul’s life as well, prior to his recovery.
It is interesting to me, how the one writer I found so distasteful in the Bible prior to recovery, is the one I seem to find myself increasingly identifying with the most now. I would have never admitted that before recovery. Funny, how when I surrender my struggles to God, and allow Him to continually touch my life with His grace, my view of things changes. No not changes, but more of paradigm shifts really.
So, here is Paul, submitted to God’s plan to be “an apostle, a special agent of Jesus Christ.” I looked up the word apostle; it is an ancient Greek word, and it literally means “one who is sent away.” However, the word was used to describe someone who was sent away with a purpose, like an ambassador or emissary. Again this kind of language in the past used to cause me to think of Paul as bragging, but now, I hear him giving God glory. I hear saying, “Look, I was so messed up, but God has decided to love and use me anyway.” His introduction is not about how great of person Paul is, but it about how much grace God has. The truth is that what I once thought was arrogance, I know see as humility, because of recovery.
What does this mean to me? My struggle, my sin has often left me wondering, how or why would God ever consider loving me, let alone using me? The answer is simple for me, it is not about me; it is about Him, Jesus. My struggle and my sin is not the determining factor in God’s decision to love me. The determining factor, really the only factor, is that God just decided that is what He wanted to do. I really have nothing to do with it one-way or the other when it all comes down to it. In the end, my only part is whether or not I will accept the gift He is offering.
Tim, Fellowship CR Assimilation Coach
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