Step 10: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Step 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out.
There’s a word in these steps – one single syllable -which scares me. It condemns and convicts me (and I assume you, too). Uttering this term causes my heart to fear and doubt, to dwell on shame and hopelessness, despite what my head knows. Do you know what word that is?
When, not if. When. It dictates the inevitableness of my fall(s). Like I am doomed to fail, probably time and again. (And so it has proved to be.) I really have no confusion about why I relapse – when it comes down to it, it is wholly by my choice. I want (and take) what I want.
Every act is grabbing back what I have vowed to offer. And the Bible seems quite clear about the penalty.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Hebrews 10:26-27 ESV
Is this contrary to what my faith and study of the scriptures have promised? The certainty of punishment is right there, in multiple places:
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
2 Peter 2:20-22
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.
(is there an “or else” implied here?)
Should I be surprised that these verses are not enough to keep me clean?
(See above, about the word “when.”) How, then, am I to get up each time and resume the fight with great expectations?
There is, I think (I desperately need to believe as part of salvation), another word that supersedes ‘when.’ It is “hope.” Belief itself. Trust that God has given – will always give – another second chance. Because it is also written:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
There’s a much more common way of expressing this:
“It ain’t over til it’s over.”
– Yogi Bera
(BTW, there’s a fascinating explanation of how the fat lady got involved in this colloquialism on wiki here.)
The clock has not run down on my constant effort to “[supplement] knowledge with self-control” 2 Peter 1:6. (See verses 3-10 for the full list of enhancements.)
There’s one particular declaration that explains why I can feel sure about this:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
It’s the love of a parent for His children, which I can relate to. Is there anything we will not seek to forgive them from? How many chances have you given (or been given)?
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Think how much the Father loves us. He loves us so much that he lets us be called his children, as we truly are.
1 John 3:1 CEV
Recovery is not in what I do or fail to do, but in the hope I cling to, the trust I hold in God’s promise, stated in His Word, that Grace remains. This borders on cheap grace, yes, and perhaps I am doomed if I pridefully take Grace for granted. But I take no pride these failures.
And when that feeling of disappointment – of having disappointed the Father, again – immediately follows a fall, it’s a reminder that I still believe. It convinces me that I might just yet succeed in pleasing Him.