Tuesday, October 28, 2008


"What one generation does not experience, the next will not believe."

I am at our church district's annual retreat for "pastors and spouses" (updated from "pastors and wives.") To put it bluntly, our speaker tonight was old and white, which means he had to work harder to prove his relevance to me. It should not be this way, but it is. He did earn my trust and interest, decisively, within the first few minutes of opening his mouth.

My wife and I tried to articulate what it was about him: I said it was because of his humility. She said it was because he was a "life-long-learner." (That's teacher-speak.) I think we were both seeing the same thing: This guy, despite his knowledge and authority, doesn't act like he's got it all figured out.

He spoke of revival. Of a passion to see the Holy Spirit (a.k.a. "God") do things so amazing that no other explanation would suffice. Not planning, not funding, not effort or talent or charisma. And he feared for a generation who had never seen this happen. Later we prayed in small groups, and I heard our Youth Pastor confess that he was part of that group, that he had never personally exerienced this kind of communal spiritual power.

And I wept because I have.

My experiences as an addict have been my revival. The loss, devastation, surrender, redemption, and eventual hope of recovery have been the difference between "knowing about" and "experiencing" God's power. And I continue to see more clearly where I fit in, and what my story means. One piece at a time, a picture is forming in my mind. It is a picture of my testimony, the day I tell my congregation I'm an addict. If our speaker is correct, if "what one generation does not experience, the next will not believe," then in that picture, I am part of a bridge. Without this bridge, the passion of my parents' generation makes no sense to their grandchildren, because it is merely stories and legend, only a heartbeat away from myth.

I was raised to believe Isaiah 61:
"He has sent me...to comfort all who mourn, and to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." This kind of transformation is the stuff of salvation, the essence of the healing stories we sing. This is "Amazing Grace." But until I experienced it, this kind of transformation was only a story to me.

I am experiencing healing in my marriage. This was not possible through effort or counseling alone. I am experiencing relief from my addictions. This was not possible through willpower or group therapy alone.

And for the first time in years, I have hope. And when the time comes, I want to share this hope with others. In our small groups, our lead pastor was the last to pray. He knows I am an addict, he also anticipates the day that I go public with my story. Despite our years together, he prayed for our church and ministry, "God, it feels like we're just beginning." I think he's right.

1 comment:

  1. Reading this post makes me really happy. You aren't going through all of this for nothing.