I’m currently writing a nonfiction book on The Power of Surrender as it relates to substance abuse addiction. I’ve always wondered why a person would write a book such as this. What education, expertise, or experience qualifies one to speak on the important issue of substance abuse? Now, I know. It’s a calling…a haunting of sorts…a lingering feeling that you cannot easily escape. Although I’ve never personally struggled with substance abuse, I’ve been aware of its presence. From sitting around a campfire with my grandfather and his fox-hunting buddies who drank away the night and argued over whose dog was in the lead, to watching an older sibling carried to the front door by a good friend with a bucket between his legs to catch the vomit from overdrinking, to watching many of my children struggle with alcohol and drugs…in and out of rehab, it seems I’ve been unable to avoid the tragedy of substance abuse.
I tried time and time again to distance myself from the lives of those who made such choices, but God keeps pulling me back to them. Recently, we had a lot of work done in our backyard, including the installation of an inground pool. Once again, God pulled me in, this time as a friend, to walk alongside a man dealing with his wife’s alcoholism. Then, as God seems to do in my life, He began to speak to me through Scripture. First, it was about sin. “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:5-6). I read it and caught myself feeling superior…which is another way of saying I was being prideful…believing that passage was only about the abuser. But God quickly rebuked me, having me read on. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). I huffed and said, “Okay, God. I get it. No casting stones.”
Once my heart was ready, God directed me to another section of His word. I immediately noticed the human debate between Nature and Nurture, or in modern terms – Genetics vs. Environment. “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:4-6). There it was, right in front of my face. I’d read those verses hundreds of times before, but suddenly, they had new meaning…suddenly they sparked a calling to write this book. “I planted,” which implies the seed, reminded me of the genetic or biological seed planted in each of us by our parents. “Apollos watered” then represents the environment, the nurturing. And there it was, clear as a bright summer day. “God causes the growth.” Success, life, recovery, and growth, they’re all in the hands of God.
But God wasn’t finished with His lesson. He had one final piece to add before it would all come together for me, before I would see what He was wanting me to say. It took a backward turn, a glance that reminded me of new beginnings and of fresh starts. I had just turned eight. I grew up in a Christian home, so I never really doubted God’s existence or the truth of His Son Jesus. I accepted the facts about his birth, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. But they were mere facts, nothing more to me than the reality of gravity. What was missing? A relationship…one that came on God’s terms, not mine. One night, after the pastor finished his sermon, we stood for the closing hymn, what we called, “the hymn of decision.” Oh, how aptly it was named that night for me.
The words pierced my very soul. “All to Jesus, I surrender; all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all…” (Baptist Hymnal). That was it. Surrender, turning everything over to Him, holding nothing back. Could I? I look back as an adult and wonder how I could have had such deep thoughts and questions at eight years of age, but I did. And I found myself running down the aisle to tell the preacher, “I do. I surrender all.”
That’s what God was trying to show me. Growth and victory come by His power, not mine. But I must surrender myself to Him. I do not believe there is true recovery without God. I do not believe you can choose just any old “higher power” and overcome the clutches of your addiction. There is no power higher than God, and we have access to Him through His One and Only Son, Jesus. Surrendering to Him is the key to victory and freedom. That’s the calling God placed upon me, to tell as many as I can, there’s power in surrender.