Pride, again!

Real and effective fasting by a preacher [or anyone] is not fasting from food, but fasting from eloquence, from impressive diction, and from everything else that might hinder the gospel of God being presented. . . Anything that flatters me . . . will result in making me a traitor to Jesus. – Chambers

We had not even prayed rightly. We had always said, “Grant me my wishes” instead of “Thy will be done.” The love of God and man we understood not at all. Therefore we remained self-deceived, and so incapable of receiving enough grace to restore us to sanity. – 12/12 page 31

I was born into the church. My faith in God has always been an important part of my life. I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve prayed and I’ve even fasted from food on occasion. In recovery I realize that my spirituality has been self-centered. I’ve wanted to be looked up to in church. I always shared “important” truth near the end of discussions in Sunday school or church meetings. Today I read that “anything that flatters me . . . will result in making me a traitor to Jesus.”

These are hard words for me to swallow. But they are true none-the-less. In my addiction I was really praying, “Grant me my wishes.” I wanted to be fixed and I wanted God to immediately render His miracle of healing. I prayed hard for healing, but sooner or later I’d result to acting out again. Each time I relied on lust to save me, I was really loosing my life. Like Sméagol, my true self was becoming a gray, shriveled and cowering Gollum. My addict was growing stronger; my true nature was disappearing.

Thy will be done, not mine. Without living this way, I can’t understand God’s love nor the love of any man. I was deceiving myself into believing I was unlovable. I was the worst of sinners. I didn’t love myself and came to believe that no one loved me. The double life I was living was unmanageable, and I was “incapable of receiving enough grace to restore [me] to sanity.”

Ultimately it was pride and fear that kept me from true recovery. I couldn’t be honest with myself, with God, and certainly not with any other human, especially my wife. I traded being loved for being flattered. I wanted another man to think I had a strong, muscular body with awesome equipment. I longed to be lusted after. Thank God, I found recovery and a group of people who were completely honest about their sex addiction.

Today, because I’m leaning into recovery by appropriately reaching out to connect with others using words and talking about my emotions, I’m able to stay sober one day at a time. I can pray, “Thy will be done,” right now even though my body is screaming out for another lust hit. “God I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and do with me as Thou WILT. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy WILL.” Self bondage equals pride. God, relieve me of the bondage of pride that I may stay sober today in recovery. Help me receive enough of your grace to restore me to sanity.

Humility

“The god of intellect displaced the God of our fathers. . . . We saw that we had to reconsider or die. We found many . . . who once thought as we did. They helped us to get down to our right size. By their example they showed us that humility and intellect could be compatible, provided we placed humility first. When we began to do that, we received the gift of faith, a faith which works. This faith is for you, too.” 12/12 p 29

I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty smart person. As I grew older I thought I had a seasoned perspective on many issues. I believed I could hold my life as a husband, father and important leader in one hand and my addiction quietly in another. What I didn’t bargain for was that the addict continued to grow and my intellect had to abandon all humility to keep up. I tried to remain humble by looking meek when it suited my circumstances. False humility became a second lie; my addiction was the first. I tried to live so others would not see what I was like on the inside.

Slowly intellect became another false god in my life. I knew that if I was smart enough I would be an important person, especially to those spiritually minded. I could quote spiritual writers and people who had a distinctively God centered worldview. But inside, my life was crumbling like a piece of burnt toast. I was falling apart, coming apart at the seams. I could not hold my addiction to lust, any form of humility, and my true self together any more.

Only when I disclosed to my wife and two sons that I was attracted to men did I begin to understand that intellect and humility were compatible. My understanding grew when I kept honesty squarely on the table. When I lead with honesty about my addiction, humility rises above intellect. It becomes primary. Intellect becomes secondary. Then, and only then, is my faith a working faith. As one of my SA friends puts it, “Faith with skin on it.”

Honesty disarms my addict. I can’t be honest without being humble. I’m still learning to lead with my weakness when I share in meetings or talk to another person in the fellowship. I still want to lead with my intellect. I want to share what I know about recovery instead of how I am powerless over lust and how my life is unmanagable. For me, the progress in recovery I long for moves from honesty through humility to faith in God.

A crisis of the will.

My will has been my own for so long that I don’t even recognize it as selfishness. Before recovery, I was so wrapped up in protecting myself and my secret that I could no longer notice or admit to the truth. Fantacy corrupted reality.

Surrendering my will is a daily challenge. Just to bring my self-centeredness to mind is difficult and I often skip that acknowledgement during my morning routine. “God I offer myslef to thee, to build with me and do with me as thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self.” These words are a great reminder to surrender everything to God.

A year ago I had a major relapse. I remember the incident now because I just reread what I wrote about it. I connected by text to someone from my dark past. I had blocked his number but somehow he made contact. It was easy to step into the soothing waters of pleasuring myself. The arousal intensified as we texted for over five hours. Lust grows through experiences like that until there’s no turning back, no stopping.

Lust kills love, love for self and love for others. Surrender is the only option to curtail addiction and connection with another person is the doorway to surrender. Victory from my difficulties comes from surrender to God. I need a power greater than myself to restore me to sanity. But keeping this truth to myslef doesn’t help. Only when I share with a brother, only when I am completely honest, only then, will the moment of victory arrive. Thy will not mine be done. May I do thy will always.

Impetuous Past

Isaiah 52:12 Yet do not depart quickly or leave in a panic. For the Lord goes before you; the God of Israel is your rear guard.

