My Life Verse

 “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10b

Three years ago, I thought these words were a lie. I had believed them at one time – that Jesus came to give me abundant life, but my life was anything but abundant.

I felt like I had been pushed face down to the ground, and someone was keeping me there with his foot on my back. I’ll be honest: I thought it was God.

I wrestled for months to get out from under whatever it was, to no avail. I became angrier and angrier. I asked God why He was keeping me from abundant life.

Eventually, I stopped struggling, and just laid there, face in the mud. I can’t tell you when the foot left my back, just that it did, and I didn’t get up, for fear of being pushed back down again.

But I couldn’t look at these words from Jesus – that He came for life, and not just any life, but abundant life – or any words from the Bible without getting really angry.

Now, three years later, these words are my lifeline.

You see, I had forgotten the first part of this verse, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” There is still no doubt in my mind that something was holding me to the ground and rubbing my face in it, but I understand now that it wasn’t God. It was the thief.

God is about life. Full and over-flowing life.

When I get away from that now, I’ve got to ask where I’ve let the enemy in to steal, kill, and destroy. He’s sneaky, so it’s not always easy to spot where he got in, and it might be something I’m too stubborn or proud to let go of. He’s a liar, so he’ll try to make it seem like I have no power against him, when all I have to do is speak Jesus’ name. I’ve got to remember that as long as I’m down for the count, he’s happy, and if there’s anything I hate doing, it’s giving an antagonist that kind of satisfaction.

I am not here to be robbed, destroyed, or killed. I am here for life, abundant life.

In Psalm 16, it says, “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy.” It reminds me that fullness (abundance) is found in God’s presence, and that because of Jesus, I have that all the time.

“The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

That is what I claim for my life – the first part as a reminder, the second part as a promise.

What about you? Do you have a life verse? Why did you choose that verse? I’d love to hear from you.

#GetOutoftheField: Sexual Immorality

I acknowledge the complexity of the issue that I am about to address, as well as the emotional investment many of my readers have in it. I intend to tackle it just as I have in the past – with compassion and conviction.

Sexual Immorality. What is it? I define sexual immorality as any sexual activity outside of a covenant relationship. I derive that from the NT Greek word for fornication, porneo (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). I do believe that such covenants are designed by God to be between a man, a woman, and God for the purpose of helpful companionship and fruitful multiplication (Genesis 2:18-22; 1:27-28).

We live in a sexually broken society.

Of the 53% of marriages that end in divorce in the United States, 41% failed because of infidelity (Infidelity Facts). I wasn’t able to find data on the heterosexual marriages that are ending because a spouse leaves to pursue same sex relationships, but I’ve heard many testimonies, and I know this scenario is all-too-common.

There are the people not getting married at all, quite possibly because of those scary statistics above, but that’s not stopping them from living together. According to NBC, “By the time they’re 20, 1 in 4 women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S. have lived with a man, and by the time they’re 30, that ratio climbs to 3 in 4.”

And just because they’re not living together doesn’t mean they’re not fooling around. The average age of lost virginity in the United States is 17 (The Atlantic). I don’t know if rape is included in that statistic or not. 

Add to these the most emotionally-charged topic of them all: homosexuality. A 2002 Gallup poll estimates 1 in 5 Americans identify themselves as gay or lesbian. While I believe there is a fundamental difference between identity and actions, I think what we identify with we will eventually act upon.

If two people love each other, why can’t they do what they want? Here’s the thing: in the eyes of our government they absolutely can. I’m not interested in having a political discussion, though. This #GetOutoftheField series is about lifestyles that lead to death, physical (decay) and spiritual (distance from God).

Let’s talk about the decay of our bodies: “Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Infection show that there are 19.7 million new STIs every year in the U.S.” (ASHA). It sounds like we’re creating new diseases every year, but it may just be new cases. Either way, the words “rampant” and “unchecked” come to mind. 

Let’s talk about the decay of future generations.”In 1991 a study was done of children from which the parents were divorced six years earlier. The study found that even after all that time, these children tended to be lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure” (Children and Divorce). They also tend to have more health issues and perform lower in school. I have heard numerous testimonies of children who grew up in homes with gay parents – many dealing with difficulties with growing up without a mother or a father; some of them more difficult to swallow, dealing with molestation. They are shut down too often, because their stories interfere with our placid views of sexuality.

Don’t get me started on abortion. Oh, wait…

Sexual immorality leaves broken people in its wake who go on to break other people.

