Come unto me . . .

Matt. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Self-consciousness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of the life in God, and self-consciousness continually produces wrestling. Self-consciousness is not sin; it may be produced by a nervous temperament or by a sudden dumping down into new circumstances. It is never God’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him. Anything that disturbs rest in Him must be cured at once, and it is not cured by being ignored, but by coming to Jesus Christ. If we come to Him and ask Him to produce Christ-consciousness, He will always do it until we learn to abide in Him. – O. Chambers

When we are caught up in our addictions, it’s common for us to deny the truth about our situation with grandiose thinking. We may believe that we’re above it all, a god unto ourselves, accountable to no one. – Recovery Bible

I am amazed that I believe that I can fix my problem of addiction. It is pride and certainly not humility that keeps this lie alive in my life. I am learning to live with emotions that I used to aviod at all costs. I would run and hide from the way I was feeling. I’d isolate myself from others, from my wife and family, and soothe myself by acting out. This insane, destructive cycle is being broken in my programs of recovery. For this, by God’s grace, I am forever grateful to the One who gives me rest.

This past week my wife shared some difficult news with me. We were having one of our regular check-in times and at the end she said, “Dave and Rosalind have said the same thing to me. They report that I’m better when I’m not around you. I think you should think about where you might go to stay a week a month or so.” I told her that her statement made me sad but also that I was in some way at peace for her. Our converstation ended and I went for a walk.

In the past I would have allowed the resentment I felt to well up into anger and rage. I remember some of my walks in the past to be so full of furor that my breathing would seeth from me. This time was different. Although, I didn’t initially identify my resentment, it did not produce deep anger. I walked for a while and went to bed.

The next day I went to a support meeting and afterwards a friend asked how I was doing and I told him about my conversation the night before. He listened and shared some insight that gave me resolve to talk again to my wife.

That evening my wife and I reopened the conversation from the previous night. She explained more about what she was feeling, and I was able to better express how I felt, and also how, in the past, I would have responded very differently. It was a great example of how my recovery was influencing my life and making me a better person.

This morning I shared this story at another support meeting. I shared how recovery was making me a better person, how I could look my resentment in the eye and not let it overtake me, and how I was grateful that I was learning new and better ways of handling life’s difficulties. I am so grateful that I handled this situation without isolating myself, entering a dark space with my addict, and acting out.

Instead of trying to be god, I was able to surrender and come unto Him. This was at a subconcioius level. I did not think, Oh, I need God right now. But that is exactly who I did need, and only because God’s Holy Spirit is in me, instead of being self-conscious, I became God-conscious. I’m glad that through my readings and prayer today that I became aware of my progress in recovery. I pray it will lead to more sobriety.

When I am God-conscious, trials produce steadfastness and the full effect of steadfastness is a completness so perfect that it lacks nothing.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 ESV http://bible.com/59/jas.1.2-4.esv

Crisis

Suppose God has brought you up to a crisis and you nearly go through but not quite, He will engineer the crisis again, but it will not be so keen as it was before. There will be less discernment of God and more humiliation at not having obeyed; and if you go on grieving the Spirit, there will come a time when that crisis cannot be repeated, you have grieved Him away. But if you go through the crisis, there will be the psalm of praise to God. Never sympathize with the thing that is stabbing God all the time. God has to hurt the thing that must go. – O. Chambers

“He changes rivers into a wilderness And springs of water into a thirsty ground; A fruitful land into a salt waste, Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it. He changes a wilderness into a pool of water And a dry land into springs of water; And there He makes the hungry to dwell, So that they may establish an inhabited city,” Psalms 107:33-36 NASB. http://bible.com/100/psa.107.33-36.nasb

I’ve always thought of wickedness as a really, really bad thing, something I would never do. But according to Chambers, it seems that wickedness disguises itself as some choice I need to make. When God brings me up to a crisis, I’ve got a choice to lean in or run. For fifty years, I have run from the crisis of addiction in my life.

