“Where are you now?”
The other psychologists would ask me this at conventions and conferences.
They meant: where are you working, what university or research outfit? When my career went in to decline, I resented the question, didn’t want to disclose how low I’d descended down the job ladder. I’d reply with sarcasm, “I’m here in the Hilton Cocktail Lounge: where are you?” and then order another drink. After enough vodka martinis, the Lounge of the New York Hilton looks a lot like the Lounge of the Chicago Hilton. Both are rather fuzzy. In fact everything is a bit formless – and – ah – where was I – Oh yes – here at my computer writing about disorientation. Right?
Adam where are you?
One doesn’t need to be drunk to be disoriented. Any sin can impair orientation. In Genesis 3:9, the Lord God asks Adam “Where are you?” Obviously God knows. He’s giving Adam a test item, a diagnostic query. God doesn’t waste words. To Adam it also meant explain yourself. How far have you gone from Me? I call it the “Adam Item”. What are you doing? What are you really doing?
The Adam Item
And maybe most important of all the Adam Item also means: Who do you think you are? God knows exactly what Adam will answer but He wants Adam to speak for himself. In three words, the Adam Item, “Where are you?” exposes the totality of original sin. How are we going? Who do we think we are kidding?
Adam could have confessed his disobedience. But he obfuscated, “I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked: and I hid myself.” Hid from the all-seeing eye of God! Not just evil – really stupid!
To prompt Adam to wise up, God asks, “Who told you you were naked?” and finally, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” He points the finger at Eve. The rest is history.
So man tried to cheat on God’s first test item – as God knew he would. The Big Question for us is can we acknowledge our mistakes? Where are we in relation to God? The Item takes different forms depending on the sin: how, who, what, when, why, where.
The Addict Item
“Have you used a drug today?” If not, then “How long has it been?” Addicts may not like the question, but they understand it. The next question is: Do you want to quit?
I quit using drugs on 3 March, 1976. Before that date, I hated the Addict Item and avoided all questioners. The Addict Item didn’t make me repent but it tended to spoil my using. Eventually I reached desperation and was ready for surrender. Then and only then did I admit to others (and to myself) how much, how often, and how recently I had used.
2 The Addict Item doesn’t cure addicts
It makes them angry. Years ago a nurse in a nearby town phoned me to ask if I would speak to her patient. The dialogue went:
Charles: Hi. The nurse has asked me to speak to you because I used to be heavily addicted to drugs. However, I am totally free of all drugs now and have been for quite a few years. How are you doing?
Patient: Not too well. I’m very confused and I can’t sleep.
Charles: I know what you mean: I’ve felt that way many times. Let me ask you, how long has it been since you’ve taken a drug of any kind?
Patient: (Pause) Well, I had a bit of mull yesterday.
Charles: How about other stuff?
Patient: (Pause) Well, oh, I’d say about two weeks!
Charles: (I’m quite sure he’s lying) So you have not used today?
Patient: (Pause) Right.
Charles: OK, so do you want to quit, I mean get off and stay off all drugs? It’s not easy but it is worth it.
Patient: (Pause) I don’t rightly know what I want. I’m confused, aren’t I?
Charles: OK so you need to give yourself a break. You need a clean brain for a few weeks, in order to know what you want.
Patient: But I can’t sleep.
Charles: So what! Nobody ever died of insomnia. I couldn’t sleep when I came off drugs. I hadn’t really slept for years because I always knocked myself out in one way or another. I never really slept because I always crashed.
Learning to sleep without drugs takes time. Give yourself a break. Then you can decide if you really want to quit for good.
Patient: But I need to sleep!
Charles: No you don’t. Just stay awake: you’ll sleep eventually. If you take sleeping pills now, you will soon be back on your other drugs. Your brain will never get clean enough to make a good decision.
Patient: But I need to sleep because I’m going to court Thursday on a dangerous-driving charge.
Charles: Good! When you get to court, tell your lawyer to tell the court you are an addict and can’t sleep. Tell the judge the truth: you are agitated and need treatment. Tell them you need a good rehab that will detox you and keep you off all drugs. Then you will sleep well, like I now do.
Patient: (No reply: he has dropped the phone!)
Charles: (now speaking to the nurse) He needs to go to a rehab. Tell the court that’s what he needs. And no sleeping pills. Let him stay awake. Sleep in the daytime. It won’t kill him.
Nurse: I think you’re right. I’ll do what I can. (CRASH!) I’ll call you later!
The nurse phoned back to say the patient was so angry he kicked a hole in her door on the way out. She had him charged with “wilful damage”. She said she thought he might go into a rehab providing the court cooperated. She agreed we’d done the best we could under the circumstances. Now we should pray for his recovery. The Addict Item can assist the addict to get to a place where abstinence is possible through the grace of God.
Notice God did not rescue Adam and Eve. He ejected them from His garden! However, as a result mankind was in a position where rehabilitation was possible through Jesus.
The Co-Dependent Item
If you are a non-addict trying to influence an addicted relative or friend, your Item takes this form: Do I still think “there must be some way” I can save my addicted child, spouse, relative or friend?
The greatest lesson from Adam is simply that God himself did NOT rescue the sinners from their sin.
According to this plan, each of us must make a decision (Philippians 2:12-13): to surrender to Jesus or go on sinning. It’s His way or “my way”.
The lesson from the oldest story in the book: God’s way is best.