Presumptous Sin & Healing

“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!”Psalms 66:16-20 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.66.16-20.esv

“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalms 19:12-14 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.19.12-14.esv

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalms 32:3-5 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.32.3-5.esv

I have been a wicked person. Presumptuous sin, that which I knew to be wrong but kept doing anyway (that’s addiction), gradually over 50 years, drained my life away. My soul was shriveled up like a prune. I was powerless to stop and my life was completely unmanageable. I was in bone deep pain. My physical and spiritual strength was gone, and I was an emotional weakling. But, God would not let me go. He kept bringing me back to Himself. His grace surrounded me like warm coat on a cold day.

Then by God’s grace alone, I acknowledged my sin to Him and no longer hide my iniquity. I confessed my transgressions to the Lord and he forgave the iniquity of my sin. I also confessed my sin to another person and then another and another, and my healing began. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” James 5:16

Finally, I am a whole and a free person. And, for the first time in my life, I can fully and completely praise God. I can pray knowing that truly God has listened and has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.

Recovery Fellowship

Today is the last day of the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life program that I joined last September. Praying an hour a day has been a great, no an awesome, disruption to my life. Because of it I recognized for the first time I am an addict. I have come to realize my life as an addict is unmanageable and my only recourse is to surrender myself completely to God. As I have done that before, at least I thought I had, I have to ask myself what is different this time?

Shortly after disclosing my addiction to my family, I started going to a therapist and I joined a 12 Step program. My therapist is great and is doing me a great service, but it is in the 12 Step program where the real recovery work is done. It was after attending meetings for a few months that I felt, but didn’t understand, the magic of the program. It was a great mystery to me that I was feeling better in some way.

It took more meetings over more months for me to discover what I think is the mojo of being in a recovery group. It is the connection with other addicts. Here is where we work on our recovery. Even the 12 Steps themselves are not taken in isolation. It is all about we and us and our. There is no “I” in the program. We are embarking on this recoverery as a fellowship. The fellowship of recovery includes confession, accountability and comraderie. Connected in fellowhsip, I know I am not alone; other’s have my back.

So the difference in my surrender this time is that I am not alone. The third step of recovery is we surrender our addiciton to higher power as we understand him. Paul also understood the principle that we do the Spirit’s work together as he wrote to the Galations about it. (5:25-26, 6:2-3, 9-10) “If WE live by the Spirit . . . let us not grow conceited . . . and let us not grow weary of doing good . . . so then as we have the opportunity let us do good to everyone.” We cannot do life alone. We’re in this together whether we realize it or not.

Surrender

It is hard for me to stand atop the mountain of my pride and wave the white flag of surrender. I would rather help my self, solve my own problems, and rest in my own strength. But when I’m weak enough to surrender, then I’m a stronger person because God is my rock of refuge.

I’ve been an addict for fifty some years. That’s a long, long time to have programmed my body to seek comfort in all the wrong places. I choose my addiction over accepting my emotions. I give my heart over to my addiction instead of offering it to be close to other people. Intimacy frightens me because I have hidden myself behind my addicted self. These are my darkest days.

How can I rejoice in all my days? I cannot without God because I am poor and needy. Hasten to help me, O God. You are my help and deliverer. Your slow and methodical work in my life is a great and deep blessing. Help me to not take it for granted. I offer myself to thee, to build with me and to do with me as thou wilt.

God, I confess that I have resented you because of my addiction. I blame you for making me the way I am. Yet it is not your will but my own that get’s me into trouble. My bondage is my own self-centeredness. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do thy will.

Thank you for hastening to my side. You stand beside me to comfort me, to hold me up when my strength fails. You alone are my help in times of trouble. When I am weakest in myself, I am stronger in you.

Decisions Shape Destiny

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. – Tony Robbins

“The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.” Ecclesiastes 9:17-18 ESV

http://bible.com/59/ecc.9.17-18.esv

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Galatians 5:5-9 ESV. http://bible.com/59/gal.5.5-9.esv

“When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Matthew 16:5-6, 11-12 ESV http://bible.com/59/mat.16.5-6,11-12.esv

The way I live is shaped moment by moment by the decisions I make. If I decide to take a nap, I get rest but might feel sluggish right after. If I decide to take a walk, I get exercise and feel invigorated. But that doesn’t make taking naps a sin.

