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Time to clean house

If we want to kick the demons of addiction out of our lives, we need to let Jesus move in. 

When we talk about the harmful use of alcohol, we sometimes hear people talk about the ‘red mist’, the violent or aggressive impulses that can take over when some people drink too much.

Australian songwriter Paul Kelly touches on this in ‘If I Could Start Today Again’, written from the point of view of someone regretting the words spoken and actions taken while under the influence:

All the kings and queens of the Bible
They could not turn back time
So what chance have I of a miracle
In this life of mine?
I only want one day
To unsay the things I said
Undo the thing I did
Twenty-four little hours
Oh God, please wipe them all away
And I promise I will change
If I could start today again
I know I’m not the milk and honey kind
Today I proved it true
But when the red mist falls around my eyes
I know not what I do
Please give me back today
And I won’t say the things I said
Or do the thing I did
Every minute, every hour
The replays just the same
And I can’t stand the shame
Let me start today again

It can be so hard to break free from alcohol and other harmful drugs—and perhaps those who’ve tried and stumbled along the way can relate to a story Jesus told about evil spirits (or ‘demons’):

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it travels through the desert, looking for a place to rest. But when the demon doesn’t find a place, it says, ‘I will go back to the home I left.’ When it gets there and finds the place empty, clean, and fixed up, it goes off and finds seven other evil spirits even worse than itself. They all come and make their home there, and the person ends up in worse shape than before.
(Matthew 12:43-45, CEV)

This could serve as a cautionary tale for the alcoholic or drug addict who wants to stay sober and clean, without slip after slip, relapse after relapse. The person who wants self-control and self-respect, not chaos and confusion.

Jesus knows how hard it can be to battle demons, warning that when an evil spirit leaves a person, it can try to take up residence again. And so Jesus offers hope for the person who doesn’t want the regret of that Paul Kelly song to be the anthem of their life: ‘If I could start today again.’ Hope for the person who doesn’t want to pray, in desperation: ‘Please give me back today!’

What is that hope? It’s that it truly is possible to kick out the demons of addiction forever by choosing to clean house in a deep and lasting way.

Partly that’s done by learning new skills and new ways of thinking, and then—one day at a time—making these the new healthy habits of our life. If our old habit used to be to have a drink or get stoned or high whenever we felt anxious, frustrated or disappointed, our new habit might be to reach out to talk with someone who wants us to have the healthy, happy life we deserve, free from drugs and alcohol.

Cleaning out attitudes and habits is a great start, but to keep the demons permanently at bay, we need to bring in someone who can get into every nook and cranny of our life. And that’s where Jesus comes in.

Many years ago, Robert Boyd Munger penned a story called ‘My Heart Christ’s Home’. It’s a simple idea—we open the front door of our life (representing our heart or soul) and invite Jesus in to help us make the best of our life. Let me paraphrase and update this a little …

My Heart, Christ’s home

To start with, we invite Jesus into our lounge room. It’s all tidy and beautiful because we knew we had a guest coming and so we cleaned up. We head out to the kitchen and return with some coffee and snacks … and we have a lovely time with Jesus.

Jesus becomes a regular visitor, and we enjoy hanging out in the lounge. Chatting about life. Sometimes we ask for advice and Jesus gives it. Sometimes Jesus teaches us something new. We always feel more peaceful afterwards.

But over time, Jesus starts to ask about the other rooms in our house. Perhaps he wants to look into our study, but we’re reluctant, because that might mean Jesus wants to talk with us about how we’re spending our time … and our money.

Jesus might want to look in our family room, and we’re nervous about that, because perhaps Jesus is going to ask why we’re so often snapping at our loved ones in anger. Maybe he’ll ask us some tough questions about what sort of role model we want to be for our kids, which could mean some major changes.

And then Jesus might ask to head into our bedroom. That makes us super uncomfortable, because our relationship, and especially our sex life, is private!

What if Jesus pulls open the top drawer beside our bed and spots our porn collection?

Jesus might even start to ask questions about our closet—which is where we hide our hurts and our pain. It’s that place where we’ve locked away our more traumatic experiences, our memories of hurts from people we won’t forgive. If Jesus wanted to take a look in there, we might have to talk about forgiveness and letting go. We might have to talk about making amends. We’d certainly have to revisit some painful stuff.

Gradually, the person in this story does let Jesus into all those rooms to help him clean house. And there’s a huge sense of relief as this happens. Their friendship grows as the homeowner comes to trust Jesus with even the hardest stuff in their life. Excitement grows as Jesus helps them become a better person.

And when they reach the closet, Jesus —in love—offers to take care of that on his own. ‘Just give me the key and I’ll look after it,’ Jesus says. And so that dark and terrifying room gets cleaned up too.

By the end of the story, the person has handed over the title of his house to Jesus. It’s not their house anymore—it’s Jesus’ home.

When we decide to tackle any addiction, what we’re really doing is kicking out demons. But let’s be honest, they’re sneaky little devils and they will try to come back. So we need supernatural strength and power on our side. We need Jesus to make his home with us.

In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, ‘Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together.’ This is the picture of a close friendship, two friends sharing a meal together. And that’s the type of relationship we can have with Jesus—one that keeps the demons from our door.

by Christina Tyson (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 29 July 2017, pp20-21
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.