“Don’t back over the tire spikes.” Being one who always questions orders, my first question is “Why not?” Then the sm of consciousness begins: “I think I’ll try it just to see if it’s true or if they’re just trying to scare me. Why can’t I back over the tire spikes if I want to? Maybe I suddenly decided I want to go back the way I came from. Shouldn’t I have the opportunity? Why should a couple of feet and some spikes make the difference between being able to back up and go back the way I came and having to move forward?
In spiritual terms, going backwards at harm to ourselves and others is what John Wesley called “backsliding.” He recommended that we constantly place ourselves in the path of God. How? By what he called “using the means of grace:” prayer (both public and private) searching the Scriptures, worship (both public and private), acts of charity, and the sacraments.
I had the privilege of leading a Bible study at a halfway house for women addicts last week. Their determination to change their lives was inspiring; their willingness to share their struggles was humbling.
We got onto the topic of the “slippery slope” and how each day is a battle not to slide back.
One woman spoke of the “vicarious thrill.” It’s when you are tempted to place yourself back in the path of your old temptation. It’s when you say, “I’m just going to smell the bottle. I’m just going to go back to the old neighborhood and play some video games with folk. I’m not gonna use with them.” She said, “It’s like if I hang out in a beauty parlor, day after day, just to hang out. Sooner or later I’m gonna decide that, since I’m there, I’ll just go ahead and get my hair cut.”
Giving in to the vicarious thrill is the opposite of “using the means of grace.” It’s backing over the tire spikes.
I heard about a man who had been sober for 5 years. At a party they couldn’t get the cap unscrewed from a bottle of red wine. He went out in the garage to find some tool to twist it off. He got the cap off and then thought to himself, “I’ll just smell it.” He smelled it. Then, “I’ll just have one swig.”
Then the vision of his children came before his eyes. Two young ones, a boy and a girl.
One drink was the first step to losing them both. He knew that. He lowered his arm and took the bottle inside.
Maybe the “don’t back over the tire spikes” sign is a good thing.
It reminds me that the way forward is not backward.