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.

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.

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

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.

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