Remember when I said that sexual immorality was any sexual activity outside of a God-designed covenant relationship ( a man, woman, God)? When God and His design are left out of it, He is not in it. God is not in the extramarital indiscretion and affair. He is not in the covenant-less cohabitation or premature loss of virginity. He is not in the homosexual union.

Now, please understand: I am not saying that God is not with the people doing these things. I am not saying He doesn’t love them.

I am saying that when any of us chooses to disregard God, we create distance between Him and us. We may follow Him in every other way, but the minute we choose to disregard Him and do a thing our way, we block Him in that area of our lives. That’s true of any sin.

Here’s the problem: we don’t want to acknowledge that we’re sinners, and we sin. Sin has a negative connotation. So instead of addressing it for what it is, we attempt to normalize it. If it’s normal, we don’t have to correct it, and it’s nobody’s business, because everybody’s doing it. If someone does address it, shame on them.

As with my #GetOutoftheField: Abortion post, I am inviting criticism when I say sexual activity outside of God’s design is sin. That even though it’s common, it’s not okay. That it hurts us, it hurts others, and it hurts God. That it is leaving far-reaching consequences in our families, churches, and society. That it’s not just one thing, but all the things. That sex is not ultimate.

Hopefully my critics will catch that God’s plan for our well-being is beyond our spoiled rotten attitude of sex when we want it, and with whom. That our ultimate satisfaction is in knowing and following Him with everything we have, including our sexuality. That He wants to adopt us into His family, so we can root our identity in being His children, not in our sexuality.

Some don’t want to believe there is a God; they don’t want to believe they are accountable to Him, and so they will continue to do what they want. They may come up empty again and again, but they will keep going. God loves them, and so do I, but much as I may want to, I can’t make those people see.

But maybe today you’re coming up empty for the umpteenth time, maybe from an affair, or from a lack of commitment, or from another partner (same gender or not), and you know it’s not working. Did you know God loves you for who you are wants to make you His child, and wrap you up in Jesus? Did you know that He calls you to live life a certain way because anything else shortchanges you? Did you know that the more you embrace your identity as His child, the less you’ll identify yourself by what you do or who you’re with? Did you know that He wants you to be more you than ever before – what He saw before sin entered the picture? Did you know that He knows how you struggle and when you fall, and He wants to fight for you, and pick you up?

He’s a good God, and He doesn’t hate you. He is crazy about you!

Run to Him.

If you would like prayer or you want to talk more, you are welcome to email me at lydia . evelyn . thomas @ gmail . com (minus the spaces).

#TBT: When I Hear A Hilary Duff Song

After my childhood best friend’s and my obsession with Mary-Kate and Ashley, and before our Orlando Bloom obsession, we had a Hilary Duff phase.

I don’t often think back to this starstruck time in my life, but the other day I heard Hilary Duff’s Time to Fly on the radio, and I thought of it. More importantly, I thought of my friend and how we (her family and mine) were family.

We were an inventive bunch, Emily, Seth, Michael, Suzanna, Kathryn, and I.

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We made up this trampoline game called “Don’t Get Touched by the Tennis Shoes,” which is exactly what it sounds like. We would take off our shoes, toss them on the trampoline, and bounce. If you got touched by the Tennis shoes, you were out.

We also came up with our own twist on Capture the Flag, a sort of treasure hunt, complete with clues to the flags location.

Don’t get me started on the two movies we were going to make.

The Johnson’s would come hang out at our house (and vice versa), and we’d have sleepovers and campouts.

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It was during times like these that Kathryn got knocked out by an icicle because she was messing around trying to get ice off the roof to suck on. Or like when we found two birds that had fallen from their nest, and we nursed them to their graves. We even named them: Pete and Joe. We went sledding and exploring, and we had all the fun kids should have.

After we moved to Texas, we would come back to visit in the summer. Being the big kids that we were, we hung out at the playground.

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One time, Emily, Seth, Michael, and I played an elaborate prank on Kathryn and Suzanna, involving a “pirate” map and clues. Kathryn didn’t buy it, but Susanna thought she had seen something about our story on the history channel, so we were saved. Until we forgot where some of the clues were hidden, that is.

After the move, we kept in touch via email, and I began writing these (intentionally) outrageous space stories in script format, and we were the protagonists. We got caught up in a solar system battle after yours truly was kidnapped by a Martian named Nincompoop (Ninc for short) And that brings me back to Hilary Duff, because she was in them, along with Orlando Bloom and Jeremy Sumpter.

And because I loved these little stories so much – not because they’re good, but because they’re about us, and our weird obsessions eleven years ago – I’m going to share a piece of one of them with you today.

