Turning Weakness Into Strength, One Foot At a Time
Excerpted from the new book At Home Recovery Handbook
by Keith Angelin
I am fascinated by the story described in Matthew 14:28-30 of Peter walking on water:
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Pretend for a moment that Jesus is back in town. He’s performing all sorts of miracles. You bump into Him in New York City right outside the famous Empire State Building. You aren’t the sort of person to be easily embarrassed (and you often open your mouth without thinking) so, very respectfully, you ask rock-star Jesus to perform a miracle for you. You tell him it doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, but this is your one chance to have a personal connection with God and you couldn’t live with yourself later if you didn’t ask now. He replies; “Of course my son” (or something formal like that because He’s got two-thousand years of slang to catch up on.)
He tells you to enter the building in front of you and take the elevator to the observation deck on top. Which you do. Once the elevator doors open to the observation deck, rock-star Jesus is magically there waiting. Except for Him you are all alone. He points to the iron fence ringing the entire observation deck, instructs you to scale the fence and, once on top, step off into the air. “Have faith, keep your arms at your sides at all times and enjoy the miracle” He says.
You clamber up the fence hand over hand. It’s difficult because the bars bend inwards to prevent people from doing exactly what you’re attempting. Finally you make it. You’re surprised at how silent and peaceful it is. You can see across the Hudson river to New Jersey, and the Long Island Sound to Connecticut and Rhode Island and the East River to Long Island. You watch barges crawl beneath the famous suspension bridges connecting Manhattan island to these other lands. Forty blocks downtown, the new World Trade Center building rises mightily from lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty stands in the harbor beyond. Rooftops gleam shiny new. It’s early. Your breath mists in the crisp air. So much chaos 103-stories below you. Yet from your exceptional perch everything is so clear, so organized. You are privy to the pattern of life. You feel equally awed, powerful and terrified.
Jesus appears in front of you. Not with flowing robes or floating like a ghost. He’s flesh and bone standing rock solid as if on an invisible catwalk. His sandaled feet pinpoint the precise and unnatural intersection of the physical and spiritual realms. But you’re not looking at his feet. You are looking at the yellow speck of every taxicab in an 8-block radius. Suddenly He is no longer rock-star Jesus. He’s more like ATM-machine Jesus and, unfortunately, you requested cash from an empty account.
The situation has become much too real. Instantaneously you turn white with fear. Your hands run cold yet beads of sweat drop like fat Florida rain. You feel smaller than small. Afraid to move. Afraid to breathe. You raise your eyes to meet His. With a lazy flexing of His fingers He calls you forward. “Come.”
My question is, what would you do??
The Sea of Galilee is especially known for the ferocity of its weather. Ships sunk and people died all the time. As a fisherman who made his living on the Sea of Galilee, the apostle Peter was acutely aware of the danger. In Peter’s world, stepping out of a boat when the winds were blowing on the Sea of Galilee was the equivalent of stepping off the top of the Empire State Building to you and me.
Here’s why. The Sea of Galilee spans 64 square miles (nearly the size of Washington, D.C.) and reaches a depth of 200 feet. It lies 680 feet below sea level where the air is warm and moist. Perfect for growing dates and bananas. It is surrounded by mountains topping 2,000 feet where the air is cool and dry. The great difference in height and climate results in violent, unpredictable weather. Whipping winds funnel through the mountains across the relatively small and shallow body of water. When the warm, moist air collides with the cool, dry air, storms strike without warning, putting small boats like Peter’s in immediate peril. Being in a boat was dangerous enough. But being without one would have meant certain death.
Yet Peter stepped out anyway, and for a short time he did the impossible. He walked on water; something no other person has done in the entire history of water. But what does any of this have to do with recovery from substance abuse?
First of all, none of this really surprises me. Reading up on Peter I find he demonstrated many of the same character traits I see in alcoholics and addicts. He was a Type-A personality, a leader, someone who didn’t take No for an answer. He had poor impulse control. He could be fearless. Although he did some shameful things which he deeply regretted, he was a good man.
Second, recovery is about perspective. Peter saw opportunity. He observed Jesus and thought; “Cool!” None of the other fellows in the boat wanted to take their chances on the water. As the saying goes: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Or: “Ex infirmitas adveho vires”, Latin for “from weakness comes strength.” Earnest Hemingway writes: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul writes: “…power is perfected in weakness… for when I am weak I am strong.” There appears to be a universal consensus that disappointment is fertile ground for success. So if weakness is a prerequisite to strength, then is weakness really weakness or is it the first step to strength? You tell me. Depends on your perspective.
Finally, recovery requires you to step out in faith, whether it’s out of a boat on rough seas, off a tall building, or simply by accepting that you cannot control your drinking and drug use.
Would I step off the roof of a terrifyingly tall building if asked by God? Absolutely. I’d be wetting my pants; but sure. Though it wouldn’t require much faith when I’m looking God straight in the eyes! (Nothing against Peter. I’m just saying…) It’s when you don’t see God, when you don’t see hope, when you don’t see a way out of the darkness… that’s when stepping out in faith really matters. That’s also when faith is rewarded. Strength is forged in the furnace of weakness. The stronger your feelings of hopelessness, shame, fear and resentment; the better your fuel, the hotter your flame, the more valuable your reward.
Make a decision. Step out of the boat, off the building and from the mouth of the furnace. Have faith. Your pain and problems can mark the beginning of the opportunity of a lifetime. Recovery is measured in feet; as in one foot in front of the other.
Keith Angelin, MBA, CADC-II, CNDAI,is a Master’s level, board-certified alcohol & drug counselor, and nationally certified intervention specialist. Prior to counseling he enjoyed a successful career as a marketing professional in the health and fitness industry where he worked with professional athletes and celebrities including Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood and the Dallas Cowboys. He can relate to the worst in addicts because he was considered hopeless myself. His 14-year battle with drugs and alcohol included multiple overdoses. His recovery compelled him to re-evaluate his life and share the miracle with others. His new book is called AT HOME RECOVERY WORKBOOK: A Simple Plan to Recover From Alcohol and Drug Addiction in 28-Days AT HOME! Learn more at www.InterventionRx.com. Send your comments to Keith4Counseling@gmail.com.