Coming To Life On Easter, The Epitome Of Second Chances

Coming To Life On Easter, The Epitome Of Second Chances

When I was a lad, my favorite holiday was Thanksgiving because it seemed, of all the celebrated days, to have the only practical (and understandable, to my child’s mind) explanation. It was The Day to eat and be grateful for it.

If I recall, the Fourth of July was my second-favorite day, because it, too, was in remembrance of some tangible thing, our country’s hard-won independence, and because it featured the very visible baseball games and hot dogs and fireworks. And, since I was a sweets-loving kid (as much as Mom and Dad permitted), I suppose Halloween would’ve been a runner up (for the candy), along with Christmas (only for the presents).

For a long, long time, Easter had little meaning for me. It was just some made-up (but yes, anticipated) rite of Spring. Oh, how that now has changed! This morning, I had, for the first time (I’m pretty sure), a quiet revelation about it.

April 16, 2008 (or it might have been the 14th) was the day I entered into recovery and was exposed to the healing and transformational power of God, and his plan of salvation. To put it more accurately, I should say that it was the day I began to understand Good Friday; Christ on The Cross, paying the penalty for all my sin(s). And for nine years, I’ve thought and dwelt obsessively only on that part of God’s New Deal. (And in effect, only on what I dared to presume to have unforgivably done to nail Christ there.)

This Easter morning, during my quiet time and at a sunrise service, I reconsidered this day and its real significance. The Work of Christ was not in just taking the punishment for all that’s wrong in the world, but in the equally important act of rising again. The Resurrection, the epitome of second chances.

Because, really, the one without the other is a half-finished job. It’s incomplete (and dare I say, almost meaningless – in a way) to have sin just taken away without the rebirth of new life. Good Friday without Easter is like the night without the following dawn.

The lesson is important on this Easter day, 2017, because it symbolizes a return of me. Dear Reader, you may have noticed that I’ve been absent on Sharing God’s Story. This is due to my being… out, of sorts. My thinking this morning revealed to me that the old doubt and disbelief had been creeping back into my mind and soul, taking my body along with it, exactly like feasting on Good Friday without drinking in The Third Day and living again. I had lost The Light, the passion of belief from my early days of faith. I had lost sight of God; my eyes focused, instead (and again), lustfully on this world.

I pray that this figurative resurrection, one of an uncountable number of second chances, this time will continue. I have, at least, continued journaling, and have a backlog of topics to blog about. Please rejoin me in Sharing God’s Story In My One Small, Salvaged Life.

“Let It Play” No More

Hey. (Hmmm, yes?)

I had a thought… (That’s good- kind of like breathing is good.)

Lol. I was just thinking, you know how ____ happened today, and we did ____? (Yes, that was good – the right thing to do.)

Well, it occurred to me that the old me would’ve let that play out – because there might have been something … nice for us- (You mean nice for you, Flesh.)

Right, I keep forgetting… (I know! But you have changed, that’s for sure.)

Although The Book says I’ll ever be the same… (Technically… but that was when Mind followed your lead. Wiser… heads prevail now.)

Yes, I understand that … now. I still say I was just ignorant before… (You were and are easily tempted to chase whatever feels good, Flesh. It’s kind of the way you were made- running from danger does keep you alive, as you know. It was when Mind… didn’t ‘mind’ the shop, so to speak, that you both got into trouble.)

Such trouble! Lol! I’m so glad that I can laugh about those days now- (Laugh only a little, I hope. Some… evil things were done when you got going under the influence.)

I know. I know. And I am truly, deeply sorry I was the cause of such things… I can never forget. Sometimes, I can feel Mind getting really down on us again… starts telling me things would be better off- (Without being accusatory, Flesh, that is your depressive chemical imbalance speaking, but I see what you’re saying. Yes, your slate is clean- spiritually. You simply must not forget that earthly consequences are not at all the same thing. I can’t save you from those.)

… (You still awake?)

Ya, I was just thinking… it’s the ‘team’ of us that gets us by in this world. Y’know each doing what we’re supposed to do; what we’re each good at… (Lol! One might say yours is not the thinking! Ha! That’s a good one! Mind does the thinking and deciding, and you do the moving and heavy lifting. Except when there’s bears- then you have the authority to get us out of here!)

