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 My own understanding of purpose is superseded by God’s will for me.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.

Stillness, Still

“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! For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” Psalms 37:7, 9, 11 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.37.7,9,11.esv

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. 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 37:23-24, 31, 34 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.37.23-24,31,34.esv

Lord, I want to delight in the way I am going. Must I change direction to delight more. My life is a wreck. In the ruins I have anguish and intense temptation to leave the path. My thoughts are not your thoughts. Still, my way is my own, though I want to surrender my life to you. I let out the life line only to pull hard to have it back.

The war wages in my soul between my addict and my real self. Yet, reality is allusive. My addict laughs, scoffs at his control or more importantly, at my lack of it. The new way is not the old way reformed. It is returning to the dust, starting afresh, and becoming something totally different.

Establish my steps and place your word in my heart. Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. His delight is in the law of the Lord. In all that he does, he prospers. Wait for the Lord, trust also in Him and He will bring His work to completion. This is God’s way. This is the way I want to walk.

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.

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.

Two Paths Diverge, Part 2

You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I’ve had some trouble trying to understand the second phrase in this verse from the Psalms. “In your presence is fullness of joy” brings two mind two difficult questions for me. When am I in God’s presence? What is Joy?

At first glance, these questions might seem easily answered. After all, isn’t God omnipresent and isn’t joy that deep gladness we have knowing we are in God’s loving hands? For me, there is more of a mystery here than comes to light in these somewhat simple answers.

If I’m constantly in God’s presence, then how and why do I sin? Even if God is everywhere, I must acknowledge God’s ubiquity in order for it to have an impact on my life. I suppose it is a little like the perspective of a small child. I remember a time when our children were quite young, around 4 and 1. The oldest had just received a Christmas present that included a bunch of marbles. I was using a camera to capture the moment, but since I was behind the large video camera, he ignored the fact that I was in the room. His mom was behind the wall in the kitchen. He dumped the entire container of marbles out on the floor and they went everywhere. His mom heard the commotion and said, “Oh honey, why did you do that?” His reply was, “I didn’t, David [his little brother who was sitting there watching] did it.” The whole thing was caught on video.

I don’t believe he would have blamed his brother if his mom had been there present with him. We tend to behave differently when we are in the presence of others. Just take the anonymity of the internet as another contemporary example. There is a ton of evidence to the fact that people think no one is “watching” when they post text, pictures, or videos online. What we do when we think no one is watching reveals a clearer picture of our true character. It that is true, then it must also be true for our actions before an ever present God. So, we must be mindful of his presence to experience fullness of joy. But what is joy?

For me, this is even a harder question. Some writers think that joy and happiness are the same. Others say happiness has to do with circumstances and joy is unrelated to what is going on around us. Joy is somehow deeper, more related to our frame of reference than to our current situation.

When we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, we have the opportunity to experience a deep peace and gladness knowing that we are traversing the path of life that God constantly reveals, bit by bit, as we are able to receive it. So I can be sad and still experience joy. Joy has nothing to do with happiness. Full joy is God’s grace in my life to live through each moment, good or bad, as though God is right there with me. Moreover, I cannot begin to understand joy without grace because I don’t have it in me to see moments as God sees them. According to His Word, all opportunities, even trials, are a means for me to become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

In His presence is fullness of joy. When we acknowledge God’s moment by moment presence with us on the path of life, we can experience full joy. This is another example of His grace and mercy at work within us. When I look at the opportunity in this moment to experience God’s loving presence, I see two equal roads.

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

So, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Grace and peace,

Henry

Living with Myself

Can I live with myself today, just as I am? This is a learning process. I do not accept all of who I am. God does, but I find myself too complicated, too self absorbed and too confused to fully accept I am who I am.

I find it interesting that when Moses asked what he should call God when others ask, God said, “I AM WHO I AM.” God fully knows himself and he’s not afraid to name and accept all that he is. If I am made in his image, then I wonder if I can accept I am who I am?

A new day of recovery brings with it the mystery of a pilgrim making progress on God’s path, the path of life that God makes known to me every day. When the rhythm of my life syncs with the pulse of the path of life, then I am who I am. My ups and downs become copacetic to me when I keep in step with the Spirit. I do not hike too slow or too fast. The periods of rest are refreshing, not annoying, because I’m not in a hurry to get somewhere. I pause to take in the view. Each breath is a deep, cleansing breath. After a long breath that raises my chest and expands my rib cage, I can say to myself, “I am same sex attracted” without shame. And somehow in that pause along the trail, I can live in peace with who I am in the context of a heterosexual marriage. These are miracles because my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak.

So today is another hike down the path of life, the path of recovery. I hope to have the curiosity to discover more about who I am in God’s image and the courage to act accordingly.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Recovering Henry