A visitor to Titus 2 was interested in our process of receiving applications and screening prospective students. I told her about the various ways that women are referred to us- by detox units, hospitals, pastors, family members, case managers in various social service agencies, and through acquaintances or former students. With each one who comes, there is a sense on her part that God has been present in her finding her way to us. I showed the visitor the application, interview, and intake paperwork. She asked, “How do you know when someone is ready for recovery?” I told her that we are looking for some specific indicators…..words like:
• “I cannot go back there. I will die.”
• “I have had enough of that life. I want to live.”
• “I cannot do this without God. I’ve tried everything else.”
• “I want to be the mother that my children deserve. I have to get this right before I lose them forever.”
There is often some fear about the unknown future, but there is also resolve and courage to leave behind everything, everyone, every place associated with the past, if necessary. There is also a desire to be the person that one’s children can respect. Having lost things that were important….. like self-respect, financial ability, contact with loved ones, , one wants to know that there is a future with hope.
The process is not easy, but it is fairly straight-forward and simple if one is willing to surrender to the authority of God, be nurtured by the community of faith, and embrace a personal relationship with Christ. It requires that true brokenness, repentance, humility, and a teachable spirit be present. We cannot always tell immediately that those things are present. It may take a few days or a few weeks to see how truly ready and committed an individual is to the process of change. We work with a new student on a variety of psycho-educational aspects of change so that each one is informed and can, hopefully, be more patient with herself and with one another in the house. At the same time we begin intensive Christian education, discipleship training, and interaction with a number of other women – instructors, mentors, and other volunteers at various churches. It is hoped that each new student will find several women with whom she will feel a connection, finding a sense of peace and safety. Healthy, non-judgmental, and supportive relationships have often been absent from their lives. And few have had a variety of close and supportive female relationships as adults.
If there is a high degree of guardedness, resistance, rebellion, and street-savvy aggressiveness that does not respond to correction and instruction during the first two to six weeks, we begin counseling for exiting the program by the eight-week mark. It will have become clear that Titus 2 and our recovery model is not the means and time that God is going to use with this woman. It may have been that God’s plan for her was to simply for her to see what is possible, but she herself was not willing yet. When other women are working diligently to do the work and make changes in their lives, we cannot place the burden on them of a person who is not ready and just wants a temporary safe place to continue in her own willful way. Sometimes, when a woman realizes that we are very serious about the expectations of change being obvious in one’s attitudes, behavior, and character growth and that failure to do so will result in dismissal, she is forced to re-examine her situation more clearly. We revisit the goals of the program, explain what is required and expected, and she can choose how she wants to live. We will respect her choice, but we will not be obligated to retain her in the program if her choice is not compatible with the program goals.
A few manage to “play the game”, go along to get along, then disappear when they are done and we never know how their lives are different, if at all. But there are many more whose lives are definitively changed, who become assimilated into healthy faith community, productive work, and reconciled relationships. They have become new creatures in Christ!
Jesus told a parable of a person who had an evil spirit cast out. The spirit wandered in the wilderness, returned to find the individual’s soul “empty and swept clean”. Upon finding the soul unguarded and empty, the evil spirit gathered seven additional spirits more evil than himself and they returned to the soul of the person, who was then worse off than before. For all the time I have worked in recovery ministry, I have understood this as representative of principles involved in relapse. Just as the physical realm abhors a vacuum, so does the spiritual realm. Something is going to fill a soul. When one enters into Christian recovery and sweeps aside the people, places, and things of the past, it is not enough to let the soul remain empty. There must be an intentional and full replacement of the things of the past with the new things that Christ offers of the character and nature of God …..
• The fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…..
• The great aspects of true love- faith, hope, charity……
• Loving the Lord our God with all of one’s heart, all of one’s soul, all of one’s mind, and all of one’s strength…..
• Loving others as oneself…..
• Hungering and thirsting for righteousness…..
• Growing in mercy, purity, and peacemaking…..
• The disciplines of a faithful follower- meditation, prayer, study, silence, contemplation, simplicity, and more……
• The gifts of the spirit- wisdom, knowledge, encouragement, teaching, helps, faith, tongues, interpretation, prophetic utterance and more……
“Put off the old, put on the new.” This is The Way of Christ, who shows us how and gives us the strength and encouragement to do it.