Sunday evening the whole clan from Oasis Empowerment Center went down to a memorial service for a woman who had once been a client. Several of the women who are now on staff, clean and sober for years, had once been using drugs with this woman and started rehab together. But for whatever reason, they continued with treatment and she relapsed and the drugs eventually killed her.
They pointed out later that there were three distinct groups: addicts, those in recovery and those who are now free from addiction. The pavilion was full of people all coming to grieve this woman. They had asked me to sing and the visiting pastor to preach a short message, but before we went up the floor was opened for people to share memories of Sherri. One of our staff shared about how they had been close but when Sherri relapsed they had grown apart, the staff member taking responsibility for her own sobriety and not allowing the influence of her friend who was using again to be in her life. She regretted distancing herself, but just said that in order for her to maintain her progress she had to stay away from people who were not helping her.
Pastor Lee said later that as he heard the testimonies there was suddenly such a burning anger in his soul against sin and Satan who are out to ruin lives. His message was pointed and hit hard: you only have one life to live, Sherri did not have to die and neither do you. He told us in staff meeting that he preached an entirely different message than what he had prepared.
It didn’t really sink in to me until today, but I’ve been reflecting on this ministry that I’ve become a part of. I’m building their website so there has been a lot of research into the different aspects of what they do, and I have to say their success rate is impressive. They take women in off the street and live with them, walking the line between love and truth, dealing every day with people who will lie and cheat to continue in their self-destructive lifestyle. The recovered addicts I work with now are different people entirely from the clients that come in, and I can see it is because they have been transformed.
Transformation is tricky business. Sometimes people get it, sometimes they don’t. You can’t guarantee it even if they want it very badly. Only God can take a person and make them completely changed, which is scary when you think about it. It isn’t our decision to change that will transform us; but God’s work in our lives. It isn’t praying the prayer that saves us; but the saving work of Christ on the cross. He gives us a clue about transformation though, in Romans 12:2 Paul says “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” which is another scary thing because you can’t regulate someone’s mind and you can’t see into it, but it is obvious from the verse that what is in our minds needs to be flushed out and new patterns built in order for transformation to take place. That is what rehabilitation is in the lives of the women I see every day, and it is also what I need in my life and what I know that so many of us need.
I can see in the clients here an outward expression of the inward problem that I struggle with. Two entirely different ways of expressing the same sin cycle and the same brain problem. We all need to be transformed, our minds cleaned out and washed in the word of God, then filled again with whatever is pure, true and righteous.
The Bible is so relevant! God is so smart!