When women first come into Titus 2, they are generally emotional, conflicted, broken, fuzzy-headed, and anxious. It takes time to feel “safe” in the midst of a new environment and new people. It takes time for the mind to begin to work again as it is intended…sober. We give them time to settle in, begin slowly, expose them to new people and ideas for a while….After a few weeks they are feeling more relaxed and secure. When they begin to be able to express their feelings honestly and ask for things they want or need, it is a joy. At that point, we are able to give them more information, explain processes and teach in a way that begins to offer them choices about what they want out of life.
The starting point for them had been “I do not want life as it has been anymore.” But at that point, they do not know what their options are for the future. Once they are able to understand the choices, our hope is that they will choose the Narrow Way….the way of abundant living in Christ.
One of the early obstacles that we observe in recovery is frustration with the pace of the process….change takes time. As soon as the “love, joy, and peace” fruit of the Spirit begins to form in one’s heart in response to her new understanding of a personal relationship with Christ, the need for the fruit of “patience” becomes obvious and needs to be cultivated. Once she begins to see the possibility of a new and desired way of life, she wants it to mature to fullness immediately. That is when I sit with a student and explain the process of transformation, how much it includes the emotional markers of the grief process and how much more solid and happy one’s new life in Christ will be if she will allow the discipleship and mentoring time to mature her all the way through to the “faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” fruit. That is where long term stable recovery and spiritual and emotional maturity reside.
The process of maturing in faith can be slow and uncomfortable as we have to look at ourselves, others around us, and God with eyes of grace and truth. There are also moments or events when the whole process suddenly leaps forward due to a sudden insight that has arisen out of time in prayer, meditation, study, or holy conversation. Those moments are precious both for the individual who experiences them and for those of us who observe
I have observed in the last 10 years or so that some individuals who express a desire for recovery are truly speaking wistfully out of a place of desire for the pain to simply go away, not out of a sincere desire for their lives to be different. Perhaps it is because they can’t imagine life any other way or perhaps it is that they are actually getting something out of some aspect of their current lives that they do not wish to surrender. They are insufficiently broken in their current state of being to be willing to hand it fully over to Christ. When I have encountered such individuals, I have found them to be quite problematic in a group recovery setting. They generally wind up being a force for undermining others within the group, acting upon the group in a negative manner more than being acted upon by the group in a positive manner. When that happens, that dynamic has to be dealt with directly and promptly. It is a hard thing to do at times and it is not always understood or agreed with by others who are part of the process. If one trusts God, though, with the process, one can know that God will continue to deal with the individual and will, in time, get that person to the place where the seeds previously planted will actually have good soil in which to begin to grow. This is why some people don’t succeed in recovery until the 4th, 5th, 6th time or longer. I have not been particularly keen on bringing the same women back into the same program multiple times UNLESS they are able to articulate well what prevented them from succeeding the previous time and how it is going to be different now, demonstrating a sincere desire for the change that they previously resisted. Fortunately, there are usually several options for women to experience the recovery effort with different people, settings, and approaches until they find the one that works for them and at a time when they are truly ready to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the process. Timing, training, temperament, or teacher….what makes the difference in success or failure? Only God knows