The call came from an old friend, someone I have known for over 40 years. His marriage was in serious trouble, and more importantly, he saw clearly that unless he changed from the inside out, what happened to his marriage wouldn't really matter. His wife wasn't the problem, although she has her issues to deal with, and his rocky marriage was only a symptom of deeper problems. "It's not her fault. She's not the issue, I'm the issue. For a long time I've been struggling with my anger. I've decided that I can't go on this way. A long time ago I had a close relationship with the Lord and I'd like to get it back. I know that forgiveness is a huge issue in my life and when I drink, that's when my anger seems to come out and I end up saying stupid things and hurting my wife."
Everything he said was true. Nothing was exaggerated or blown out of proportion. "I've decided to go see the pastor of the church we've started attending. How much should I tell him about our marriage? I'm not trying to hide anything, I don't want to focus on my wife when I've got to deal with my own problems." Just tell the pastor what you've just told me, I said. You don't need to worry about anything else. Then my friend added this comment, "I know I can't do this alone. I've tried that before. I need some help. I can't keep on doing what I've been doing for all these years."
There is a world of truth in that last statement. Someone who lived in the grip of alcohol abuse shared this definition with me: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That applies to so many areas of life and to the debilitating habits of life that keep us from moving forward. My old friend has decided to ditch the insanity of repeating the same old mistakes over and over again.
There is real hope any time we are willing to pay the price of admitting our weakness and crying out to God for the help we need. A few days later he told me that his visit with the pastor had gone well. They talked for over an hour and then spent 30 minutes kneeling in prayer together. That was the longest time he had spent on his knees in at least 30 years. I do not know what will happen in his marriage or in his life generally, but I do know this: My friend is right where he needs to be. When we finally stop playing games and cry out for mercy, the gates of heaven swing open and the delivering hand of God goes to work on our behalf.