In this episode, Lydia Sumpter (along with Jeremy), Kathryn Thomas, and Miss PB go on a search for the Great Bungee Cord. Along the way, they meet up with Emily and Orlando Bloom, who are now running a spaceship shop called the Ship Shape Shop; Michael and Hilary Johnson (nee Duff), who are in Hollywood; Rebekah Thomas; Matt; and Bill the Space Cat (I don’t know what he’s doing in our story, but I have to include him or he might sue me).

Emily: You came all the way down here to tell us Kathryn is the Queen of Jupiter?

Rebekah: No. You see, Kathryn and Miss PB here-

Emily: Miss PB?

Rebekah: Miss PB, Emily Bloom. Emily, Miss Potato-Bunger.

Orlando: A real Potato-Bunger? From Jupiter?

Rebekah: Yeah. Anyhow, Kathryn and Miss PB here need the Great Bungee Cord in order to get back to Jupiter.

Lydia: Any idea where we can find one?

Emily and Orlando look at each other.

Orlando: Well, maybe our new bungee cord technician will know something. (calling) Hey, Matt!

And out comes our mystery character, Matt. Muscular, but short.

Matt: Yeah?

Orlando: Do you know anything about a Great Bungee Cord?

Before Matt can answer, Bill the Space Cat comes running through the room with a colorful jump rope trailing behind him. Miss PB screams. Everyone looks at her.

Miss PB: (pointing at jump rope) THE GREAT BUNGEE CORD!!!

The gang looks astounded.

Seth: (running from back room)Bill! Come back here!

Bill is sniffing Orlando’s ankles, and Orlando is trying no to sneeze.

Orlando: (to Matt) Did you know he was here?

Matt: Yeah, I was just coming to get you when you called me out. Dude wants to bring in his piano.

Emily: (to Seth) Really? A piano in the Ship Shape Shop?

Seth: (shrugging) I just thought you’d like some music to draw in some customers.

Emily: When I need someone put to sleep, I’ll give you a call.

Seth looks offended.

Kathryn: What is Bill doing wearing my jump rope?

Seth: I took it years ago from your bedroom. You can have it back.

Rebekah: I spent all of that time digging through the dump when Seth had the Great Bungee Cord?

Seth: If that’s the Great Bungee Cord, then I’m the King of Jupiter.

Kathryn: No, you idiot! I’m the Queen of Jupiter, and that jump rope is the Great Bungee Cord, and I need it to get back to Jupiter!  (snatches jump rope) How do I work this thing?

Miss PB: Put one end near your gear and one end near your mouth, and squeeze.

Voice: Hello. You have reached the Jupiter Hotline. To hear your voice messages, squeeze pink. To make a call, squeeze purple. To return to Jupiter, squeeze blue.

There is an explosion and the Ship Shape Shop is filled with blue smoke. When it clears, Kathryn is gone.

She just forgot one thing…Miss PB.

Jeremy: I guess we’re going to Jupiter.

Seth: What about Michael and Hilary? They’d be hurt if we went to space without them.

Jeremy: I guess we’re going to Hollywood.

***

Michael: (pulling to a stop in front of Hilary and his mansion) Who took our parking spot?

Hilary: (eyeing the spaceship) Jerks!

The gang pops out of the spaceship and yells, “Surprise!”

Orlando: We’re going to space and Seth thought you’d like to come with us.

Hilary: Oh, brother.

Michael: Yeah! Let me grab a bag!

Hilary: I’m, koochums, what happened to our quiet evening?

Lydia: She calls you koochums?

Michael: Oh, pudding face, I haven’t been to space in forever. You can always come with us.

Hilary: (grumbling) Fine.

A few seconds later, there is a blood-curdling scream from inside The Space Shark…

And that is all you get.

Maybe, if you’re nice, I’ll tell you about the Skittles. But probably not.

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I Am NOT Writing A Romance

As I read over A Year with the Baptists, preparing to nail down the final draft before sending it to crit partners, this has become my mantra, “I am not writing a romance,” as if saying it makes it true. And if there’s something I avoid at all costs, it’s romance.

Strangely, though, whenever I read my manuscript, it feels an awful lot like chick lit. Granted, it’s not the fluffy or fuzzy kind, but still…

I don’t write romance.

I can’t write romance.

I must not write romance.

I am not writing a romance.

The other day I was reading through the various drafts of The Field as a sort of Ebenezer* with the upcoming release from Vox Dei, and I stumbled across two chapters that I had pulled between revisions two and three.

