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.

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.

What Matters Most

I am often distracted by my own self interest. Instead of living into the image which God has created in me, I manipulate my image to become important to others. I even consider my image to be of some import on its own. Masking my emotions is one way I try to manage my image, and this feeds my addiction.

On the other hand, I can also be absorbed by another’s presence. In a group I can fade into the background, become invisible. God does not want this either. With God’s help, when I am in touch with my centered, image-bearing self, I operate from a solid inner base from which I can speak and act without apologies – humbly and convincingly. When this paradigm is operating freely in me, I don’t even notice it.

So when I accept myself as image deo, that is fully an image bearer of the Almighty, then I am free to be me. Then I am completely me, no strings attached. Of course, this matters to God because he wants me to operate from this solid inner base that he has created in me. It matters to other people because when I am totally myself in relationships, I am differentiated from others and thereby act in a caring and a challenging way at the same time. God’s love in us is not anemic. It is robust. As a result I become more confident and that is why it also matters to me.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

“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

Two Roads Diverge, Part 2 Revisited

In His presence is fullness of joy . . .

I’m still figuring this one out and think it is one of those life long learning opportunities.

Sometimes I feel like I’m addicted to everything. I use stuff to avoid my emotions, especially the strong ones. I hide from fear with food. I suppress anger with gambling. For resentment or stress, there is acting out sexually. Sometimes I find myself even trying to ignore feelings of deep joy.

My counselor is helping me to understand myself. I’m in the middle of a formal presses of full disclosure to my wife about my acting out sexually. Talk about strong emotions. I was suggesting that I just have a beer before or after the upcoming session where I will be telling my wife the nitty gritty of my past. The counselor smiled, like she does, and said I don’t want you to drink before the session and I’d prefer you sit with your emotions after. WTF does sit with my emotions mean? We talked it through. Emotions won’t kill me; they are not good nor bad. They just are.

So for the second time today I sat – we’ve got this great new chair that is perfect for this – through my emotions. Funny thing, today I felt a rush of an emotion that I identify as full joy. I was thinking about a couple. They are some of my best friends. We have cycled across the country together. Tomorrow is Steve’s birthday. Tears ran to the corners of my eyes and down my cheeks. My breaths were deep like the ocean. Complete gladness welled up inside me. And I sat there. Before, I think I would have tried to shake the feeling off, like there was a spider on my hand. Instead, I sat with my own feeling and bathed in the joy. I was surrounded by water that was soothingly warm and my muscles relaxed. It was refreshingly cool and exhilarating at the same moment.

This is another example where I’ve come to believe, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God . . . Only God [can] 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

Grace and peace to you in Christ who gives mercy sufficient for today,

Henry