Jeff was in his 90th day of residential drug treatment. It was his day. The day he would go back home to his wife, children, and job. It had been perhaps the most impactful three months of his life, because during that time the story of his life had been unfolded in front of him. He had missed much of it, becoming an emotional recluse due to abusive parents, and later sought refuge in heroin, becoming an addict in his middle teens. He had dried out a couple of times and stayed away from drugs for a few months, but the pain in his heart kept returning, and heroin kept calling his name.
While going through his aftercare plan one more time with his counselor, he was asked, “Can you sum it all up Jeff? Can you describe what is different about you now, compared to 90 days ago? And what is the most important thing you have learned about yourself and your addiction during treatment?”
Jeff quickly rattled off a half dozen “points of learning” he had gathered during his treatment, and then summarized his optimism by saying, “I just really hope it sticks this time. I hope what I have learned here will keep me sober, and in recovery.”
“But what are you doing to do differently this time Jeff?”
“Well,” he answered, “like I said before, I’ve learned a lot about myself and I hope I can make better choices in my life from this point forward.”
The counselor looked Jeff in the eye and said, “Jeff, as much as I hate to say this, I don’t think you are ready to leave treatment. Because you see, you are relying on hope to get you through. And without an intentional plan that you can follow with incredible discipline, that hope, by itself, will only let you down.”
“Hope is not a plan, Jeff. It’s not a strategy. It’s a good thing to have, but without intentional effort on your part, it just isn’t enough.”
The story of Jeff is frighteningly similar to the manuscripts of many of our lives. We know what is good and what is not. We pray that things will get better. We even have the faith that God will walk with us through our trial-laden journeys. But all too often, we rely much too heavily on hope alone. In the rehab world, we warily warn, “Don’t get hooked on hopium!”
I for one, have had just about enough of reading books and articles that focus on hope, and just leave it at that. “If you can just find hope, you can do anything,” they say. “Where has your hope gone?” they ask. “Hope will see you through!” they proclaim.
And sadly, so many of us buy into the theology of hope. But the belief that hope will get you through anything by itself . . .
. . . just
. . . isn’t
. . . true.
Hope and time are BFF’s. Hope, as we are reading, is a necessary component in the foundation of achieving and overcoming. But hope won’t see you through by itself. Time, say people every day, “heals all things.” And again, nothing could be further from the truth. Healing requires time, but time alone has never healed anything or anyone, and never will.
These are half-baked, discount doctrines that many of us are buying up at an unprecedented pace. But each time we buy a few shares of hope expecting some type of miraculous cure for the wrecks we have made of our lives . . . our marriages . . . our families, these onion skin investments in something that has no power on its own, bite the dust. It’s a shell game we are playing with our lives. It’s akin to a get-rich-quick scheme – a ground-floor opportunity – a deal you won’t find anywhere but here, but you have to buy in today.
Undoubtedly some of you might at this point be saying to yourselves, “Wow, he is really riled up about something today. Wonder if he tested negative in his personality inventory?
No, none of those would be true. But this topic is one that has been weighing heavily on me for the past couple of months. And as I have pondered it over and over, I am reminded of how many people I have counseled over the last 20 years that have been bullet-ridden by time and hope guns – weapons they have turned and fired on themselves.
And it’s not pretty. It’s not fun. Knowing that so many of us live in the throes of anger, disappointment, frustration, and hopelessness because we drank the Kool-Aid once again is maddening. Those characteristics, I call “The colors of bitterness.”
Jesus said, “I have come to give you life, and to give it abundantly.” But our drive-thru, what have you done for me lately, convenience store, super-sized, “I want it now,” lives really have turned on us in many situations. And the bitterness that is left in its wake threatens us all. Everything we stand for, believe in, and expect to bring us happiness can be torn to shreds by the use of hopium.
No, I’m not Sad Sam, Negative Nigel, or Pessimistic Pete. And Friday’s blog will . . . well, how else can I say it? It will hopefully infuse some confidence, competence, and life into us, affirming and encouraging us to work hard in our marriages and families.
Oh, and working hard? It’s the pre-requisite to the ultimate benefit of hope. 🙂
Are you with me? Can you grasp what I’m trying to say?
Please chime in with a comment, a related experience, or just a “hello!”
Your participation is valued, worthwhile, and needed. NONE of us can do life alone. That’s why I love living it with you so much.
And, as always . . .