Lol! And those stinging bugs! ‘We hates them, Precious!’ (Ah, great movie! Good redemptive story! It’s on again tomorrow, maybe we could-) My turn to interrupt! We’ve got responsibilities to take care of, you know! But… if we get everything done, maybe there’ll be enough time to relax for a bit.

(As long as you stop relaxing when the time is up…)

Yes. Yes, I get it now:

“Let it play” (No more!)

(Now, put the phone away and go to sleep. It’s 1:30 in the morning!)

I’m thirsty. I think I’ll get a glass of water. (You just did.)

“What must I do?”

Recovery Lesson #6: ACTION

Celebrate Recovery, Principle 3:

Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.
Happy are the meek. (Matthew 5:4)

Biblically-based Twelve Steps, Step 3:

We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy (wholly) and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

So far, we’ve been kind of just preparing for this recovery journey – the things we’ve “done” have been more spiritual, mental, and emotional than physical actions. First, we realized and admitted that we have a problem, that we’ve been in denial about it, but that now we are ready to make a change, ready to try something new. Perhaps we’ve been stopped dead in our tracks by a revelation about or directly from something beyond ourselves – something that can only be attributed to a higher power.

frodoNext, we came to believe, to really, earnestly believe that there is a Higher Power, if not that that Higher Power is God, our Creator. The idea has been planted in us that, with this being’s power to remake us, we have hope of being restored to a life of sanity. If you are anything like me, you are now ready to fight back – you have finally, quietly yet desperately asked, “What must I do?” (Kind of like Frodo in the early part of The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring.)

The One Ring of (evil) Power is a great analogy for addiction. If you’re not familiar with the story, this very common and average guy, Frodo, is given this magic ring that can make him disappear. At first, this is terrific – being invisible has its advantages. But the ring’s power over him grows and grows until it has become his master, his precious thing to run to and hide in. And there’s only one way to escape and destroy it – to literally travel into the heart of the baddest of badlands and then choose to let it go into the volcanic fires of the aptly named ‘Mt Doom’. It’s an extreme expedition full of dangers that is not likely to succeed even if he were backed by an army of 10,000 trained soldiers. Instead, Frodo must accomplish the task himself, with the help and support of a small group of companions, who are more or less on the same journey, but who have their own paths to follow. In the end, it comes down to Frodo and the one faithful friend who has never left him, who literally carries him the final steps. (For us, that friend is Jesus.)

The point is that there is ACTION we can take, things we can do, steps we can walk to get started on this trip.

The acronym ACTION stands for:

Accept
Commit
Turn it over
It’s only the beginning
One day, (one moment) at a time
Next step

joyBut first, let’s look at what we have done so far and take a moment to celebrate recovery. We have accomplished a lot! We have taken action already!  We’ve admitted, realized, accepted, came to believe, and mourned. We have done a lot of work! Since these are sedentary, thoughtful actions, however, we’re ready to physically move. I found in my own recovery that I was amped up for some ‘physical activity’ by this time. I was asking, “What can I do?”

Let me summarize where I was. I’d had decades of descending levels of acting out. Then something happened – my mom’s death. It was a change to my status quo that set me off. Within a month I had taken acting out to a new extreme – my rock bottom moment. I sought help, and – finally open to the possibility of a higher power – I began to read and seek to learn more. But I didn’t truly believe until – still falling regularly to my addiction – I hit another, deeper bottom – a suicide attempt – and was literally saved by the divine intervention of Jesus Christ. (There is no other explanation for how it happened.)

The great thing about recovery is, that even though it took some time for me to earnestly believe God exists, all it really took to get started was my initial willingness to simply consider the possibility. Part of what I had been denying was God himself. To me, He just wasn’t “logical”. Theories like evolution and the big bang made more sense to me. This faithlessness was a part of what made me susceptible to addictive behaviors: along with my pride, fear, guilt, worry, doubt, pain, fear, and stubbornness – for which I had no help, there were feelings of life’s worthlessness, meaninglessness, and emptiness, and the hopelessness that comes with thoughts like “why bother?” and “why me?”

