On Monday, we celebrated our graduation from the 12-step program called Regeneration. It was incredible. The night was filled with an unexpected level of joy.
At the same time, there was a temptation to pat myself on the back for what had been accomplished.
I had made it through the year long process called Regen. I’d pushed through the hard steps. I’d crossed the finish line with a smile on my face.
While those statement are kind of accurate, they are also misleading. They give the impression that I deserve the credit for graduation from Regen. Looking back on the last twelve months, I know this isn’t the case.
The truth is God deserves all of the credit. I kept showing up, I answered the questions in the bookwork, and I filled in the charts; there’re more than a couple. None of those things would’ve happened without God’s help though.
His help started before I even set foot in my first Regen meeting.
I brought up the idea of going through Regen to my church small group a little over a year ago. When I did, one of the guys said he was interested in doing it was well. Around the same time, another one of the guys said he wanted to do it too.
Those two guys played a big role in my recovery process. They made it so easy to show up to every meeting. I knew people, who I am comfortable with, were expecting me.
This was key because I could’ve come up with a hundred reasons not to go for some of those Mondays. There’s even a good chance I could’ve convinced myself that I didn’t need to finish. Having those guys with me every Monday night helped defend me against those dangers.
They were also a great source of encouragement whenever the program became difficult. It was a great asset to have someone in the trenches with me. Empathy and sympathy are more powerful when they’re coming from someone going the the same, or similar, struggle.
God didn’t stop there in helping me either.
Regen offers countless opportunities to give less than a full effort. The rigorous inventory, making amends with people I’ve wronged, and even the bookwork lessons give chances to just check the box. For example, there is a question which shows up multiple times and it appears simple.
It asks ‘do you know God loves you?’ in one form or another. I remember, on a few occasions, wanting to answer with a simple yes before feeling a slight tug on my heart. The real answer was my head knew, but my heart wasn’t sure.
This was the first of many crossroads where my desires pulled towards taking the easy road while God pulled me towards something else. He wasn’t nagging me or trying to make me do something I didn’t want to do. He was calling me to something better than I would’ve given myself.
My first instinct in Regen was to give up. When God helped me get past that, my instinct was to go halfway. God was faithful no matter how many times I considered quitting and kept tugging on my heart to go all in for each step.
It also helped that I had a great mentor and good leaders who kept encouraging me.
All of this is important to me because it was God not giving up on me. While I wanted to give up on myself many times, God was faithful. This surprised me.
My tendency is to think of God like a surly football coach who gets frustrated at half efforts. While I don’t think God throws a party when I try to phone it in, he doesn’t give up on me. He continues to tug on my heart and use other people to encourage me to push myself.
Even when it felt like chewing glass and was the opposite of easy, I am so grateful for the times God encouraged me to push myself. I don’t regret responding to a single one of those encouragements. I also have a greater appreciation of how much God cares about me.
It’s one thing to know in my head that God continues to forgive me and wants a deeper relationship with me. It’s something else to experience his faithfulness while I am trying to come up with new ways to just check the box. It bears repeating that God does not love the same way I tend to and it’s hard to find better news than that.
God loves me with a faithfulness which I do not understand. He does not give up on me. It was this faithfulness which led my graduation last night.
God used Regen to mold my heart because of his love for me and his faithfulness; not because he was disappointed in me.
Even if God hadn’t molded my heart and he just used Regen to show me his faithfulness, it would’ve been worth it. Knowing the God of the Universe won’t give up on me has a unique and powerful effect. I am confident this effect will lead to even more change in my life.
God’s not done with me. There is still more love to show me. There is still more of the story to experience.
Image Copyright: Thomas Sorenesby