“You shall not go out with haste….” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.” – O. Chambers

My biggest challenge is self will. I want, what I want, and I want it now. I want to be relieved from the bondage of my sinful past, right now. I want to be completely healed from addiction, right now. I want to immediately handle all life’s challenges. I want to be rid of my destructive past, for good. I want to forget; my gut is impetuous; my first thoughts are selfish.

But God’s very nature provides a different, slower solution. It is true that my past conduct produced broken and irreversible consequences. I have lost opportunities and lived a good portion of my life in darkness and deceit. But God has not forsaken me. He is slow to anger and quick to love.

He can transform the destructive anxiety aroused from my dark past into a constructive thoughtfulness of the future. I do not need to be paralysed and inactive. I do need to let the past rest in His capable hands. I need to be patient and watchful for His direction. I need to walk into 2019 with the patient power of knowing that God will go before me. My daily prayer will be to “leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with him.” There is no need to fear, I don’t need to “leave [my past] in a panic” because God leads me, and He also has my back. “For the Lord goes before you; the God of Israel is your rear guard.” Is 52:12 b

Individuality

“Individuality is the hard outer layer surrounding the inner spiritual life. Individuality shoves others aside, separating and isolating people. . . Individuality counterfeits spirituality, just as lust counterfeits love. . .

The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-will. . . Watch yourself closely when the Spirit of God is at work in you. He pushes you to the limits of your individuality where a choice must be made. The choice is either to say, “I will not surrender,” or to surrender, breaking the hard shell of individuality, which allows the spiritual life to emerge. “ – Chambers

“No matter what wrong the other party has done, if we are disturbed, there is always something wrong with us, especially in the area of attitude. “ White Book Page 117

Often, it is easy for me to shove other people aside because I feel insecure and threatened. I’m learning to change my attitude, but it is taking time. My natural tendency is to defend myself and to fight back when I get disturbed. When I do, resentment gets a foothold and begins to grow.

I hope I can catch myself when I first begin to feel that someone has wronged me. At this moment I have a decision to make. Will I surrender my will and individuality to God or will I garner my strength to attack.

Surrender is not avoidance. Avoiding conflict leads to anger, and pent up anger leads to rage. Surrender is saying to myself, what part do I have in this drama. When I change my behavior to align with God’s will, clarity forms around the issue. I cannot change the way someone feels about me, and I certainly can’t change their behavior. I must leave that in God’s capable hands. Serenity is changing what I can about myself and accepting everything I cannot change. Wisdom is understanding the difference.

Reality Check

“Once you are rooted in reality, nothing can shake you.” – Chambers

Living in a fantasy world is one hallmark of an addict. We make up our own reality to suit our desire. Until we submit to God, surrender our lust and gain sobriety, we will do anything to get the dopamine fix our brains long for. Our brain will convince us that acting out sexually is the only way to feel better. We are powerless to leave fantasy for reality unless we cling to the fact that we are redeemed.

We are rescued out of addiction when we lean into sobriety. We continue to be delivered from lust when we do the hard work of recovery: surrendering our strong desires to lust, going to meetings, and working the steps. We don’t do this alone but in a fellowship of recovering addicts and only with God’s help. His grace is sufficient.

Reality for me is the moment by moment curiosity I have for what is going on in my heart and in my head. Do I pause and wonder what I’m feeling and how that is related to what I’m thinking? Do I realize when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired? If I do, how do I react? Do I express my anger at someone else’s expense or swear at God? Do I get defensive or resentful? Do I get sad and isolate myself? Medicating loneliness with isolation never works. Checking in with a fellow in the program almost always does.

Feebleness

I admitted that I had a problem in September of 2017. I first had to admit it to myself. I recognized that God already knew, but I also admitted it to him again. I pledged to be honest about my same sex attraction that day and have not turned back, no more hiding, no more lurking in the dark. When I started in SA I admitted more specifically a third time that I was powerless over lust and that my life had become unmanageable.

Oswald Chambers says, “The feebleness of the church is being criticized today, and the criticism is justified. One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been this focus on the true center of spiritual power. We have not dwelt enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of redemption.”

I’d like to keep this notion of feebleness at arms length. I don’t like to think of myself as a weakling let alone act like it. I needed to present myself as a strong person – someone to be respected. The irony is that I’m really not feeble when I turn my will over to God.

I thought I’d turned my life over to God when I was at church camp in junior high. But the addict in me was taking root at about the same time and a war between my will for acting out and God’s will began at age 14 and continued for 50 years. This battle of guilt, shame and powerlessness raged on and on and on.

At times I fought with all my might to rid myself of lust. I knew it was wrong and the guilt and shame I felt after acting out, especially that first time with another man, was extreme evidence. I tried to stop, over and over and over again. I even sought help and was relieved from the grip of addiction for a short time.

Chambers says our feebleness is in our lack of focus on the center of the spiritual power that is available to us. SA also says that the addict’s problem is essentially a spiritual one. “It [our addiction] got us high on ourselves, short-circuiting any meaningful connection with others and God.” White Book Page 52. “Most of us confused the personal with the sexual, as though only the sexual aspect of this union would satisfy what essentially is a spiritual drive.” Page 54. Ultimately, lust kills God. And finally, “The insanity of our delusion damns us to a condition where truth about ourselves cannot penetrate. We must finally ask, Doesn’t all this add up to spiritual death?” Page 56

So yes, I am powerless. I admit it. This first step of honesty before God, and now before others, is what is different this time. I tried to be honest with God before. He knows how trapped I was because he’s omnipresent, and also because I brought my trouble to Him over and over again. But I wasn’t ready, really ready, to receive the help I needed from others. Now I surrender to God daily, go to meetings and work the steps. Herein lies my only hope.