So, in a sense, all I had ACCEPTed at first was simply that I might be wrong in my disbelief. And at that point I became ready to consciously choose something different, to change my definition of willpower to: “the willingness to accept that there might be some being outside myself who has the power to save me.” It then became a question of how much I was willing to buy in to this possibility. And, when Jesus literally intervened to spare my life, there was only one thing I could do. I spent a week in the psych ward thinking solely upon this decision.

I had to go all in. I had to COMMIT fully. All my life and will. I made a decision to TURN it all over. Everything. To offer my whole life. Accept. Commit. Turn.

I want to say something quickly about not choosing, about not taking a side. The band Rush has a song called “Freewill” in which they sing:
geddy-lee

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice!

There are only two choices. With the celestial God or against Him. If I was not with God in everything I did from that moment on, then I was against him.

Proverbs 3:6 TLB
In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.

In everything. Everything that I have left to give. Something hit me at that moment, that proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that God existed, that I mattered to Him, and that I was at long last on the path to new life. The crowning piece of evidence – which every one of us in this room can claim – is: I am alive! I am still alive, in spite of everything that I have been through, everything that has happened to me, everything that has been done to me or that I have done to myself. This ball game is not over! I was the 2004 Red Sox, down three games to none, losing in the ninth inning of Game 4. But it was not over!

red-sox-2004
I looked back at my life and saw other crucial moments and critical events that backed up the presence of God’s protecting hand. He was protecting me for this day, when I would return to Him, and then travel onward, fully with Him .

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, and not as I would have it.

its-all-true
We all know this line from the Serenity Prayer. It speaks to the true reality. I now knew that God exists. That means “it’s all true.” (Just like in the movie Galaxy Quest.) The Good and the Bad. God is. And Evil exists – Satan exists – and he intentionally tries to make me fall!

But God has something better planned for me. An important part for me to play in this spiritual war.

Hebrews 12:12-13
You have become weak, so make yourselves strong again. Live in the right way so that you will be saved and your weakness will not cause you to be lost.

1 Peter 5:8-9
Be self-controlled and alert! Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Matthew 11:28-30 TLB
Come to me, and I will give you rest. Wear my “yoke” and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls, for I give you only light burdens.

There are three important things these verses helped me to realize. First, contrary to what evil had been trying to convince me, I was not alone. There are many others who understand what I was going through. Second, there was a way I could fight back. A way I could become strong again. A right way for me. For me.

Jesus says He is the way, and this is true, in general, but for each of us, there are specific, personal actions to take. I know that x, y, and z are not good for me – they are my weaknesses, so I must stay away from them – no matter what anyone else does. Everyone has their own weaknesses that they must work on.

The third thing I realized was that the way to combat my weaknesses was to learn about them, and to learn about Jesus and build a personal relationship with Him, and that this is something I must choose to undertake every day. It’s an ongoing process, a lifelong journey of seeking and following God’s will.

Let’s go back now to our acronym. We’ve Accepted, Committed, and Turned. The “I” reminds us that “It’s only the beginning” of our journey, and the “O” reminds us that we must take it One Day, One Moment at a time. Every day, every moment. This day. Today.

Matthew 6:34 TLB
Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow, too.
Live one day at a time.

Living one day at a time. Enjoying one moment at a time.

img_3337I want to conclude with some specific, deliberate things we can do – things we must do – to stay on this path to sanity, and continue to build our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. These are concrete actions we can take.

First, we must go on the offensive! The best defense is a good offense. For us in recovery, being on offense means pro-actively getting ourselves prepared. We’re all already doing one thing that helps us do that: attending meetings. Building a list of support contacts. Getting phone numbers and email addresses.

Second, there is one sure way to get to know all about God and his purpose for us: dedicating daily time with Him, reading the Scriptures, journaling our thoughts and progress, recognizing what we have to be thankful for, and meditating and praying ceaselessly.

Third, when we are tempted – and we will be tempted, mercilessly – we must look for God’s way out.

1 Corinthians 10:13
The only temptations you have are the same temptations that all people have. But you can trust God. He will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also give you a way to escape that temptation. Then you will be able to endure it.

That way out may be a phone call, a meeting, or even just falling to my knees in desperate prayer, crying out to God. But there is always a way. I can promise you that. And I can promise that eventually, it gets easier to resist temptations. They won’t go away completely, but they will get easier to bear.

