There’s a question I’ll occasionally ask the men I’m spiritually mentoring, especially if they exhibit a lack of contentment, healthy relationships or seem “stuck” spiritually.
“What are you trying to keep secret that needs to be brought into the light?”
Everyone has secrets. Some secrets are simply embarrassing. We’d prefer people not know because they’d make us look foolish, or naïve.
Other secrets are about others – we’re keepers of other people’s secrets. We hold them in trust for them either because they’ve asked us to do so, or because we don’t want to dishonor them by letting their secrets out.
I don’t think Christians should worry if these are their only secrets, unless the secrets we keep for others keep them from getting help they desperately need. But other secrets may be toxic or cripple you spiritually, relationally or emotionally.
Does your family have a secret? I don’t mean your, “Aunt Clara got pregnant out of wedlock,” type of secret which is simply embarrassing and best left quiet. Is there a secret in your family that is so dark that it still cripples relationships decades later?
“Would the people who know you best consider you a Christian or a follower of Jesus?”
I still remember the stunned look on Dave’s face when I asked him the question over breakfast ten years ago. To give him a chance to recover a bit, I took the time to clarify my question. “What I mean Dave is this: based on how you live and what you’re passionate about, would your wife, your children, co-workers and fishing buddies – would they consider you a Christian or a serious follower of Jesus? And by the way, you don’t have to answer that question to me today. I’m not your spiritual authority. But, Jesus already knows the answer. The question is, do you?”
I’d known Dave for a few years, but not well. He was forty something, husband and father of three, attended a conservative church in town, and was involved in a men’s Bible study – a typical Christian. Our kids went to school together and we’d talked a number of times at school functions, but not in depth.
His reason for wanting to meet that morning was to ask if I would spend some time with him to help figure out some moving parts in his life. His relationship with God was flat. The company he was working for was in turmoil. He and his wife were struggling. The usual mid-life stuff. I’ve mentored many men in our community, so it was no surprise that he would ask me to help him sort things out. But, obviously he hadn’t expected to be hit by this truck.
Dave’s first question after he’d regained his composure was, “What’s the difference between a Christian and a follower of Jesus?” A fair question, but I wanted to hear his answer first. So I asked him to take a crack at it.
A few weeks back I sat in a coffee shop with a bright young businessman, late 30’s, college educated and good looking. He had everything going for him, but two things; he was spiritually lost and an alcoholic, but he just wouldn’t admit either was true! And the reality is, if you don’t believe you have a problem, you’ll not look for a solution!
Sooner or later, your family will be impacted by drug or alcohol abuse. Either that, or one of the people you mentor will have this problem, like my guy. To simplify the conversation, I’ll concentrate on alcohol abuse, but many of the ways to address the issue applies to drug abuse as well.
The Boy Scouts have a motto, Be Prepared. So the purpose of this blog is to equip you to do emotional, spiritual and relational triage. These are the things you ought to do and should not do when you find out a person you care for has a problem.
I don’t have a problem!
The first challenge in dealing with a person who is abusing alcohol is convincing them they have a problem! It’s stunning how many people who drink regularly and heavily enough that everyone else knows that they have a problem – but they don’t! And they’ll drive you crazy trying to argue with them. So here are the official criteria from The American Psychiatric Association. It’s what they call DSM-IV Criteria for Evaluating Substance Abuse;
You have a substance abuse problem if;
Binge Drinking – You have 5 or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days.
Heavy Drinking – You binge drink on at least five days in the last 30 days.
Drive under the Influence – You drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or greater (in Michigan)
Functional Criteria – you fail to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home.
Literally, slide these criteria in front of your alcoholic friend and ask if any of these are true in their life.
What you should do.
If all that fails, you may need to do an Intervention. An intervention is when a group, usually 6-12 people surprise an alcoholic and ask the abuser to leave for treatment immediately (which has been prearranged). I’ve been involved in a half dozen interventions. It requires a few hours of training by a professional to avoid a blow up and to be effective. Please, do not try to do an intervention on your own!
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Gal.6:1
What not to to do
“Their recovery is their recovery.” If they won’t take steps on their own for their recovery, you can’t badger them into it. They have to believe they have a problem and take the steps needed for their recovery. If they won’t, you need to do whatever you need to do, to protect yourself and your family. Be prayerful and proactive!
Finally, the Bible does not say it’s a sin to have a drink. However, being a drunk is.
1 Corinthians 6:9b-10
“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor the idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
If the alcoholic in your life claims to be a Christian, then you have an obligation to warn them with this and other verses of scripture. However, if they are not a Christian or a very weak Christian, my advice is not to beat them over the head with it. “Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”
Following Jesus in Real Life
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In light of Monday’s blog about a woman’s emotional affair with her best friend’s husband, I thought this blog by Rob Parsons would be helpful. Ron is the president of Care For the Family, a ministry to families. Please consider passing this blog on to the people in your life and by the grace of God, it may be read by someone actually contemplating an affair.
“Over the years, I’ve talked with many men and women who have been involved in affairs. One of the most salutary things is to realize that with many of them, they didn’t intend to be unfaithful to their partners. They sometimes blurt out, “It just happened.” They will normally go on to talk about some innocent event in which they were involved (often a genuine desire to help the other person in some way), and then go on to say, “It suddenly got out of hand.”
When is the battle won or lost in an affair? Is it decided at the bedroom door? No. The battle is so often decided when somebody smiles at you across a room and you have ten seconds to decide whether you will walk those twenty feet or keep talking to the boring colleague next to you. There is, in so many affairs, a line that has to be crossed. The tragedy is that so often it is drawn very near the beginning of the relationship, but once it is crossed, it is hard to go back.
I spoke recently with a man who was in the middle of an affair. He’d lost just about everything. He said: “Rob, she offered me a lift. The second I got in that car, it was as if it was all decided.” (more…)