No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
I see this promise like intercession before the fact. Because we have been there, we can reach others still at the bottom because we can relate to their situation and identify with their pain and shame. I had a hard time under-standing how telling people my shameful past could cause them to see me as the light we are told to be in Matthew 5:14. Wouldn’t my experiences harm my testimony? Wouldn’t people reject anything I had to say just on the basis of what I had done? It took seeing it in action before I grasped the significance and the basic spiritual principle behind being a "living letter" as Paul calls us.
I came to Alcoholics Anonymous unaware of how far out-of-balance to the negative my "set of scales" was. I know from being raised on a farm how important balancing the scale is. The same scale that makes you can break you. However, I had enough worldly recognition on one side of the scale that I believed I was doing OK. I was sought after in my profession and I not only always had a good job, but was always receiving offers to relocate at greater benefits. But you know the old saying, "Give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself." It was true. I made enough money to go into business for myself, and the scale began to show where self-effort was leading. The scale tipped the other weight, and my enormous negative was exposed.
One by one I lost the positives–my farm, my job, my health, and finally my family. I was at rock bottom on the scales. At last I could see the damage I had done. I was aware of how my abuse had affected everyone else in my life. I was able to see this because of my sponsor. This man shared his story with me honestly and openly. He was vulnerable to me in an effort to help me, and it worked. As I heard someone else sharing a story so similar to mine, it was scary, but I also felt relief. I began to believe there was a way out. I couldn’t make excuses about someone else, just couldn’t understand what I was dealing with; he’d "been there, done that" and it felt like he knew my insides better than I did. Which he did, because he knew it had never been just a "me" that had done all those things, but a Satan-operated self. I was still accountable for my choices to sin, but as I heard the truth of Galatians 2:20, that it was no longer I that lived but Christ that lived in me, it began to set me free, as the Scripture promised (John 8:32). My shame and guilt were easier to bear when I knew they were shared. A different kind of trust, a real trust, began to develop. In trusting me with his story, I was able to trust him with mine. I sensed the genuine interest this person had in me with no strings attached. I experienced the front end of the promise. I was one who benefited from this man’s past.
I was still scared to share my story, however, and I knew something was wrong. Then I saw the lie, which was the temptation to believe there was a self that should look a certain way; a self that could manipulate that image, and I could take at least some semblance of pride in what "I" had be-come.
Turning my life over in Step 3 showed me that I was only a container through which God would look any way He wanted to look. After all, I was His property, created out of Himself. If I went out and bought the wood and nails to build a bookcase, when I had finished it, it would be understood it was my bookcase to do whatever I wanted to do with it. I had purchased it for a price, and it was now my property, even as I "am purchased with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20) and am God’s vessel. And any feelings, thoughts, or reasoning to the contrary are not a "me" trying to control; Satan tries to convince me that I am a "me," and that these same thoughts, feelings, or reasonings are my identity so he can use this vessel in rebellion against God.
So how are my past experiences to help others? When Christ purchased my spirit on the cross, He bought me lock, stock, and barrel. There was nothing in my past that did not now be-long to Him, including my past experiences. Through His redemption, He can now take those experiences and use them as He wills. They are part of the package.
When Gideon placed his fleece be-fore the Lord (Judges 6:36-40), he was giving us a picture of God’s patience and faithfulness in the way God responded to Gideon’s doubts and fears. We can know God better by seeing how He has worked in the pasts of others.
When David confessed his sin with Bathsheeba (Psalm 51:17), he thought that God desired a contrite and broken heart. By sharing his fall into sin, he was not only an example of what to avoid, but an example of God’s faithfulness to forgive when approached with a contrite heart.
When Moses argued with God over his ability to speak to the people of Israel (Exodus 4:10-17), he gave a picture of God’s compassion. Though angered by Moses’ attitude, God still allowed Aaron to go with Moses.
When Abraham offered Isaac up as a sacrifice at God’s request (Gen. 22:1-18), he became an example that strengthens every one of us when we are faced with doing "the hard thing." It’s hard to complain about your situation when you compare it to Abraham’s.
Not all of these examples sprang from sinking into sin choices. My choice to use alcohol to deal with life instead of trusting the power of Christ in me–I was a born-again Christian–was a sin choice. But all of these experiences teach the truth of this AA promise–everything we do touches others, negatively or positively. When we use our experiences from the "for others" position of Christ living as us, they will be the light of Christ into a dark world, causing God to be given glory by men (Matt. 5:14). When we think our past experiences are something wrong with us that we need to hide, we are believing Satan’s lie of an independent self, and it negates God’s omnipotence–denying Him the power of being able to mean all circumstances for good (Rom. 8:28), and others are not freed from their own bondage to sinful pasts.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 26 No 4
- Free at Last!
- Editor’s Note
- A Tribute to Norman Grubb–In His Own Words
- God’s Promises
- Questions & Answers
- God’s Great Purpose By Us
- How It Really Works
- A Call to Arms: 1993
- Christ’s Nobodies
- Once Caught, No Escape: A book review
- The Cambridge Seven: A book review
- Cookout at "Boone"
- A Pastor Writes Page Prewitt
- The Simplicity of Seeing–A Letter
- The Mailbox
- Letters From Norman
- The Way of Release
- Presenting every man perfect…
- Words to Live By…