Yesterday we had the last session in our 10 week Recovery Workshop. The workshop is designed to help people discover that “spiritual answers will solve all our problems”. Using only the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous we present a vital ongoing relationship with God as the solution to addiction and the means to health and growth. I have not kept track as well as I might have but I believe this was our twelfth such workshop. Over the course of doing these, we have discovered a significant pattern. We start with a large group crowded around our table but as the weeks move on, and it becomes clear that to experience change we must surrender our will to the will of God and take dramatic action to foster life changes, people drift away. For our closing last night a handful of us gathered for the final exhortation for us to take the message of hope out into a hurting world.
I have just been reading in the Gospel of John about the multitudes that followed Jesus in early days but when his sayings became “hard” they drifted away. At one point Jesus turns to the 12 he has chosen and asks “Are you going to leave also?” Peter responds for the group “Where else could we go? You have the words of life.”
Jesus invitation is “Come and die”. He says “Pick up your cross and follow me!” The Prayer of Saint Francis says “It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” My will is killing me, and must die! This is not just a hard saying. It is a brutal truth. The Big Book says “Any life run on self-will can hardly succeed.”
We all want change. We all want a new and fulfilling life. We may even be aware that our current mode is not really working for us. Yet we find the challenge of surrender too hard.
As I see people fade away I am reminded of Jesus’ conversation with the Rich Young man who walked away. Mark records that Jesus “Looked at him and loved him.” We sense the Saviour’s sadness as the young man walks away, but walking away is his right and his choice. The dear folks who come to our workshops are perfectly entitled to their own choices. It is sad to see some return to the addiction they seek to escape but we have also seen those who left earlier workshops return for subsequent ones.
Each series of workshops we witness powerful differences in a few and we are seeing a cumulative effect in our community especially as these folks multiply the message. A community of hope sharing a message of hope verified by life experience can, I believe, have a dynamic impact on our larger community.
Isn’t this way of the Good News?