Leaning in means that I need to get help but my addicted personality believes it can handle everything on its own. My addict is very self-centered, very self-absorbed, cunning and crafty. When I submit to God, it means I must also submit to someone else by sharing that which I do not want to share. This is bringing to light what my addict wants to keep hidden. Staying in the light is the only way to stop the addiction.

And living in the crisis takes time, especially when I have done everything I can to avoid dealing with it for fifty years. Rivers were turning into wilderness and fruitful lands into a salty waste. My focus was on managing my secret and it was taking more and more time and energy. I would feed the addict and sanitize my surroundings so no one would know.

Finally I admitted to myself and to God what was going on, then to my family and friends. I pledged to be honest on September 24, 2017, and I’ve been keeping that promise. It is still really hard to tell my therapist everything and I mean everything. Keeping short accounts is almost impossible. I’ve said things to people that I fully believed I’d carry alone to my grave. Honesty brings freedom but also the pain of responsibility and recovery.

In recovery, God begins to change the desert created by addiction into springs of water. I have confessed the iniquity of my sin to God and He has forgiven me. “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, in whom there is no deceit.” Ps 32 I am truly blessed in this way.

God will clear the wreckage of my past. I’m getting more and more used to who I am as created by God, while living into the pain I have caused my wife, my family and my friends. I doubt if the pain will ever completely subside, but by God’s grace, I believe it will diminish more and more if I stay in recovery and in relationship with God and others.

So I’m willing to walk in my crisis. I’m not happy about it. Some days I’m just willing to be willing, and somehow because that’s being honest, it is enough. I’ve got a long way to go in recovery and I’m waiting on the Lord, trusting in the slow work of God. I’d rather skip to the end of the story, past all the intermediate steps. But I’m learning that is not God’s way of doing things.

Perplexed

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 2 Cor 4:8

It’s 945, hot and I’m sweating. I’m on the deck, shirtless, nurturing a tan I birthed in April in Yuma.

My addiction is after me this morning. Keeping my mind on God is a chore. Today God, moment by moment, please keep me from lust producing memories, fantasies and objectification. I’m powerless to control my desire to masturbate. I like it, I want it. My obsession with myself fuels the desire. Keep me open to receiving help from others. I lie to myself because I still think I can control my behavior.

Relieve me from the bondage of self that I may better do thy will. Reveal your will to me today in chunks I can obey. By your grace, I can travel the path of life that you make known to me bit by bit.

I am pressed on every side by the pain I have brought on myself and others. Often, it is so tightly wrapped around my chest I can hardly catch a breath. Yet, I still think about trading short term pleasure for more long term pain. That’s the perplexing part. It can drive me to despair. Only you can keep me from that pit.

I am grateful for the connection with Peter, Joseph and Brian last night. The beer was good, but the greater blessing was being with these men and not sitting at home alone. Help me make opportunities for connection. The fellowship with other believers is life giving. I need it, though my first thoughts are of independence, self-protection and isolation.

I am not crushed by the weight of my addiction because you are my strength. I don’t know exactly how this works but somehow it does. Often, like today, just showing up in a time of reflection on you and your word keeps me from insanity and wakes me up to the opportunities that you will make known to me.

Give me the courage to change the things I can and the peace, that passes all understanding, to lean into everything you bring my way today.

Sobriety is not recovery.

If addiction is an illness to which there is no absolute cure, then healing is more of a process than a finality. Sobriety is only a part of the daily surrender necessary to recover. There is so much more to my healing, like abandoning myself to God, offering myself to Him, finding and doing His will, and doing the work of each of the twelve steps.

When I suffer under the bondage of lust, I may not abandon all that I know will help me stay sober. At that point sobriety is an anchor. To yield to my temptation is to cut the anchor line. Then I am free to float aimlessly in the darkness back toward the pit of self satisfication. My own self interest is the only thing I Iook after and helping others becomes a mere platitude.

