With friends like this

A quote from Jeff VanVonderen’s Good News for the Chemically Dependent

… human beings have three basic needs. First, we need to be convinced that we are loved and accepted, without strings. In order to get love and acceptance, we do not have to act or refrain from acting a certain way, perform, excel, be polite, or quote Bible verses… This love builds people because people, not behavior, are loved.

Second, we need to be convinced that we are capable, valuable, important, special, and worthy….biblical terms that communicate the same concepts: chosen, gifted, called for a purpose, given to one another.

Third, we need to be convinced that we are not alone. There are two aspects to this. We need to know that we are not the only ones who think, act, feel, and struggle as we do… We also must know that there are resources and support in times of need. We are not alone!

This book is written to those who are struggling with chemical dependencies or love someone who is. Reading it, I realize that this is about something even more pervasive that addiction. I have habits and hurts and hang-ups that I don’t want anyone to know about. I feel like I have to perform in order to be accepted. I sometimes feel like I don’t measure up and I do feel like I’m all alone.

I believe in the power of God and the power of godly friends who accept me as the broken, unlovable goofball that I am. I believe that I can make it through life because of the good news that He loves me in spite of me. He loves me! He wants to be my friend!

It is not about being correct, nor having all the answers. It is not about performance. It is about being vulnerable with a few good friends and admitting my screw ups. It is telling one of my friends what a mess I am and how I screwed up… only to find this in my email soon afterwards…

“Do you know that I admire you ? I DO.. You are after God’s own heart and that is a man I admire. You area also a great GREAT friend. I want to be around you, to know you more and have you rub off on me. Thanks for giving of yourself to growing this friendship. It continues to change my life and it’s outcome. Forever”

With friends like that, I’m going to make it! God help me to be a friend and brother like that.

About Jo

I have exciting news, but first a little bit of context: Two years ago I traveled to France, with a group called La Clef. We went to play music and share Jesus with the people in the region around Carcassonne (the walled city). Staying in the youth hostel, we met up with an odd fellow who was a 35 year old drifter. We nicknamed him, Jo. There is so much I could say about him, but suffice it to say that he was militantly opposed to Christ. He told us stories about how he and his ancestors had been repressed for centuries by the Christians and he wanted nothing to do with it… except… he followed us around like a puppy. Out of the six concerts we played, he was at five of them!

All was not pleasant with Jo and some of the team questioned why he was hanging around so much. They were wondering if he was a distraction or if he truly was seeking God. (extremely good questions to ask). I will always remember our leader, Greg’s statement in response. He said, “If God cannot reach Jo, then we are all in trouble.” By that he meant that none of us is good enough to come to Christ on our own. It is only because of God’s love and sacrifice that any of us have a chance.

Fast forward to today. One of the young men on our trip who’s heart beats strongly for the French people recently left for France. He now lives among them so he can tell them about Jesus. I just got the following email from him…

Just to let you know, last night I got a call from Jo in Carcassonne…incredible what Jesus is doing in him, Jim. He in so many words is at the point of begging me to tell him about Jesus…his memory of us there 2 years ago was etched on his heart, and the Lord is drawing him. In his words, he wants what I/we have…he’s ripe for the picking…and about to give his whole life to Jesus it sounds. I was flabbergasted. He will likely come to Marseille soon to visit. So pray for him, that’s for sure.

What an awesome example of the power of Jesus. I pray that God will reach Jo and change him… just as he reached me and is changing me.

Darkness and Light

“Understanding death and life is not really so difficult. It is like darkness and light. Darkness is not the opposite of light; it is the absence of light. The way to be in the light is not by trying hard not to be in the dark. It is by coming into or turning on a light. Death is not the opposite of life; it is the absence of life. The way to have life is not by trying hard not to be dead. It is by coming to what can give life.” (Good News for the Chemically Dependent and Those Who Love Them by Jeff VanVonderen).

This quote got me thinking about how I often try to be less spiritually dark by trying harder to be good. When I don’t measure up, I feel like a total screwball and think that there is no way God could love me the way I am. So, I try harder to clean up my life and do my best to hide how messed up I am from my friends and family. I think that they would never accept me if they really knew me.

The truth is that the way to light is by turning on the light, not by trying harder to be less dark. So when I screw up… in fear and trembling… I tell my godly brothers about my screwed-up-ness. Inevitably, they say, “Hey me too!” We are all in this together. The truth is, that is why we need God.

It is only by taking off our masks and admitting that we are screwballs that we can come to the realization that we are in need of a savior. Yes, I am a screwball who is “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:14-21). I already have the light… in me. As I peel back the layers of Jim-ness that get in the way of God’s light, He shines through brightly. And in an ironic way, as I get out of the way, he uses me in my own Jimazing way to shine His light.

Go figure.