Conquering Addiction: Rhythms of Grace

It was the company’s fifth day without food in the humid jungle of Vietnam. The soldier’s foot in his wet boot ached with some kind of rot. They called him Hippy because he wore wire-glasses. Hippy unlaced his boots to accommodate the swelling of his feet. The company moved in a stupor. Hippy looked like a sleepwalker. He would murmur to himself, “Can you take that step now?” and then take the step. He repeated this procedure hour after hour, a spirit carried by crippled feet [Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes, p. 223].

A woman back in the States had told him that people stopped trying not because they couldn’t accomplish something, but because of fear of the future, fear that they wouldn’t be able to make it for 3 days or 5 months, or whatever. So Hippy was walking out of the war one step at a time, “Can you take that step now?” step “Can you take that step now?” step. One step at a time, he made it to the next rendezvous.

That scene from Matterhorn, a novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes, helped me understand the concept of living one day at a time. For people living with addictions it can seem almost impossible to live without their drug of choice for even a full 24 hours, or even for the next hour. Living one day at a time is really living one moment at a time – this moment, deciding each moment to take the next step, to not drink or not smoke or not overeat.

The only way to conquer the addiction is not to worry about next year, or next week or tomorrow. All we have to do is deal with right now, which is way hard enough. By attempting to live a day at a time, we break our lives into manageable chunks.
Sometimes even an hour of wrestling with the demons of compulsion can leave one ready to throw in the towel. And during these moments when the compulsion to drink, drug or engage in self-destructive behavior is strongest, even a second can seem like an eternity. At those times, living in smaller sections of time can be a literal lifesaver.

In our passage for this morning, Jesus gives a bit more of a clue about how one might actually accomplish this difficult task when he says “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Message translates this same passage with a phrase that I found helpful: “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus was not talking about addiction, of course, but he understood that accomplishing any task requires one to maintain “conscious contact” with a higher power. attaining serenity and freedom from compulsion requires living in the present, focus and determination. Many spiritual traditions teach their adherents spiritual practices, like meditation, prayer, and breathing, to help them be in the moment, to live for today, to maintain serenity and focus.

I would be glad to teach anyone here a basic spiritual practice involving conscious breathing and meditation. Learning the unforced rhythms of grace

One person said there are two days of the week upon which I never worry — two carefree days kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension. One of these days is yesterday. Yesterday, with its cares and frets, its pains and aches, all its faults, has passed forever. It was mine; it is God’s.

The other day I do not worry about is tomorrow. Tomorrow, with its possible adversities, burdens and perils. Tomorrow is God’s day; it will be mine. There is left for myself, then, one day in the week – today. Any one can fight the battles of today. Anyone can resist the temptation of this day. Anyone can carry the burdens of just one day. The others are God’s days, that we leave to God.

Learn and accept God’s unforced rhythms of grace. We accept the unforced rhythms of grace when we accept God’s forgiveness and love. We accept God’s rhythms of grace when we remember our commitment to follow God “from this moment on.” We accept God’s rhythms of grace when we come God’s table and eat together, when we share from the one loaf and drink from the one cup.

This summer, live by God’s unforced rhythms of grace. Breath deeply of God’s love. Let God’s grace heal and renew you. This is God’s good news.

Communion Hymn: 2202 Come Away with Me