The television show ‘Intervention’ has run on A&E for 13 years. Have any of you ever watched it? It received an Emmy Award in 2009 for best ‘Reality Show’. And it truly is a ‘reality’ show in comparison to some of the other staged reality programs. Unlike many of these series that induce drama to make the show interesting, ‘Intervention’ documents the lives of ordinary people dealing with drug and alcohol addictions and compulsive behaviors. These lives require no added drama for anyone involved.
The addict gives permission for the documentary in advance and allows cameras to follow them through both their good and bad days. Viewers see the drunken stupors, needles, snorting of drugs, and resulting behaviors. The main theme is to chronicle the person’s ‘out-of-control’ life and to eventually arrive at the point where family and/or friends initiate an intervention with a professional therapist, but without the addict’s knowledge.
During the intervention, the suffering individual is confronted in what we might call a ‘coming to Jesus’ scenario. Sitting in a circle surrounded by supporters and in a safe place, the individual is forced to face the truth about their addiction or sickness and its effects on themselves and the rest of the family. Participants in the intervention read moving statements that they have prepared; affirming their love and support for the individual while calling out irresponsible behavior without personal attacks.
After everyone has had an opportunity to address the addict, he/she is given an ultimatum...either agree to enter treatment (the arrangements are made in advance) or the family is no longer going to support the individual with shelter, food, and finances. In most cases the addict agrees to treatment, sometimes successful and other times not. After the final credits, there is usually an update on the person’s sobriety.
But in some cases the problem does not end with the addict’s acknowledgement of addiction and their decision to enter treatment. The therapist recognizes dysfunctions within unhealthy family units that enabled the addict to continue their downward spiral. And in those cases, the professional counselor may surprisingly turn attention to others in the family who could also benefit from therapy (if not treatment).
It is an interesting change of events. Suddenly those who believe themselves to be ‘fine’ are confronted with their own shortcomings and may respond even more defiantly than the addicts themselves. Just like their troublemaking family member, they have been caught off guard. They typically don’t see themselves as a problem, since they don’t rely on alcohol or drugs. It’s the OTHER person that is the problem. In the face of vulnerability, one finds out if they are able to humbly face truth or whether they live in denial of who they really are vs. who they want to be seen as.
It is one thing to share ‘tough love’ with a family member to help them through their challenges, but it is quite another for those who consider themselves ‘normal’ to acknowledge that they too fall short. In the daily presence of an addict, it appears that the negative effects of choices and chemicals are confined to the troubled individual. But the connected family members tend to see themselves disconnected from the effects of the disease, as they consider their own reactions as normal. Egos don’t want to be exposed for the sinful and broken people that humans are.
We are all broken in one way or another (like the addict), and in need of interventions. “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
That intercession (the Light) came in Jesus Christ. He didn’t come to condemn us of our sinful disease. Instead he called us by name in love and mercy, asks us to acknowledge our sins and need for His grace, and then He took our punishment to the cross. Verse 21 in today’s text says, ‘But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
To live by truth means to face the reality that we all need God’s help. We all fall short of the glory of God by our own thoughts and deeds. But to acknowledge our sinful fragility is to walk into the light, humbly exposing ourselves as broken people who sometimes make bad decisions and say and do unwise things.
At the same time we are called to trust that God loves us, won’t condemn but will heal us, and will not leave us alone. Like the addict when confronted at the intervention, we too will gain peace, joy, and freedom from our burdens in our vulnerability within the unshakable loving and forgiving grasp of Christ. Amen.