Meanwhile, the “N” in ACTION stands for “Next Step”. We have only just begun this journey, and there is a long way to go. I have another acronym to help to make sure we are on the path. It’s B.A.S.E.
Ask yourself,
– Do I Believe in Christ and His resurrection
– Do I Accept God’s forgiveness for all my sins
– Am I Switching to God’s plan for my life
– Am I Expressing my desire for Christ

The next step is where we begin to get down and dirty: our spiritual and moral inventory. Establishing a daily practice of quality time with God will help us get ready for this.

Are you ready to move and fight for and with God?

“I Am What I Do Today”

Journal entry, March 22. 2009
Background: My mom’s death, March 13, 2008, was the event that kicked off my journey of recovery and transformation from pornography use and self-harm (and many other things). (Jokingly, I like to say that “18-1” that February might also have had a little something to do with it…) A little more than a year later, I wrote a series of very introspective entries about what I had learned – how I had already changed – in those short twelve months of recovery (and eight months of sexual sobriety). [Minor edits in brackets.]

This entry is entitled “What do I mean by ‘I am what I do today?'”

I am what I am – a man who must follow some strict behaviors in order to be sexually pure for his wife.
man who believes fervently in God and Jesus.
man who takes one moment at a time.
man learning to be whole.
whole man, fighting to stay that way.
man who is loved, by God, by his family and friends.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stands against the devil’s schemes.
Ephesians 6:10-11

What do I mean by “I am what I do today?”

This statement is in the present tense. Now is all I can affect. I can not change the past. The future will always be something yet to come.

While it is true that what I have done can be used to define me, whole-ly, without considering my recovery, it is most honest, and most considerate to me, to look at what I am doing now. In this sense, these eight months [since my suicide attempt in July] do outweigh the previous 32 years [basically, since puberty].

This is why I introduce myself as a “recovering (present tense) child of God” at [my sex addict support] group. I am a man with a past that contains perversity and deprivation BUT I recognize and admit that my actions were sinful (and there is only one kind of sin). I have confessed (past tense) those actions and been forgiven (past tense) for those actions. I am a believer in God and His Son, Jesus, and His plan for my salvation. Each day is my chance to show and live this.

The keyword in “I am what I do today” is “do”. Faith/belief together with action is expressed by this word. It shows that I know I must live by/within limits – because I am (present tense) how I have been made (past tense) to be. This is the only way my past is a part of me today. I need, I must adhere to strict behaviors or risk falling back down to a level I, with God’s help, have risen [above] and continue to rise daily above. [I think I kind of stress God’s part in the recovery more in 2016.]

Some will say, “Once a pervert, always a pervert.” All I can say is, “I am what I do today, not what I have done yesterday, nor what I could do tomorrow.”

If a man is condemnable for his past or future, then we are all bound for hell, for we all have had or will have moments or [even just] thoughts of sin.

So, do not throw the first stone. [This was my first realization of “Judge not, lest you be judged.”]

[End of entry.]

Today (2016), I can see that this line of thought was one of my first steps on the path of forgiving myself, (and truly accepting God’s forgiveness of me). In retrospect, it is easier for us (those filled with shame and guilt over the things we did after we were warped by the things that were done to us) – it is easiest for us to forgive others and hardest, still, to forgive ourselves. Because of this difficulty, we have a hard time understanding how God forgives.

When doubt about God’s existence hits me, doubt about my forgive-able-ness follows right behind, and I again cycle through James 1:8

A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.

“The past is history.
The future is a mystery.
Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.”

Powerlessness

Celebrate Recovery, Principle 1:
Realize I am not God. Admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.
Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.
Matthew 5:3

Biblical 12 steps, Step 1:
We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
Romans 7:18

Celebrate Recovery Lesson 2 is about our being – about our finally realizing – that we are missing something inside us; that without it, we are powerless, we are out of control. Alone, on our own, despite many, many attempts to change ourselves, we are again in a bad place. We can not deny the evidence before our very eyes any longer. We find ourselves in: a prison cell. A rehab program. A hospital room. An empty house. Sobbing. In shock. In literal pain – but maybe from a hurt we can not see, only feel. At “rock bottom”, we are desperately ready to try something completely different to help us change. (We just don’t know what that something is, yet…)

Everyone is subject to this. Take, for example, those who make “New Year’s Resolutions”. Think to yourself how many times you have made such a resolution, and why. What brought you to that point, where such a “formal commitment of willpower” was necessary?  Why did you want to start something new – or to change something – neatly lining up with the first day of a new year, the annual symbol of “new beginnings”. But how many times did you make/have you made a resolution about that same behavior?

