by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
I think my neighbor has been brainwashed into believing he has oil in his backyard. He told me awhile back that a friend of his had struck it rich drilling for oil in his backyard. He said his friend’s life had been completely changed when he committed his life to drilling for oil on his land. Even his friend’s wife and kids were on board with this. I had never heard of such a thing happening in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.
My neighbor said he went over to where his friend lives and saw the change in his friend’s life. His friend showed him how the drilling equipment, which consumes his friend’s backyard, is set up and how it all works. I asked my neighbor if he saw his friend’s oil with his own eyes. My neighbor’s friend did not show my neighbor actual oil but showed my neighbor all of the things he had obtained from the prosperity in his life and that, while life still had it’s share of challenges and problems that lead to anxiety and stress at times, as long as there is a continuous flow of oil, my neighbor’s friend said he would always be at peace and joy in his life. While my neighbor had not seen his friend’s oil, he saw barrels as far as the eye could see.
One of the challenges my neighbor’s friend has to endure is the constant conflict he has with his neighbors complaining that all of the oil drilling equipment in his yard is really an eye sore in the neighborhood. The village my neighbor’s friend lives in is filing one legal petition after another to get my neighbor’s friend to stop drilling and to get the equipment out of their quaint suburban neighborhood. The oil, however, has become the lifeline for my neighbor’s friend. He has advanced to bigger and better tools for drilling oil. Neighbors of my neighbor’s friend who are concerned about the value of their own homes are saying drilling equipment soars above the roof tops of the houses and that something has to change or they will intensify their legal efforts to shut down the endeavor. My neighbor’s friend tells my neighbor repeatedly that the changes he has made in his life he wants for everyone to enjoy. If there is what seems like an infinite amount of oil on his property it is most certainly available to his neighbors throughout the neighborhood and beyond. Instead, my neighbor’s friend’s neighbors simply think he has been brainwashed into believing there is oil but that it is no more than a figment of his imagination. How can there possibly be oil in suburban Chicago?
My neighbor is a believer, I suppose, because he has invested a whole bunch of his own time, energy, and resources into the tools necessary for drilling oil now in his backyard. I must admit that I am curious so I am watching him; quite closely I might add. My neighbor has ripped up is beautiful backyard and turned it into an expedition for oil. He has been at it for awhile now. His lifestyle has completely changed. His attitudes have changed. At times, I’m not sure this is the man I’ve known for so long. If you knew my neighbor, you would know that he was always on edge, anxious, and stressed. He wrestled with resentments and jealousy. He was selfishly ambitious. My neighbor, in the initial stages of his friend’s oil expedition, couldn’t stand it when his friend would tell him how “blessed” he was since discovering oil.
My wife says the same things about my neighbors wife, about she has changed into something she barely recognizes at times; and my kids say similar things about my neighbor’s kids. My wife says that my neighbor’s wife appears to be at peace with herself; that she is no longer consumed by money matters, and tends to shy away from gossip. Oh, did she love to spill the beans on everything she heard and seen. But all of that seems to have changed.
My neighbor is a new man. The countenance on his face reflects the peace and the joy that he has known in his life since being blessed with all of this oil. My neighbor is my good friend. We have been friends for years. We used to talk about our kids and the ups and downs of family life. We talked about our jobs and how much we would like to be doing something much more enjoyable and fulfilling. We complained about our wives constantly and had some laughs poking fun at them. We loved to talk about sports even though our teams in Chicago are rarely successful. Now, everything we talk about seems to come back around to talking about oil and how it has changed my neighbor’s life, and how he believes it would change my life, and that of my family, if I’d give it a chance.
My neighbor took me around to the other side of his house where now he has barrels of oil as far as the eye can see. I pushed up against one of the barrels. These barrels were full. Full of what? I suppose I’ll have to take my neighbor’s word for it that it is oil. I have never actually seen the oil. I have never seen my neighbor with any extra money from the oil profits. I have not seen my neighbor sell his oil. It’s all a bit mysterious. But my neighbor lives like he has all the money in the world. I don’t mean that he is buying all kinds of stuff or anything like that. He has his share of material possessions but they don’t seem to mean all that much to him, or to his wife, or to his kids, even to his friends who discovered that they have oil gushing on their property as well. They listened my neighbor, became convinced and drilled for themselves.
