Last year Denzel Washington starred in the movie “Flight,” as Captain Whip Whitaker, a pilot with the fictional South Jet Airlines. When we first meet Captain Whitaker he is in a hotel room suffering from a terrible hangover, a hangover he remedies by snorting a line of cocaine, just before climbing aboard to guide Flight 227 to Atlanta. The flight never arrives.
It crashed, not because Whitaker is drunk or jacked up on coke – though he is. The aircraft crashed because of mechanical failure, and the Captain’s efforts are regarded as heroic, as there are but a few casualties in the crash. The incident, however, pulls back the veil on Whitaker’s addiction, forming the plotline for the movie.
While it could be said that the producers of the film took creative license with the flight and crash scenes of the movie, what the producers perfectly nailed is the nature of addiction. It devours. It gobbles up a person’s well-being and uses up a person’s identity. And, of course, the condition is not limited to alcohol and cocaine. Anything that initially empowers us, in the end, can enslave us.
And in those moments of clarity, when we realize that we can’t keep living in these destructive cycles, we decide that we want something better. We want transformation; to turn over a new leaf; we want change. But our efforts to revolutionize our lives almost always fail. Our attempts at life-changing revolution wind up being exchanges of one tyranny for another; a swapping of one set of chains for another; trading one evil task master for another one.
The recognition that life must change is simply not enough. Transformation is not accomplished by giving up what is bad for you. No, the bad has to be replaced with what is good and healthy. I think this is exactly what Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was talking about when he articulated those necessary steps toward sobriety, where one must acknowledge his or her powerlessness and turn life over to a Higher Power who is the only source of health and sanity.
This isn’t mere self-help. This is Spirituality 101. This is the essence of the Christian life: Our desires, impulses, and very lives have to be crucified, as it were, so that the life God has for us can be born and lived in its place. It is replacement, not simply revolution.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.