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.

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.

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.

Change of Attitude

I’m powerless over lust. I don’t want to be powerless over anything because it makes me seem weak. To be without power is to lack control. To admit I am powerless is the first half of the first step towards freedom and recovery. I am not free to be myself; I am free to follow God’s will for my life. He makes known to me the path for today. I surrender my will to choose a different one and commit to follow him. Lust is toxic for me. I think I have a physical problem, but first and foremost, the problem is spiritual. This is why a change of attitude is the critical part of the first step.

My life was unmanageable. I was out of control often taking half the hours in a day or more to hunt for my next encounter. I was as addicted to searching and looking at the images as I was to hooking up. It was an endless cycle ending each time in shame, guilt and fear. But I still couldn’t stop. I was desperate but couldn’t really admit I had a problem that I alone could not solve. The first step was complete honesty with myself. I had to admit I was same sex attracted. Then I had to be honest with another human being.

In the beginning, I wouldn’t say my burden became light or easy but the weight lessened to a manageable amount. I was no longer on my knees on the trail with a hundred pounds on my back gasping for breath. The funny thing is that I don’t think anything got taken out of the pack, at least not at first. It simply became manageable. Now some of the baggage I was carrying has gone so the burden is actually lighter. As I understand and work on my character defects, they don’t completely go away but the trappings that attach to them disappear, one by one. I’m less lonely in my loneliness and my emotions are indicators that I need to pay attention to and talk about what is going on inside. My inside is slowly matching what people see on the outside. I am becoming one, whole person.

May I do thy will always.

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.

Dare to stay in your pain – Nouwen.

Dare to stay in your pain. Nouwen’s words ring true. Leaning into pain in the moment does not cause relief, but it does make your heart more supple and better able to handle life’s shit without breaking apart. The heart breaks open so that the things that we have placed on it are able to fall inside. Only God can put things in our hearts through the path of life he makes known to us throughout the day. As we traverse the path and the rough, tough parts break the heart open, truths fall inside and God keeps them hidden there.