They were tender moments between one of my protagonists and her love interest, and in the margin of both, I had scribbled, “Irrelevant.” I remember being so sure romance could not and should not be part of their story. In the self-published version, I included about as much romance as I could stomach – of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety.

As I began prepping my manuscript for Vox Dei edits, I realized I either needed to beef up the romance between my charactersor do away with it all together. In an uncharacteristic move, I wove in more romance. (I know. I can’t believe it either.)

Even so, I am still fighting romance in Baptists. I mean, is there anything quite like two people falling for each other and sticking together come what may? Living life with someone else on your heart and mind, instead of doing what you want, when you want to do it?

That may not sound bad to some, but I’ve grown accustomed to being a single woman. I am always weighing the cost of giving my status up: what kind of drama am I inviting into my life when I enter a romantic relationship? Because I’m messy enough on my own – why add another person to the mix? What am I going to have to give up? My writing? Work? Ministry? Down time? What if it all keeps me from doing what I’m supposed to be doing? (I realize I’m not painting myself in the best light here, but this really is why I’m still single.)

I have tried cutting the romance. I want strong characters who aren’t afraid to turn down a relationship in order to get what they want. But my characters have minds of their own, and they want to be together. (That may sound crazy to my readers, but ask any writer, you can’t make your characters do anything they don’t want to do.)

Maybe I’m going soft, maybe I’m less cynical, but I think I’m just going to roll with it, and let things develop naturally between my Baptist characters. Maybe they’ll teach me something about love, romance, and relationships along the way.

*Ebenezer – literally means, “thus far the Lord has helped me.” Memorial and celebration.

#BaptistSnippets: The Problem with Myers-Briggs

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I have a love-hate relationship with Myers-Briggs personality profiling. (Or any personality profiling, really). Used in moderation, it’s a useful tool, but over-dependence leads to reductive characterization.

This excerpt from A Year with the Baptists depicts various responses to Myers-Briggs personality profiling. It is a work of fiction and the characters and conversations are products of my imagination. Any resemblance to real people and situations is entirely coincidental. Also, this excerpt is from an early draft, and may or may not make it into the final draft.

***

“So, Jake, do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type?” Charlotte asked.

“Here we go,” Emma muttered.

Jake swallowed a mouthful of mashed potatoes and nodded. “I do.”

“He does,” Charlotte said pointedly.

Emma ignored her.

“Well,” Charlotte said. “What is it?”

“ENFJ,” Jake answered.

“Ah, the Giver,” Charlotte said. “Not a natural match for Emma, then.”

Jake raised his eyebrows. “No? We seem to do all right.”

Charlotte shook her head insistently. “She’s an ISFJ.”

Emma wondered if Charlotte expected them to break up over this.

“Really?” Jake asked.

“She’s never actually taken the test,” Daniel said.

“I don’t get it,” Jake said. “How do you know Emma’s type if she’s never taken the test?”

Charlotte shrugged. “Took it for her.”

Jake looked from Charlotte to Daniel.

“It’s true,” Daniel said.

“So you input her responses to the questions, then?” Jake asked.

“One would think,” Daniel muttered.

“Oh, no,” Charlotte said brightly. “I imagined myself as Emma and answered the questions accordingly.”

Jake gaped.

“She’s not kidding,” Emma informed him.

“I just don’t see it,” Jake said.

“All due respect, Jake,” Charlotte replied, “but I’ve known Emma a lot longer than you have.”

Emma resisted an urge to rub Charlotte’s face in her plate of food.

“I think I can safely say that of all of us, I’ve known Emma the longest,” Daniel said.

“Are you familiar with the Myers-Briggs personalities, Daniel?” Jake asked.

Daniel shrugged. “I’ve dabbled.”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t think she’s an ISFJ.”

Emma wanted to cheer.

“Well, I’ve more than dabbled,” Charlotte said.

“Same here,” Jake replied.

Charlotte huffed.

“You know,” Jake said, stealing a glance at Emma, “there’s really only one way to solve this.”

Daniel shook his head. “Already been tried, man.”

“Aw, come on, Emma,” Jake said. “Why not?”

“I think way too many people use their personality types as excuses not to grow,” Emma answered.

“I don’t know,” Jake said. “Types can be a valuable tool for learning how to love and serve people more effectively.”

“Exactly,” Charlotte said. “Plus, you can discover what makes people tick, and how to get them to work for you.”

“That’s pretty much the opposite of what Jake just said,” Emma informed her.