CR is based on the Bible, and there is a chapter that describes this condition of Powerlessness perfectly: Romans Chapter 7. Here, from the Easy-To-Read Version, is a section called The War Inside Us:

The War Inside Us

14 We know that [God’s] law is spiritual, but I am not. I am so human. Sin rules me as if I were its slave. 15 I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do the good I want to do, and I do the evil I hate. 16 … I don’t want to do what I do … 18 [So] Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is not spiritual. I want to do what is good, but I don’t do it. 19 I don’t do the good that I want to do. I do the evil that I don’t want to do.

21 So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. 22 In my mind I am happy with God’s law. 23 But I see another law working in my body. That law makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and that law makes me its prisoner. 24 What a miserable person I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death?

Again, we all know this experience: of wanting to do one thing, but doing the opposite.

What we want to do includes: what we know we should do, because it’s our responsibility or because it is the “right” thing to do; and what we know we should not do, because it is not the right time or place or it is not right to do something so much.

The principle says, instead of doing what we want to do, we have “the tendency to do the wrong thing”. This is lightweight. The step use stronger language, calling them what they are: uncontrollable “addictions and compulsive behaviors”. We know that the definitions of these words clearly indicate our lost ability to choose. CR in general describes them as “hurts, habits, and hangups”.

Regardless of what word you use, all of these behaviors started out as something we chose to do that simply felt good, and because it felt good it made us feel better – for a time. But somehow, we are now at the point where we can not resist doing these things we don’t want to do, no matter how much we try. We are Powerless over them. We are slaves to them.

Last lesson, we talked about Denial. We learned that the very, very first moment in recovery is the realization that we’ve been fooling ourselves. We saw in an instant that we do, in fact, have a problem. A big problem. Today, we begin to realize why: because we are – we have become – completely powerless in exercising our own willpower, in controlling our own bodies.

Close your eyes and imagine with me. (I assume we’ve all driven a car?) OK. You are in the car, in the driver’s seat. You know you should be able to control the speed and steering of the car, to make it go where you decide to go. But, the car doesn’t do what you tell it to. No matter how you spin the wheel or pump the pedals, the car goes its own way, like it was under someone else’s control.

Your mind is the driver. Your physical body is the car. Your mind should be able to control your body, but doesn’t. It can’t. Something else has taken over. Call it sin, weakness, addictive or compulsive behaviors, whatever. We suddenly understand powerlessness. We know we need help,and are ready to try something completely different – something from “outside” ourselves.

But first, we need to consider – not what the addictive or compulsive behavior is – we are well aware of that – but instead we have to begin looking into why we needed those behaviors to make us feel better in the first place. This need to feel better is a valid one. Something inside hurts, and, in response, we turned to our addictions.

The acronym for Powerless is a list of possible causes. Some of these are hurts buried deep in our past. Some are recurring annoyances or temptations or situations which disturb us and make us feel uncomfortable:

Pride – begins the list because it is the number one thing that gets in our way. Very simply, we know we should be able to control ourselves, to drive that car. We continue to think that if we just apply ourselves a little more, we can get control. We think we don’t need any help. “Pride comes before a fall.”
Pride ends in a fall, while humility brings honor. (Proverbs 29:23)
Beginning to realize our denial and our powerlessness is the first steps toward humility: admitting our own weakness and frailty, and our need for help. When we know what are weaknesses are, we can begin to be strong.

Only Ifs – Or “What if” or “if only”. If only this had/hadn’t happened. If only that person had done or not done that. This is the “blame game”. It is how we avoid dealing with reality. It is not accepting What Is, but rather whining full-time for “what shoulda/coulda/woulda been”.

Worry – There are so many things to worry about: financial, romantic, the future, our families, our jobs or how we will provide income. We can even worry about worrying too much. “Live one day at a time.” What we have lost or never been aware of is what it’s like to trust that someone/somehow we will be all right. We will learn more about this in the coming steps.

