Damn It!

Damn this addiction. A very nice barista at Starbucks just delivered my drink to where I was sitting and then brought my spinach feta wrap to me a minute later. The addict in me turned on my lust. I started to objectify him. I’m fucked up.

But I recognize that I need help and that I am powerless to change left to my own devices. God, deliver me from the lust that is in my heart. Show me through this time of reading and reflection how to stay sober.

“Don’t give up because the pain is intense right now— get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.” – Chambers

I do have a sense that my life’s purpose is changing. The vision for my life has always been to do God’s will. But, now I am developing the resources and the right thinking to actually begin to do it. I have been so self absorbed that God’s will has always been secondary to my own. I wonder if my new purpose is to help others deal with addiction?

I also wonder, why in this moment, I am drawn to look lustfully at people. I guess recognition that this is a problem I have is the first step in overcoming it, but I’ve looked three or four times at another dude ordering a drink. The second step is surrender. God grant me the strength to surrender to you and your will. Keep my addict in check. Thank you that I feel more focused on you just writing about what’s going on.

“When we set out to face the pain and sadness of making a moral inventory [or of just taking the steps of recovery in general], we will need the “joy of the LORD” to give us strength. This joy comes from recognizing, even celebrating, God’s ability to bring us out of bondage and care for us as we pass through the sadness toward a new way of life.” – Recovery Bible

Yup, I’m in bondage! Step one: we admitted we were powerless over lust and that our lives had become unmanageable. The path out of bondage is through deep sadness. It takes God’s joy to buoy me up out of sadness. I have no joy of my own, only sadness. I will look unto the mountains, where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. He is always watching over me. The joy of the Lord is my strength. This has never been more true for me.

Hypocrite

Most of my life I’ve lived in a zone of hypocracy. I’ve made myself different on the outside to mask what was going on inside. I’ve longed to be pure and right before God, but I’ve always felt I’ve not been good enough. I’ve not measured up to the expectations I imagine others have for me and ultimately to the one’s I thought God has for me.

I tried coming at my self from a different perspective. I’m not perfect but no one is and we’re all sinners after all. This way of thinking became a protective covering over my heart and my conscience, so when my addict showed up, I’d follow him once again into hiding who I really was from everyone important to me. Of course shame and guilt were part of this cycle for me, but as my heart grew harder and my thinking more entrenched, I brushed off shame and guilt more easily by some sort of faulty rationalization. I thought because I was working so hard for God in helping His Christian organizations, that I deserved to act out. It became a reward for hard and extremely difficult work.

At the time though, I did wonder why I did not have the capacity to continue on in leadership positions. I would last 3-5 years and then feel beaten up and unable to continue. I now believe that, because of my addicition, I operated in mostly a self-centered way when dealing with tough relationships. I was not what my pastor calls, self-differentiated, and I think in some weird way, I was taking on ther characteristic that I so wanted to fix in the other person. I was the ultimate hypocrite.

Thank God I am in recovery, not just from a wicked addicition, but from old ways of thinking about myself. I’m slowly beginning to recognize when I’m having an intense emotion, or maybe just any ordinary one. I still find myself getting worked up about something, usually something I see in someone else. But I can say to myslef, “Oh, it’s happening again.” I can change my thinking to be about myself and what is going on inside. I can ask God for help. Instead of getting angrier and angrier at someone else, I can “sit with” the emotion I’m having and know it won’t kill me. I can write about what just happened, and I can leave Starbucks without having already connected with someone to schedule a time to act out.

This is liberty, this is freedom, this is life relieved from the bondage of myself that I may better do the will of my higher power.

Thanks be to God.

Willing

Recovery starts with a willingness to do the hard work of God’s will. God, I offer myself to thee to build with me and do with me as thou wilt.

John 7:17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

Man I got worked up this morning. I’ve been sitting here at Starbucks after a short conversation with a friend about teaching biology at a nearby Christian school. After he left, my mind raced with memories of my challenges there as superintendent. I began to feel rage and anger towards some of the people with fundamentalist mindsets. I replayed the tapes of conversations, decisions and meetings. I was trapped in the venom of a vindictive mindset, thinking about how I could have taken them down through persuasive speech and pronouncing judgements of my own.

As I think back, my downward spiral seemed to start with my reading of James 4. I saw myself clearly in the first portion,

“9Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” Verse nine speaks poignantly to my life this past year, but I confess, that for me, the humbleness of verse ten is illusive.

Then I read on and thought about the judgement of conservative Christians toward their fellow believers.

“Warning against Judging Others – 11Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.* If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

I thought about the trouble the school principal experienced at the hand of a strong fundamentalist woman for his first year as school leader. And I became full of rage toward people in my past.

God forgive me. I am not automatically a humble person. It is often not my first thought to be humble but to be protective of my own viewpoint and of my need to be affirmed.

I am caught in the loop of not being enough, not being perfect, not living up to the expectations form others that I conjure up in my own faulty thinking. I have deceived myself and my addict has controlled my behavior and my erroneous thinking. I used to soothe these negative thoughts and the strong feelings of anger with an organism. Thank God, now I can sit here for a time, realize what is really going on, know that I am not going to die, and express myself more appropriately, as in this journal entry.

Instead of leaving Starbucks in a huff, succumbing to lust, and looking for someone to act out with, I came to realize what was really going on. Note to self, strong emotions continue to be an incredibly deceptive trigger for me. Thank God that by his grace I was able to take a different route today. I am willing to do work like this, which I believe is the will of God for my life.

Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will.

Facing the Facts of the Valley

Humiliation is a stern teacher. Faced with my own addiction, I have swallowed hard and deep to take an honest look at myself. I wasn’t the person on the inside who I presented myself to be on the outside. In that way I was like the Pharisees, a white washed cup with a grossly dirty interior.