Jake squeezed her arm. “So what’s your type, Charlotte?”

“ESTJ.”

“The know-it-all,” Emma muttered.

“Guardian, actually,” Charlotte said.

“How could I have missed that?” Emma retorted.

Jake planted a kiss on her cheek. “I’d love to know your type, just for fun.”

“She’s an ISFJ,” Charlotte insisted.

Emma pushed her chair back from the table. “Okay, you know what? I’ll do it.”

Daniel raised his eyebrows. “I think you broke her.”

“I’ll set up my laptop after dinner,” Charlotte said, clapping her hands.

Emma shook her head. “This is something Jake and I are going to do together. Alone.”

Charlotte pouted. “No fair.”

“You can’t win ’em all, Charlotte.”

~~~

“I already know my type,” Emma confessed later when she and Jake were alone.

“But Daniel said”-

“No, I know,” Emma said. “And as far as most people know, I haven’t taken the test.” 

Jake frowned. “I don’t get it.”

“This is Charlotte’s thing,” Emma explained. “I actually know a lot about personality profiling. I study it for my stories. But Charlotte wants to be the expert, so I let her.”

Jake gazed into her eyes. “I have so much respect for you right now.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Emma mumbled, tearing her eyes away. “I also enjoy knowing she’s wrong, and that I can have this part of me that she’s not in on.”

“Fuzzy moment gone,” Jake said. “You going to let me in on your type?”

Emma grinned. “Oh, come on, Jake. You already know this.”

Jake smiled back. “We’re natural matches after all.”

“See?” Emma said, leaning in and kissing him. “Charlotte may have known me longer, but you know me better.”

***

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I Am My Father’s Daughter

This is seven years.

I usually write this post earlier in the month of September, but between my relocation and the upcoming release of The Field through Vox Dei Publishing, it fell through the cracks. That’s okay, though: I didn’t know what I was going to say about this milestone until this morning anyway.

This. This is seven years.

Since February, I have been praying every day that I would seek, encounter, and know God more and more. (Why? Well, for one thing He’s worth pursuing, experiencing and knowing; for another, I can’t reflect what I don’t know). I’ve been reading Ephesians recently, and spent time contemplating these words from Paul in the first chapter, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe” (vs. 17-19). And just like that, my prayer to seek, encounter, and know God expanded to knowing His hope, riches, and power, too.

And because I have to have things broken down for me to better process what God is trying to tell me, this past week, I have focused on the hope to which He has called me.

I mean, I hope (and pray) for a lot of things, but is hoping for those things the hope to which God has called me? I can’t accept that it is – for one thing, it’s too general, and for another, I’ve been disappointed all too often from that kind of hope. Then there are those times when my hopes and prayers are frustrated because they are focused on unworthy and harmful things. So what is this hope, the hope God is calling me to?

A few days after reading Paul’s prayer and asking God to show me this hope, I was in Ephesians 4: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

I knew this was important, because it mentioned a calling to hope, but the puzzle wasn’t finished in my mind. I went about my day, trusting God for my Eureka! moment when I would understand exactly what He wanted me to see about hope.

Scrolling through my blog feed, I came across a post from Pastor Mel Wild entitled “A hope that never disappoints.” Needless to say, that caught my attention. In the post, Mel talks about our hope is in “being placed in a Person – Christ,” and I began to understand.

My hope is in being a part of the family of God – one body (Christ), one Spirit, one Father, who is over all, through all, in all.

In all.

In me.

When we see a child display a parent’s characteristics, we often say, “That child is her father’s daughter.”

And that’s when it punched me in the gut.

This is my hope.

I am my Father’s daughter. He is in me.

This morning at church, the message was about the Prodigal Son – about his homecoming and the responses to it. If there’s ever been a story about sonship, this is it: we have the returning prodigal, the celebrating father, and the resentful brother.

I’ve found myself in the shoes of all three at different times. When I first came to Christ, I was the prodigal, caught in an eddy of depression from trying to fill voids and heal wounds on my own. Since then, there have been seasons of rejoicing as God does great things in my life and the lives of my loved ones.

When the prodigal comes home, the father clothes him in the best robe, gives him a ring (which symbolizes adoption to sonship in Roman culture – full rights and privileges that were given as a son reached maturity), and puts sandals on his feet (because only slaves went around barefoot). Then the father throws a celebration.

But look at his response to the older brother, who has forgotten his position. Gently, the father reminds him, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

What the prodigal brother was given upon his return, the older brother already had in his possession.

This morning, seven years after meeting Christ, I found myself in the place of the older brother. Don’t get me wrong: I am still always delighted to see people brought from sinking sand to solid ground, from darkness to light, from lost to found, from death to life – in fact, I love it! But here’s what struck me: The older brother is a prodigal in his own way. He’s so busy working in the field, he’s forgotten his sonship. 