A wise man can bring conflicting parties together to solve their problems without fighting. But this is a very difficult task. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole barrel. I’ve seen it in disagreements when one person with a loud voice won’t let something go to the point where it builds to unresolved conflict or sometimes violence. It happened with Christ when the first person yelled, “Crucify Him!”

It is the same way with following rules. I want people to follow my favorite rule and someone else wants me to follow theirs. People can be very stubborn becuase we need to be right above all else. So we argue our point off view as if it really matters. We must watch and beware of this kind of thinking.

It is only by faith in God’s Spirit that we have any hope for righteousness. We must fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of faith. It is only in Jesus that we find the ability to focus on the right stuff and can put away our insignificant squabling. Only when we do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit can we make decisions that honor God and bring others into his presence.

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stags of instability – and that it may take a long time.

And so I think it is with you. Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ

Wait a minute . . .

One sub theme in the biblical narrative is to wait, to not be anxious, to bring silence and peace to all circumstances. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” Psalms‬ ‭37:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬ http://bible.com/59/psa.37.7.esv

To slow down in a culture that moves at the speed of light is a difficult task. To sit in silence and to breathe deeply seems like an undeserved luxury, or in my anxious moments, it is so counterintuitive it seems to bind me in chains like I’m in a prison cell. I can’t sit still without squirming. If I’m honest, I don’t want to hear the still small voice of God. I want a god who speaks in thunder and lightening, not one who speaks in the silence. I want a god who immediately heals my deepest wounds without any suffering.

When I can hold a space for silence, God’s quiet voice speaks more personally to me. It’s a voice of steadfast love and faithfulness. It’s not about speaking in tongues nor angelic voices that are loud gongs and clashing cymbals. If I’m willing to follow, God moves slowly and quietly in my life gently nudging me one way then another and healing me bit by bit.

My work is to not be deaf to God’s voice. He is speaking as awesomely and as mysteriously as the wind trembles through an Aspen forest. But there are moments when there is no wind. The air is sweet and still. What can I do but to wait patiently and wonder? The only air that moves now is His spirit, in and out through my own lungs. The life giving air rushing into my nostrils, held only for a quarter rest and then rushing out is the breath of God in me, the hope of glory.

So I will sit in silence and wait. Only God can say what this new spirit gradually forming within me will be. I will give the Lord God the benefit of believing that his hand is leading me, and accept the anxiety of feeling in suspense and incomplete. – adapted from a prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

“Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.” Psalms‬ ‭37:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬ http://bible.com/59/psa.37.34.esv

“Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.” Psalms‬ ‭37:37‬ ‭ESV‬‬ http://bible.com/59/psa.37.37.esv

Recovery Slump

I think I’m in a slump. It started in January and continues to impact my heart and mind. I shouldn’t be surprised by this part of recovery, but I am. Slumps are normal whenever a person needs courage and discipline for the long haul. It is no easy thing to recover from addiction. Recovery is a moment by moment tug-a-war between who I want to be and the addict I have become. I wonder if I visualize the person I want to be, then I will better lean into the struggle of becoming that person.

In baseball every hitter will have a slump. Most of the time, it is more mental than physical. Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.” Poor hitting performance starts with the batters thoughts and visualization before stepping into the batter’s box. Hitting coaches encourage a player to stay positive and believe in himself, no matter the circumstances.

So it seems it will do no good to dwell on the negative aspects of losing my sobriety. It would be a better use of time and energy to contemplate what I can learn from the past few months through the up and down nature of recovery. The graph for recovering from an addiction is not a straight line but looks more like a graph of a bull run of the stock market. Over time the direction is up, but there are up days and there are down days.

Feeling sorry for myself nor getting discouraged after a setback will not help me stay sober. Dwelling on the mistake won’t either. Remembering that a failure can be a great teacher and saying to myself, “I am confident I can stay sober,” are better ways to end a slump.