Aaargh. I just did it too.
No, I didn’t get drunk. I chose to pursue my own drug of choice, but it’s the same thing really.
A person I had befriended sent me a prayer request: “Pray that I won’t get drunk tonight.”
“Do you have alcohol in the house?” I asked.
“What would you have to do to get drunk?”
“Well, I’d have to go get some beer.”
“So you have to choose to get dressed, get your car keys, drive down to the liquor store, buy a case…”
“Well, actually I’d have to go cash a cheque first…”
“Okay. Then you have to bring it home, open the can…”
“I prefer bottled….”
“Open the bottle, guzzle it down, open another bottle…”
“Yeah. Pretty much.”
“Do you realize how many decisions that involves and how many times you are offered the option of choosing differently this time? You could choose to stay home, choose to not pick up your car keys, choose to turn right toward the movie theatre instead of left to the liquor store…”
“Yeah. I know, but I need you to pray that I choose not to get drunk. My boss is such a jerk.”
“Is there a gun to your head? Is anyone forcing booze down your throat? Because otherwise I can’t pray that. I can’t pray that God will veto your free will, because he already gave it to you – for free – and I can’t take it back on his behalf. I don’t have that kind of power. I will pray that you will be aware of every point where you are faced with a decision and you will realize you are not a helpless victim, but someone who is learning he is no longer a slave to sin. You do not have to make the choice to go down the same old road again. Grace is more than a get out of jail free card. Grace is also the power to be set free from the law of sin and death. Grace is realizing you are free and when you trust in Christ the thing that feels like a gun to your head doesn’t have any bullets anymore. It’s a lie.”
I know there are many dynamics to addiction and cravings make it feel like there is a loaded gun to our heads. Sometimes the ruts to our habitual choices are so deep we’ve got to really hit the gas hard to turn and go down a different road. I get it. But we do have choices.
Here’s the thing. It’s easy for me to talk about not getting drunk because it is not a temptation for me. I hate the taste of alcohol. Don’t bother giving me a fine bottle of wine. I actually prefer grape juice – and I can’t get beer past my nose. I like to be in control of all my faculties, thank you very much. But I realize I did the same thing as my friend yesterday. I sent a message to some friends – intercessors – asking them to pray that I would respond with grace and love to people I feel acted…well, let’s just say they acted without grace and love.
My habitual response would be to seek sympathy, justification for my hurt feelings, and maybe even hope the people I asked to pray would take up my cause and fight for me. Then I would go eat a chocolate bar or something to stifle the feeling of anger, because I really hate feeling angry. Nice Christian girls don’t feel angry, right?
I was asking them to pray that God would veto my own will, and he tends not to do that. Instead he offers us two fruit trees so that we have the opportunity to choose the righteous one. Given that grace gives us the freedom to choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, choosing resentment and lack of self-control is pretty stupid.
I wish I could just pray that I would make the right choice and it would happen, like magic. But this life of freedom is all about choosing relationship with Christ over being a slave to rules. So today I choose to turn right toward him this time, to forgive and offer grace to those who have seemed to be a little short of it. It may require a little donation as well, because we overcome evil with good. Freely we have received, freely we give, because God is not on a budget and there is more love and grace where that came from.