That’s me.

In the past three years, I’ve lost my hope because I’ve disregarded my position in Christ.

God isn’t waiting to bless me with the benefits of sonship – the hope, the riches, the power. I’ve been adopted to full rights and privileges. And I can freely and joyfully accept when others come into their inheritance as sons and daughters. 

I am my Father’s daughter!

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship…Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:15, 17a).

“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has also made you an heir” (Galatians 4:7).

“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be blameless and holy in His sight. In love He predestined us to kinship through Jesus” (Ephesians 1:4-5a).

And, of course, there’s this song from Bethel, No Longer Slaves.

Happy Seventh Anniversary, Jesus! Here’s to many more!

#GetOutoftheField: Substance Abuse

The Google Dictionary (the very best dictionary, haha) defines substance abuse as “the overindulgence in or dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol and drugs.” (Emphasis mine so we understand exactly what we’re talking about – this is NOT about the self- and Spirit-controlled person taking part in legal substances as his or her conscience allows. This IS about being controlled by something that ultimately brings harm. You’ve got to know which one you are and act accordingly. Okay? Okay.)

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports,”According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009 (9.3 percent of persons aged 12 or older).” They go on to say that “there were 1.8 million admissions in 2008 for treatment of alcohol and drug abuse to facilities that report to State administrative data systems.” Substance abuse costs the United States $700 billion a year, and in 2009, a study found, “1 in 3 drivers killed in car accidents tested positive for drugs. Of those tested).” 

In the majority of cases, over-indulgence leads to dependence. That holds true for pretty much everything.

I understand substance abuse and addiction.

I’ve already briefly discussed my own history with over-the-counter drug abuse, as it pertains to my journey from self-destruction to worth. Here’s what I said about that dark season: “[I] started taking medicine to get to sleep and away.” Later, as a young adult I began to use alcohol as a means to numb myself as well, but at that time I was part of a community that spoke into it, and helped me out of it. For me, drugs have always been a means of escape, but others use them to heighten their senses.

It doesn’t really matter what the appeal of drugs are for any given person: in any case, we expect to feel better. And, in any case, we are gravely deceived.

There is a reason why at a certain limit we are considered “under the influence.” It’s because we cease to be who we are, and something else takes over. (Which is not to say we are absolved of the consequences of letting it get to that point). For example, I’m a reserved person by nature, but when I’ve been drinking I get really talkative. I have a loved one who doesn’t often express feelings, but becomes uncharacteristically affectionate when drinking. Another loved one shuts down completely.

The overindulgence and dependence impairs our judgment, and leads to death, be it the gradual decay of our own or a life that crosses our path at the wrong time. We will do anything to get our fix, again and again, even when it means abandoning and deceiving our loved ones. Given enough time, we will have given everything we have to make sure this substance stays in our lives.

Because we want something other than our reality, sometimes for good reason. Life is excruciating sometimes, and we turn to a substance to take that away.

But we are looking for healing in a place that can only destroy us.

My favorite of God’s names is Jehovah Rapha. It literally means, “I AM Healer.” Jesus proclaims Himself the Great Physician. He doesn’t deny our history, our pain – He simply says, “Come. I will give you rest.”

It’s not easy, because when Jesus heals, He’s not interested in slapping a bandaid on our ailments. He wants to cleanse them from the inside out. He wants to get to those wounds that we’ve been avoiding through substance abuse, and if we truly want to be healed, we have to walk with Him into some profoundly painful places. We will have to confront past abuse, or rejection, or abandonment, or broken relationships. We won’t be able to escape.

But He’ll be so patient and so gentle. He’ll hold our hands every step of the way. Because He loves us, and His thoughts toward us are a future and a hope. His thoughts toward us are abundant life.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus doesn’t want us to live lives where we’re slowly losing ourselves and everything of value in our lives to a substance. He has life – where we feel what we feel and are still fully satisfied – for us.

We don’t have to stay in the Field.

If you struggle with substance abuse and addiction, please don’t struggle alone. Please seek the help of a substance abuse counselor and treatment center and a Jesus-following community who can speak into your life, build you up, and just love on you. Rest assured, you are loved – by God, by me, and by your loved ones.

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