The way through lust is to surrender, not by giving in but by admiting I am powerless to control the temptation. I can’t turn back from its enticingly sweet pleasure. I can’t go around its grip on my heart nor my mind because when I resist in this fashion, it is like quicksand pulling me deeper toward my compulsions. But I can move through it as through a wisp of smoke when I recognize it for what it is, a temptation that I cannot resist on my own. Only by humility in complete surrender to God will I pass by to the other side.

We came to to realize that we were powerless over lust. This is a communal act we must do in fellowship. Going on alone does not work. Keeping secrets starts the snowball rolling down the hill and before long it is too big to stop. We end up crushed in the deep snow having to pick ourselves up to start once again on the path of recovery.

Staying Sober Today

Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies!” Psalms 69:18 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.69.18.esv

“When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalms 73:21-23, 26 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.73.21-23,26.esv

Addiction is as much a spiritual condition as it is a physical longing. When I long to take a drink of lust, I should realize that I need to seek God more intently. My flesh, the temptation that ensnares me, and my heart, the center of who I am, may fail, but God is the strength through which I keep my sobriety.

Even when I respond from instinct, when I’m drawn to look with intent at people or pictures to titillate my craving, God holds my right hand. He does not forsake me even when I make a selfish decision that sends me down the slippery slope. My heart is pricked with the longing to act out. I become like a starving animal hunting for food. I am brutish, carnal and sensual. I choose to be ignorant of that which I know will help me overcome temptation. My mind plays tricks on me with the intent to trap me in the hunt. My heart pounds in my chest. My breathing is fast and shallow.

I sip the salty nectar of the pleasure that haunts me. Even now it is hard for me to stay calm and focused on God. I yank my hand away to break the trance. I inhale, hold in the life giving air and exhale deeply to release the grip that lust has on me. I must turn toward God and receive his life giving will. God grant me the serenity to accept myself as you accept me. God is my portion. He is just the right amount of everything I need to stay sober.

Humility

Humility is a cornerstone of recovery. I used to think of myself as a humble person, but it was a kind of counterfeit humility. I lacked a correct view of myself. I was selfish, using lust to meet my most cherished and intimate needs. I traded short term pleasure for long term pain.

Self loathing became the standard. I did not like who I was, and I was trapped in the downward spiral of my addiciton. Pride and fear were at the root of my lack of confidence. I was more concerned with my image and how people thought of me than I was about doing the right thing and being honest about myself.

When I acknowledged to myself that I was same sex attracted, I was set free of the bondage of living with the lie. This was the beginning of having a truer picture of myself, acknowledging that I needed help and starting a real humility. Having a more realistic view of myself is a major part of my recovery. I am powerless over lust and my life was unmanagable. Humility based on honesty is creeping into my life and filling my cracked spirit with life giving acceptance and love.

Of what am I afraid?

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”

Psalms 56:3-4, 9-11, 13 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.56.3-4,9-11,13.esv

My greatest fear is rejection. I dare not trust too deeply because I might be rejected or humiliated. I am threatened by my own mistakes. I try to ignore them and hope they will pass me by or vanish. But until I admit I have done something wrong or stupid, I am lurking about, trying to hide in the shadows.

Impatience undergirds my fear. I can be so attached to getting a task done that I sometimes finish it mindlessly. I don’t take the time to understand something or to ask a question and end up making a mistake. Recently, I ordered propane tanks through a hardware store for our place in Arizona. I went to a retailer near the park where we live and the attendant said I should go to Home Depot. I never explored what size to order so I fixated on the 100 lb tanks which ended up being over ten times the size of the ones that we were replacing. We have enough propane for at least ten years in one tank.

So I try to hide my embarrassment by ignoring the mistake. I resent my wife for talking about it. Until I took the step of acknowledging that I did not want to ask someone because I would have looked stupid, I was haunted by a simple error. No one is perfect, and there is always room to learn something from our mistakes. But my default is to ignore my own ignorance and rush ahead.

So, be ready for a fight if you wish to have victory. Without struggle and striving,you cannot win the reward of patience. If you refuse to suffer, you will be refused the crown. But if you desire to want the prize, strive bravely and endured patiently. Without effort of fighting, you cannot be victorious. – Thomas A Kempis