This past year I have had to rely on others to regain reality. I’ve faced facts about myself that I never wanted any other human to know. My emotions have been intense as I’ve walked the path of recovery. Emotions I have ignored in the past were near or on the surface most of the time. I’ve learned to sit with my emotions and process them with time. I’ve spoken about them to friends in the program, to therapists and to my wife. Unexposed emotions fester into a raging infection of resentment and despair. Naming them aloud doesn’t stop the pain but it allows the hurt to subside with time.

“After every time of exaltation, we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, nor thrilling. The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the place of humiliation that we find our true worth to God— that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at some heroic level of intensity, simply because of the natural selfishness of our own hearts. But God wants us to be at the drab everyday level, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him.” – Chambers

I’m a stronger person after being “brought down into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, not thrilling.” Life is earthy and real in the valley. Honesty dwells there and relationships hold grit like the clothing of a traveler on a quest. My own understanding of purpose is superseded by God’s will for me.

When I remain in humility long enough, His will rushes over me like water at the exact right temperature and buoys me up with his grace and love. I don’t need to swim hard to get where I am going because the current He provides takes me to the places He has prepared for me. There is peace and serenity here along with the uncertainties life brings. Only one thing is certain, God’s love for me a sinner.

Fine Wine

But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object. Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom. If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed. – Chambers

There are many things that make a wine a fine one to drink. The grapes, the harvesting, the crushing, the fermentation, the storage – all these have a role in the fragrence and the taste of wine. Riding through wine country in the Yakima this past weekend always reminds me of the fragrence of the grapes on the vine and the bouquet of a fine wine.

Chambers says, “If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed.” The crushing comes in some set of circumstances to which we vowed never to submit, never to be crushed. But the exact nature of our crushing is not ours to control. All we can do is submit to the process of being made into wine. Our role is simple submission. “When we finally decide to submit our lives and our wills to God’s direction, our burdens will become manageable.” – The Recovery Bible

Our wrongs hold us in bondage, both the perceived and the real ones. Surrendering is the only way beyond the resentment we feel. When we hang on to resentment, we separate from the person in our heart. – White Book, p. 50

I see know how this was activated early in my relationship with my wife. The only way I could be emotionally superior was to win. The only way I could win was through resentment. At first, it turned her into the perpetrator of the wrong. Holding on to resentment eventually made her the wrong I experienced each time I could not deal with my own feelings. I became addicted to the exhilerating feeling of winning the emotional battle until the wrong attitude itself became the addiciton. I became the sin I was trying to escape.

God have mercy on me. Create in me a clean heart. Releive me of the bondage of self that I may better do thy will.

Through Sadness

“The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

There is only one way to deal with sadness and that is to go through it. Being sad cannot be avoided. When we try to avoid it, it begins to eat at us and turns into resentment. This is true even when we bring sadness upon ourselves.

Jesus Christ demands that His disciple does not allow even the slightest trace of resentment in his heart when faced with tyranny and injustice. [I believe this is also true when faced with the injustice we bring upon another.] No amount of enthusiasm will ever stand up to the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His servant. Only one thing will bear the strain, and that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ Himself. – Chambers

Holding resentment is like taking a sip of poison everyday. Bit by bit we will be killed by it. Our heart will become hard with bitterness and our soul will dry up as in a desert without water. Even a trace of resentment, if allowed into our hearts, will turn our lives into a wasteland. Jesus demands that as his disciple, we don’t allow even the slightest trace into our hearts. Sadness turns to resentment when it is put on the shelf, and like an unfinished book, it begs for an ending but never finds one.

We can only bear the pain that comes along with sadness when we have a personal relationship with Jesus Himself. His joy is our strength. When sadness wells up because we have done something we ought not to have done, like doing something unjust toward another, or we’ve not done something we should, like watching a tyrant deal out injustice, the way through is by confession and a restored relationship with Christ. Then the sadness, though only diminished a little, does not smother us. We are able to move through it, sometimes only by holding our breath. We are strengthened by Christ’s joy in our hearts. He is there to greet us on the other side of sadness, and in His presence is fullness of joy. – Psalm 16

My Jerusalem

The goal of the missionary is to do God’s will, not to be useful or to win the lost. A missionary is useful and he does win the lost, but that is not his goal. His goal is to do the will of his Lord.

In our Lord’s life, Jerusalem was the place where He reached the culmination of His Father’s will upon the cross, and unless we go there with Jesus we will have no friendship or fellowship with Him. Nothing ever diverted our Lord on His way to Jerusalem. He never hurried through certain villages where He was persecuted, or lingered in others where He was blessed. Neither gratitude nor ingratitude turned our Lord even the slightest degree away from His purpose to go “up to Jerusalem.” – Chambers

It is difficult to think of my Jerusalem as my addiction but that truly is the cross I bear. I did not choose addiction but I did make choices that contributed to the growth of the addict within me. I often wonder if I had been stronger to resist temptation, then I would have eluded the effects of addiction on my life and limited its effect on the lives of my family and friends. But this I fear is faulty thinking.

Doing God’s will is the key to going up to Jerusalem. Suffering through temptation is a diversion along the way to my Jerusalem. My bad choices were decisions contrary to God’s will for my life. My temptation was to follow my own desires. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” James‬ ‭1:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I traded real pleasure and joy for a counterfeit. When I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” Psalms‬ ‭16:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬, then I realize the path I was on was the path of death and not the path of life that the Lord makes known to those who say, “You are my Lord.” When I turn my life over to him he makes known to me the path of life and pleasures are available from his right hand. In His presence is fullness of joy.

So I see my addiction as my Jerusalem only as I see it as the path to complete surrender to God’s will and only when I see my addiction recovery as His purpose for my life.