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Posts Tagged ‘drug abuse’

prison cellThe 28th of October — three days from now — marks the tenth year of incarceration for my young friend Travis.  His life was forever changed when the jury pronounced him “guilty.”  He has no excuses.  Travis knows that he made terrible choices that led to life-threatening drug addiction.

He remembers that day in court when the verdict was read.  His mom reached for him, begging for one last hug but was denied by the U.S. Marshall who cuffed him and dragged him away.  Travis describes himself as a scared little boy in a man’s body unable to grasp the reality of what was happening, yet conscious of frightful images.  Where was he going?  With whom would he be imprisoned?  What would they do to him?  Would he be raped, stabbed or killed?

Travis writes, “I began to plot in my head how to end it all . . . life was not worth living anymore.  I thought of creative ways to use a bed sheet, or perhaps I could pick a fight and hopefully be killed in the process.”  But God was with Travis.  “The comfort I felt when I cried out to Him in one last ditch effort before I ended my life was so amazing.  God really did put His arms around me and lifted me up.”

It would be easy to languish in prison, to let the depression win and the hopelessness take root.  But there, in the most unlikely of places and under the Potter’s own hand, Travis has learned his true identity.  The world calls him a criminal.  A drug-abuser.  A law-breaker.  A bad boy.  A misfit.  But that is not how God identifies him.  God calls Travis His son in Jesus Christ.  A forgiven sinner.  A person of value.  A man with a future of hope.

Travis could remember October 28 as the end of his life.  Instead, he remembers it as the beginning of new life.   Before prison, Travis was captive to the lies.  In prison, he was set free in the Truth.  Before October 28, Travis had forgotten who he was.  On October 28, The Father reminded his child, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

It is in darkness that light shines brightest.  Travis admits to struggling with fear, doubt, sadness, anger, and depression.  But knowing who he is in Christ, Travis also knows he is being transformed.  As a son of God in Christ, Travis has purpose.

You are . . . his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light . . . once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9).

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prison cellIs it possible to change our thinking and behavior?  Leave bad habits behind?  Resist evil and despair?

Yes.

Evidence of change is all around me.  For some, change has come with maturity or wisdom gained from experience.  Some literally kicked and screamed all the way to a new place in their life where change took them by surprise.  Some are being changed through pain and suffering.  Others are changing, but only after falling into the darkness of bitter despair.

Travis is one of them.  Travis had fallen so deeply into the pit that he could never pull himself out.  I believe that Jesus literally reached down into that pit to lift Travis upward.  The circumstances in which Travis finds himself are grave.  He is serving 20 years in a federal penitentiary without parole.  Travis is in a place of shame but, face to face with his Savior, true freedom and dignity are being restored.

What follows is a letter from Travis:

Often, people ask, “Why did you throw everything away to pursue a life on drugs?  You threw away your relationships with good friends.  You threw away your good reputation.  You threw away the respect of your family.  You threw away everything that you ever worked hard for.  Why?”

I have never been able to come up with a rational answer to these questions.  Sin, I’ve figured out, is always irrational.  Sin doesn’t consider the consequences.  It just leads us to say, “I want more.”  In my case, becoming addicted to meth was that sin that gave Satan a strong foothold in my life.

I’ve come to see things a little more clearly today.  In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”  Satan wants to steal my joy.  He wants to steal my freedom.  He wants to kill and destroy everything that makes my life worth living: my relationships, my peace, my sanity.  He will use any means: deception, lying, and false promises to keep me from enjoy God’s plan for my life.

When I was enslaved to my sin of addiction it was evident that something was wrong with me.  Not everyone noticed, however, because I put on a good mask.  But, my life was full of filthiness.  My thoughts, speech, conduct, and even my house was filthy.  I would find a lewd or filthy element in any situation.

Satan was working to steal my morals, relationships, will, and dignity.  In the end, Satan wanted my life.

Once I started doing meth, I experienced dreams and visions.  While driving on a particular curve into town, I imagined taking my own life.  Perhaps, I thought, it would relieve the pain I was experiencing.

I didn’t like the person I had become.  A couple of girlfriends tried to help get me sober.  One helped me escape to her family’s cabin.  She would help me detox and get sober.  I would sleep, eat, and begin to act normal… only to return to my habit five days later when I got home.  Another girl begged me to get sober.  She wanted my family to help.  I said, “No!”  How could I face the people that had raised me so well?  The last thing I wanted to do was admit I was a failure.  I thought I could do it on my own.”

Travis is suffering the terrible consequences of his addiction and sinful ways.  He is separated from his family and shamed by incarceration.  Although his faith has grown, he is taunted by unbelievers.  He has explained to me that despair comes often to visit, yet the mercies of God really are new every morning.

Those mercies recently came through a fellow prisoner.  Travis was feeling especially low at Christmastime when, unexpectedly, he crossed paths with a man he had met early in his imprisonment.  Travis had befriended that man and encouraged him with words of hope.  The man apparently never forgot Travis and, in a moment of darkness, the man reappeared as a ray of light with reciprocal words of encouragement.  “You made a difference,” the man told him.  “You helped me get through a tough time.”  Travis was reminded that Jesus knows just what we need when we need it most.

Travis is painfully aware that Satan, in partnership with his own sinful nature, is a powerful force.  Alone, Travis cannot defeat the liar and thief.  But, another force is working in Travis’ life.  It is the force of love.  Forgiveness.  Hope and new life.  Satan wants to steal Travis’ soul, but Jesus Christ died for that soul.  He has already won for Travis the victory over sin and death.  Victory is hard to see through the veil of depression and discouragement; even so, I believe that the Holy Spirit has been at work in Travis adjusting his perspective and restoring the dignity of his personhood.

Perhaps prison is the Potter’s wheel where Travis is being carefully shaped as a vessel for noble service.  I really do believe that Travis sees himself a different man than when he stood haughtily before the federal judge.  As a different man, he will find himself at odds with the world.

In that world, Satan will continue to press on Travis.  Satan doesn’t want change.  He wants Travis captive to his sinful nature.  He wants him haughty.  Dependent on self, yet burdened by failure.  But, in Christ, Travis is no longer bound to old sins and failures.  In Christ, Satan holds no lasting power over Travis.

Travis told me,

Addiction never filled me up.  I was never satisfied.  The thief really does come to steal, kill and destroy, but read the rest of the passage!  Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Is change possible?  God says it is.

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  Put away falsehood, speak the truth with your neighbor . . . give no opportunity to the devil . . . Let all bitterness and wrath and anger . . . be put away from you . . .” (Ephesians 4:22-32).

Because change is possible, Travis can live as the beloved son of God in Christ that he is.   He can leave the filthiness and foolish talk and crude joking behind.  He was in darkness, but now he is in the light of the Lord.  He can try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Expose deception.  Be filled with the Spirit.  Give thanks. (Ephesians 5:1-21).

Yes, echoes Travis,

Thanks be to God!”

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