It took Jeffrey Lane a long time to come to the end of himself. “I thought I was very much in charge of my life,” Jeffrey said. “Every time I’d fail, I’d try harder, and then when I’d fail again, I’d double up in pain, but I wouldn’t give up.”
The problem is, trying harder didn’t work. At 36, Jeffrey had been married and divorced twice. He was sleeping on friends’ couches and hadn’t held a job in five years. He described himself as “miserable, a drunk, violent, mistreats women, cheats on his wives, a horrible person. I hated the world. I hated people. I hated myself.”
Jeffrey tried to drink himself to death and almost succeeded. “I was in the ambulance every other week, going to the ER, getting benzodiazepine to make me feel like I could still live and drink. Then I’d pull the IVs out, leave and do it all again.
“I used to wake up, open my eyes, and say, Wow, really? You’re doing this to me again? because all I wanted to do was die.”
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote: “All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, ‘You must do this. I can't.’”
For Jeffrey, that moment came not long after he arrived at the Union Gospel Mission. After spending a week in the hospital plus two and a half weeks on the psychiatric ward, Jeffrey wanted to get help for his addiction, but the Mission wasn’t his first choice for treatment. “I thought it was a bunch of cots all over the floor – just an icky, smelly, violent, drug-ridden place – but I couldn’t get in anywhere else. So I thought, all right, I guess this is what it is. I live in a Mission. But here’s the funny thing about Jesus: I’m in recovery, and it’s the best recovery program I’ve ever heard of.”
A huge part of that recovery is the surrender of control. And it’s a process.
Jeffrey came to the Mission in August 2011 and found it to be quite different than he had expected. The facilities were clean; the people were kind; and it made him uncomfortable. “It was all too much. Everything started to click. All these people who care – that’s good and all, but where’s that coming from? It’s not humanly possible.” Jeffrey was literally surprised by grace, and after he turned his life over to Christ, his surprise turned to fear.
“It was scary that there’s something that powerful and now it’s in me. I heard that once you accept Christ, he ain’t leaving you alone. I was scared. I felt out of control. God in us and with us – that scared me to death.”
Overwhelmed and frightened by his loss of control, Jeffrey relapsed in February. But he came back to the Mission within days. He faced an accountability team and explained why he wanted, needed, to return.
“Jesus lives here. It’s not like he has a room here and he visits once in a while. He’s here every day. I know that. . . Anyone in the secular world would say, ‘Wow, dude, you need to go somewhere else and figure things out ‘cuz we’re doing real life over here.’ But everyone here – the grace and the patience . . . It’s ugly working through this. If I didn’t have this safe environment, I could not do the work.”
And so began Jeffrey’s journey of surrender.
Theologian A.W. Tozer once wrote: “The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves. We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us. ”
Blessedly, Jeffrey came to the end of himself.
“Every day that need to control goes away more and more. It comes down to almost panic attack status when I think about how big God is. And then how comforting it is to surrender. This is the road to being a real man: surrender, giving up control.”
~ Barbara Comito, UGM staff writer