Escape – As addicts, we’re all very good at escaping – from reality. From our responsibilities. Escapism is what we have been practicing all these years of our addictions.

Resentment – is anger that we have hung onto, and let fester deep inside. It’s a slow poison to our good feelings of joy, peace, and love. It makes us impatient, harsh, and unkind with others and our situations. It keeps us from persevering, to see our resolutions through. It shows up in every situation as a big dark cloud over our heads.

Loneliness – Our hurts drive us away from others. We think we are unique in that we hurt. So, we isolate, become lonely, and our bad behaviors become our best friends.

Emptiness – We realize that there is something missing inside us. That our way of living, by running to these addictions and compulsions, is empty.

Selfishness – This is the hardest to realize. It seems like a contradiction. But we feel it, deep down: “It’s better to give than receive.” To give and receive, not to take.
Whoever clings to this life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life shall save it. (Luke 17:33)

Separation – This can be from other people, but primarily it is about separation from that something that we feel is missing in our lives. We will begin to learn what we have been missing (God) in the next lessons.

This is where we begin to see the need for a Higher Power – that something outside and above us is greater than we are and greater than we can ever be. Something – someONE – who cares about us, and wants to empower us to become the driver of the car.

Thanksgiving, 2008

In 2008, the Patriots went 18-1, my mother passed away, and I began recovery after hitting rock bottom in acting out, and again with a suicide attempt. On that incredible, miraculous eventful day, however, Jesus finally got through to me, and completely changed my life.

This is my journal entry for Thanksgiving 2008 [with a few minor punctuation edits, some comments in brackets, and some emphasis in italics]:

“Slept in – awake 8:30! 2008 what a year. I still miss my Mom. I’ve got a scar I can’t [see]. A memory that will never be forgotten. I’m 100x closer to my wife and trying to get that close to my children. I’m breaking forty-year-old habits. And making something happen. [My motto had always been “waiting for something to happen”.]

“A year of pain, terror, great love. And the biggest change (although, maybe not, because He has been with me all along – I just didn’t realize it): God and Jesus in my life. 2008.

“I feel amazed at how much I’ve been through this year – how many moments I don’t think I’ll forget. Awestruck like a child, but with a tinge of sadness for what has been lost and what still has to be lost – for what had to be necessary to bring me to this day. ‘It’s that in me which wants to run and hide’ (Nov 24 [see my previous post]). To change. To learn. To fix. To improve. And to take time to rest and reflect (like today) and to play, too. But to keep moving forward, no matter how painful – because there will be joy again.

“God, I’m so sad right now, writing this. The next few years will be emotionally the hardest for our generation, because the previous generation, their time done, will all be called home. My Mom was just the first. And the world will look to us.

“But let me not focus on sorrow.
‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’ Psalm 30:5

“Joy. Joy to simply be here, able to write this today, able to write on this topic, given this year 2008. I am alive, and I have a reason to be alive. A reason to be thankful.

“I am blessed. Blessed to be who I am, a very interesting series of thoughts and experiences am I! Blessed with enough – despite the ‘hardships’ and extravagances of this decade. I sit here in warmth, with a pantry full, in a happy home – knowing that we will continue to move forward, having learned [the meaning of] ‘enough’. What a word! Blessed with family, unique each, full of potential, capable, and loving, (although, a challenge 🙂 ).

“I am blessed. I am awed at that. That Jesus – even the mere concept of Jesus – (who in this world would conceive of Jesus – it’s unlikely; it’s so unlikely so it must be true) – that Jesus would consider me bless-able. That is what – more than anything else – inspires me to want to fix, learn, improve, CHANGE.

“Change. The only unchanging thing in this existence. Change… chain-ge… Bound by it, we are. Consider a sports team [yes, I’m a lifelong Patriots fanatic]: the players change, come and go, but a well-managed team succeeds despite; the sum of its parts. For a brief time, so brief; so brief we are not even aware of it – aware that we are ‘there’, in a time of joy; a time when all seems well, fun, simple, complete, at peace, operating smoothly. But, change.