My neighbor lives within his means. It is how my neighbor lives that has made such an impression on me. It’s how his thinking has changed that fascinates me so. It is the peace in his heart and the joy in his face, and in the faces of his family and oil-rich friends that has so gripped me. He is at rest in his soul.
It is hard at times not to resent him for what he has; or to envy him. I want what he has. When I ask him how to have the peace and the joy, and the absence of shame and resentment in my life, and especially that sense of rest in my soul, he says that all I need to do is pray for faith and begin drilling for oil. He asks me repeatedly if I am naive to think that the abundance of oil begins and ends at the property line between his land and mine—between his life and mine? I hate it when he says that! I said to him, “It always comes back to the (bleepin’) oil! Enough already! That’s good for you… I am happy for you. It’s just so much work! I don’t need that right now! I have enough going on in my life stressing me out.”
Brainwashed by a Renewed Mind
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
Working at a prison with men who have been incarcerated for years, it is quite clear which of the men who will have the best opportunity for healthy change when they are released back into society. It is the men who have come into relationship with God; who recognize Jesus Christ as their higher power greater than themselves; greater than their addictions; greater than their guilt and self-condemnation; greater than their greatest fears.
Facilitating recovery groups in the prison involves cognitive-behavioral therapy and weekly twelve-step meetings. The meetings that heighten the intensity of group discussion are steps two and three concerning a relationship with a higher power—“God of my understanding”. There are men who believe in God the Bible—Jesus Christ—to be their Higher Power who can and will restore them to sanity, empowering them in recovery if they let Him. My guess is that at least half of the inmates believe in the one true God of the Bible as the only One with the authority to restore them into recovery by washing their brains and minds clean from the thinking of entitlement that led to addictive and criminal behavior. Perhaps more than half of the rest want to believe and are seeking something more than what they know but don’t know how to believe or what to believe in. The rest claim to be atheist.
The atheist group seems to resent incarcerated men of faith as religious zealots and don’t want to hear them “preach” about their God. They think about God merely in the context of religion, and don’t want to hear about it. However at the same time, they don’t mind hearing about the peace that their fellow inmates have in their hearts and minds IN PRISON.
“I am happier than I’ve ever been”… IN PRISON.
“I got my life back”… IN PRISON.
“I am finally free”… IN PRISON.
The only time I hear these statements is from the men who identify God as their Higher Power in relationship with Jesus. The irony is that while those that don’t believe, or refuse to surrender to Christ, resent the spiritual reality of the men whose faith is in Jesus, they do want the peace and the freedoms that these men are experiencing while in prison. They want so much to experience love and grace and mercy and freedom from shame and self-condemnation. When they wanted something “in the world” (that’s how they say it), they would simply take it, even at gunpoint. What their fellow inmates have deep in their souls cannot be taken from them. If they want it… really want it, they have to drill for oil.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
What about you?
Are you drilling for the oil?
Is the oil flowing in and through your life?
Have you struck it rich?
Or, do you resent those who have oil flowing in their lives?
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
Don’t waste your time and energy resenting the “religion” of those who have discovered oil and struck it rich. Ask them, “Where does the peace in your life come from?” “How do I find it for my my life?” Ask them how their thinking has changed. Ask them how their brains have been washed. Ask them where the joy comes from that seems to flow through them, and from them.
Jesus said, “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.” John 7:38 (NLT)
I used the metaphor of drilling for oil since it is perhaps the most precious and applicable commodity in the world today. Oil seems to be the ticket for nations around the world to gain power and leverage. Jesus, however, used the metaphor of water since water is at the essence of life for all living creatures. He talked about Himself as the well of living water where once this water is in you, you will never thirst again. You will know and experience contentment—satisfaction, which is what it’s all about.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:10-14 (NIV)
Ask God to show up in your life. Ask Him to reveal His truth to you. Ask Him for a drink of water from His well of life. Ask Him to be real to you. Ask Him for the tools to drill a well so that he can bless you from it. Seek and you WILL find Him. He is near; closer than you know.