“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” —George Bernard Shaw
Caught in an exhausting addictive cycle for several years, I was pretty sure that I’d be “used up” when I died. I had tried to break free from harmful behaviors time and again over the course of a decade—through church, prayer, treatment, counseling, self-help books, geographical fixes, etc. etc.—but after short-term successes I always returned back to the quick-fix, easy-way-out, substance-soothed lifestyle. I needed the crutch to function and couldn’t imagine life without it.
As the periods of reprieve got fewer and further apart, and as my physical, emotional, and mental health became worn down to the core, I knew full well that addiction was quickly driving me to the grave. Despite my downward path, God’s baffling grace unexpectedly intervened and with the help of long-term treatment and the prayers of many people, my propensity to self-destruct was transformed into a hunger for life. While it has taken some serious inner-work and the support of 12-step programs to keep me pursuing what is good and avoiding old familiar patterns, every ounce of energy I’ve put forth has been well worth the effort.
During my seemingly endless struggle recovering addicts repeatedly told me “don’t give up before the miracle happens,” and I managed to cling to a thread of hope that things could get better. Today, I am deeply grateful that I didn’t decide to take my own life. Though it was dark and miserable, that season of suffering brought me face-to-face with an amazingly gracious God who truly rescued me from death’s grip. And now, having been led through that fire, I can echo George Bernard Shaw’s desire to be “used up” in a positive way, to burn like a torch to benefit others.
Surely there will be many demanding fires ahead on my journey, and with these fires will come more opportunities to grow closer to my gracious God.
Is life a torch to you?