Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

I remember the exact place. I remember the color of the cabinets and the way the light filled the kitchen. I remember the boy I had a crush on and the faces and squeals of my friends that were there. I remember my deep desire to be wanted and accepted, to fit in with this group of friends.

I remember the day I turned from God.

It is one of those memories that lives in vivid color and smells in my mind. I hesitate to say it haunts me, but in reality, I think it does. It has stood in my mind as a constant, some times faint but ever present reminder of how Satan works, how evil is ever present masking itself as acceptance, love, fun, and happiness even if it is only temporary.

You see, from the ages of 13-16, I was a faithful, albeit young follower of Christ. In my young and inexperienced mind, I surely did not understand faith and what it means to follow the way I do now, but I did know Jesus.

On one fateful day, however, with one simple decision, I chose to turn from Him. I chose a different way because I thought it would make me happy, thought it would make me more attractive to a boy who had no interest in me. I thought I knew better, thought I knew what would make me complete.

As we stood in that kitchen, I had always been the one who did not cuss, the one who did not drink, the “good” one. But on that day, my need to please and impress my friends won out. On that day, I chose to start drinking at the ripe young age of 16. I chose my friends. I chose to follow the lies of this world over the truth of Jesus. I started drinking in order to fit in, which lead to other things to fit in, to please, to impress all those whose opinions don’t matter, flying in the face of The One who does matter.

This probably sounds innocent enough, right? Lots of kids drink and virtually every teenager does something to impress their friends. But now that I am 42, I can look back over my life and recognize that decision as a turning point.

Once I crossed that boundary, it started an avalanche of crossing other lines I wish I had not crossed. Once I gave myself permission to cave one time, to be less than I knew I needed to be, I have since been able to justify it in my mind over and over and over again.

Now that I have come back to my faith and am trying once again to truly follow Christ, I am plagued by over 20 years of not following God’s truth and not being disciplined. There is much too often a wrestling match in my mind to figure out which way I will turn, toward Christ or once again, away.

This has been particularly true with drinking. If you have been reading my blog, you know I gave it up for 30 days when I originally started writing and I have subsequently given it up for short periods of time since. I know I am better without it. I am indeed more patient. I have fewer mood swings. I have more energy. I am a better wife, mother, and friend. But, I like it. And in a world that encourages us to celebrate the moment and “live for now” it is all too easy for me to celebrate much too often.

I wrestle with it constantly and I usually lose.

Parts of me do not want to give it up, while other parts know it would be an absolute blessing. Most of my friends don’t actually understand why I would give it up. I am not an alcoholic by definition but I don’t think you need to be an alcoholic to realize that drinking has no place in your life.

In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul provides a reminder for me.

“Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive.”

Just because something isn’t inherently bad or sinful, doesn’t mean it is a good choice.

Since that day when I was 16, I have struggled with it. I remember this same tango that I am doing right now when I was in college 20 years ago! I would quit for a time or not go to certain parties for a while but then fall right back into it a few days later. It has always been a love-hate relationship for me.

Like a thief in the night, it very quietly and almost unnoticeably wastes my mental energy like when you wake up every Monday morning for 6 months saying this is the day you are going to finally start eating right and by every Tuesday night you have failed and feel guilty. The failure and the guilt consume a space in my mind that isn’t intended for that. It is space I might be able to use for good, but instead the constant wrestling match ensues and I am distracted by something that brings no value to my life.

I know the right answer. I know what to do, but the fight for my soul is intense and it pulls me from it day after day. As a matter of fact, I have written this post 3 different times, in 3 different ways, but have never posted it.

I am afraid for some reason. I am afraid I will fail, afraid I will some how miss out on something. Without a doubt, I know it will be uncomfortable for quite some time. And who wants to be uncomfortable?

But here is the truth.

Not much is gained living in my comfort zone.

In fact God does much of his work in us when we face our fears and are willing to question comfortable. 

Many of you know one of my favorite pastors is Kyle Idleman. His book “Not a Fan” was the catalyst I needed to begin following Jesus once again.

Recently, I was listening to a sermon he did in August of 2013 called “The End of My Comfort Zone”.   As usual, his words resonated with my heart.

“How do you know where your comfort zone ends?

Here is how you know.

It’s really not that hard.

Fear will tell you when you are getting close.

That’s how you know.

When you start to get scared, you are probably getting close.

So here is a question I would like us to think through together.

When was the last time following Jesus produced fear in me?

Because there is something wrong if I am following Jesus and fear is never a factor and courage never needs to be called upon.

One way you know that you are following Jesus is that he always does this.

He leads you outside of your comfort zone.

It is what he does.

Most of us want to follow Jesus but we want to stay in our comfort zone.

You can do one or the other, but you can’t do both.”

My fear isn’t a bad thing as long as I recognize it; use it as an opportunity to be courageous and to challenge my current status quo. I am reminded that by eliminating this distraction, I might run a better race, live a better story and be more focused on what really matters.  Today I will joyfully and gratefully question comfortable.  Today, I am crossing back over that line I crossed so many years ago and am giving up drinking for the next year, maybe forever.  May God in his great grace use this for his good.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

***I can’t quite end this little post without one more tidbit. Though I am not an alcoholic, I have so much admiration for those that are. As hard as this is for me, I am quite certain it pales in comparison and I am so grateful for the inspiration you provide for me and so many others who need to face a change in their lives.

I also want to be clear.  I do not believe that drinking itself is a sin.  For me, it comes down to the season of my life, the amount of space this issue occupies in my mind, and really listening for God’s direction, that his will is done and not mine.

May God grant us all the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Be courageous my friends……

follow my blog!