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.

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.

The LORD Is With Me

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Psalms‬ ‭149:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬ http://bible.com/59/psa.149.4.esv

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”” ‭‭Joshua‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NASB‬‬ http://bible.com/100/jos.1.9.nasb

Difficult days have passed. My soul is numb with grief over what I have done. Yet yesterday, by God’s grace, I was able to wait through the suffering and experience the deep, deep pain without running to hide or isolating myself or resorting to old habits. God’s grace was sufficient in my weakness to make me strong. His power was made perfect in my weakness.

Above all trust in the slow work of God. I am quite naturally impatient in getting to the end without delay. I would like to skip the intermediate stages. I am impatient of being on the way to something unknown , something new. I am on the road less traveled and it is making all the difference.

I am working hard to recover from my addiction. Yet I am discouraged to find that this work is not yet bearing fruit in my relationship with my wife. She does not know me. She does not believe me. She does not trust me. Yet, by God’s grace in my recovery, I do speak the truth.

My complete honesty was confirmed in another polygraph on Saturday. When under the machine, I am bound around my chest and a cuff is tight around my right bicep. I can’t take a deep cleansing breath without messing up the results and my speech must be soft and quiet. I feel like a trapped animal. But God quieted my heart, I told the complete truth, and the elusive machine with it’s wiggly lines confirmed it was so.

I know I have brought pain to myself and even greater pain to my wife for forty years of marriage through my addiction. On Friday, I confirmed the deceit and lies I have lived when I read to her the emotional restitution letter I had written. There is nothing I can do now but wait on the Lord. In Him is the strength I need, measured out only for this moment.

The Lord takes pleasure in his people. He is with me wherever I go. I will look unto the mountains. From where does my help come? It comes from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. He will not allow my foot to slip. He will guard my going out and my coming in from this time forth and forever.

Help me to be fully present today to see the opportunities you bring to me to share the healing presence of Christ with others. What can I do today for those who are still sick? Whenever appropriate, grant me the courage to share how God is healing me from addiction.

Still I Am Learning

“It’s a dangerous thing to refuse to continue learning and knowing.” – Oswald Chambers

When Michelangelo was in his eighties he is reported to have said, “ancora imparo” which means, “still I am learning.” In the 1500s living into your eighties was not an easy task. He was drawing and sculpting at that age as well. I want to be a life long learner like Michelangelo.

“The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.” Proverbs‬ ‭15:33‬ ‭NASB‬‬. http://bible.com/100/pro.15.33.nasb

In other places in Scripture it says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.” Psalms 111:10

When we keep learning, we place ourselves in the hands of humility. We realize we don’t know everything, and moreover, even that we don’t know much at all. If we aren’t learning, we limit our ability to change and to grow. Haughty people live like they know more than they really do. Humble people realize how much they don’t know. They remain curious and can wonder about things.

In addiction, if a person won’t learn, they can’t change. Old habits not only die hard, they need to be replaced with new ones. Being open to new learning is a key to this process. That’s why it’s dangerous to refuse to learn or to know new things. Without an openness to learning, we get stuck in our old ways of thinking. And since knowing is so closely linked to doing, we aren’t able to do those things that will move us out of our old addictive behaviors.

Broad Phylacteries and Long Fringes

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:26-28‬ ‭ESV‬‬ http://bible.com/59/rom.8.26-28.esv
“So do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.” Matthew‬ ‭23:3-7‬ ‭ESV‬. http://bible.com/59/mat.23.3-7.esv

My greatest sin is self preservation. I am guarded. I won’t reveal something about myself unless I know there will be some benefit to my reputation. I want to be noticed and important. I want people to mention my broad phylacties and super long fringes to their friends.

Lord, help me live today by your mercy and according to your will. I suffer from flashbacks to times and encounters that fan the flames of lust and addiction. My mind is trapped with images and the memories of euphoric experiences. I am too weak to free myslef and cannot even pray that the chains that bind me to my addict may fall off. “For [I] do not know how to pray as [I] ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for [me] with groanings too deep for words.

Lord have mercy on me. I do that which I don’t want to do and the things I should do I leave for another day. Yet, even typing these words has helped to release me from bondage. This is the healing miracle of confession.

Humble yourself before me and I will raise you up to give greater praise to my name. Those who consider how great are their sins, how small their virtues, and how far they are from godly perfection are far more acceptable in the sight of God, than those who dispute about their greatness or smallness. – Thomas A Kempis

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.