“Even in a family. Children grow, expand, become more each day. Even each of us, growing, learning, fixing, improving, changing. But, so often, we find a spot in time, and try to hunker down in it. I think I realize that now – the no time will ever last long – long enough – in this existence. That’s the concept of heaven: all those times of joy, lasting. I feel understanding about this. I’ve always been resisting of change, working to stay in those joyful times. Not accepting that need for opposites: no joy without sorrow. A thing has no meaning without its opposite – no distinction. So change in the pendulum’s swing between opposites, left/right, right/wrong.”

From ‘Rock Bottom’ (wow, that’s deep)

Entering recovery with blood on my hands was not my rock bottom. I had further down to go. Maybe that’s why “90 meetings in 90 days” is so strongly recommended – because I didn’t, and my literal attempt at immediate self-destruction came about three months after God had stomped the brakes on the behaviors that were slowly consuming me. Wow, that’s a deep depth to fall to.

Picture a bungy jump in slow, slow motion from way, way on high: decades of free fall – in “real-time” hurtling towards death, with the awakening coming at the cord’s first tug. But then there’s the stretching, the relapse and stinking-thinking dragging me even lower, until the abrupt jerk of the absolute limit of the lifeline. God didn’t let it break, and ever since, I’ve been on a rebound that hasn’t stopped climbing higher and higher.

Recovery is me “swimming” in air, trying to do something – anything to continue the change, the upward movement, that He began in that miraculous instant, when he restored, repaired, and healed the deepest, innermost broken part of me. My flailing equates to learning and prayer and journaling and serving and, above all, listening to Him speak His Word.

I recently began reading my journals from the very beginning: the day I got home from the “behavioral center”. (I had finally taken seriously my need to follow through on this very basic self-improvement habit.) The entry I read today: Wow, it’s deep!

“The urge to re-engage in that behavior still surfaces, but I look at it, seeing it for what it is: deception, immoral selfishness harming my entire family, as near to evil as I can come… my physical parts… are given [to] me as a gift, a means of connecting and sharing with just one, my soulmate, my partner for life…

“[Blame] that in me which desires to run and hide – hide in it
[which] desires not to change,
[not] to fix,
[not] to learn,
[not] to improve,
[not to grow],
[which desires] to keep a status quo,
because at least it is known and familiar,
even if it is lonely and painful.”
(11/24/08)

Instinctually, a being reacts with fight, flight, or freeze. I had been paralyzed, unable to do anything differently, primarily, I think, because of fear. Fear of pain. Fear of the pain of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of loss – the potential for loss. Fear of shame and guilt, despite their having become my very closest “friends”. Recovery is revving up to move differently, powered by an internal-combustion engine, with ignition by God’s healing touch. It’s driving past fear, though not always speedily, with my attention focused solely (soul-ly?) on the road ahead.

Men of Integrity is excerpting a great book this week, Dan Baumann’s A Fresh Look At Fear. Dan writes,

“… getting over fear isn’t the goal of our faith, but living to discover and know God is … As I began to switch my attention to simply knowing and enjoying God, I [became] overwhelmed by how good He is [instead of being overwhelmed by all my attempts to to get over fear]…
“… the peace and joy of the Lord… [is] what I actually wanted all along.”

John 14:15
If you love me, you will obey me.

In that moment of ultimate desperation – Rock Bottom – what happened is that I realized God’s love and mercy for me. Isn’t that deep?!

“… we long for tangible signs … but seeing God take care of me and rescue me … how merciful he was to me…
“As … follower[s] of Jesus, we are invited to discover his love again and again…”
Baumann

Picture Matthew 13:44: A man discovers treasure in a field, and goes to sells everything he has so he can buy that field. What am I willing to sell – to let go of – in order to be able to have it?

Father God, You speak in such simple ways that we often miss the message completely. We are so looking for overtures of majesty – Holy Majesty – an introduction to a coming sign with trumpet fanfare. But we walk right by because You work with subtlety. A whispered, nudging voice. An inflection or the wink of an eye, the nod of a head. If we’re not focused on you, we’re looking the other way at just the wrong time. Lord, slow my senses down enough to catch – to find the beauty, to realize the “the peace and joy of the Lord are what I’ve wanted all along.”

Peace and joy aren’t big, impressive showy feelings. They’re in the depths of me, first, producing calm, trusting serenity and contentment, truly understanding, knowing, and believing that You, O Lord, will always “take care of me and rescue me”, even when it will be by calling me home.