Who’s In Charge In Here, Anyway?

Who’s In Charge In Here, Anyway?

Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution? Ever had to make the same one more than once? Have you ever started a statement with the words, “I want to…” “I’m going to…” “I think I should…”? Have you actually reached those goals in your life? Do you have compulsions to act in certain ways or have plain old bad behaviors? Are you a serial procrastinator? Are you addicted to anything?

img_2915Think about this for a moment: If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, then quite simply, You are doing something Yourself doesn’t want to do. Did you catch that? Does it sound like there are two people, two wills, operating inside you?

There are. There is the one doing those things and the one who doesn’t want to do them and instead, wants to do these other things, that are probably much better for your health, wealth, and your true happiness.

Would it surprise you to learn that this has been a problem for people for thousands of years? Here’s a quote from quite a long time ago:

“Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong.”

Or to put it another way:

“I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I don’t want to do.”

img_0885So I have a question for you, “Who’s in charge inside of you, anyway?” One way to answer this is to think of those two selves as your body and your mind. Body wants everything that’s fun and pleasurable; Mind has dreams of being something in this world. The two are at war because bringing dreams to life requires hard work and sacrifices; it means Body gets less – sometimes far less – of what it lusts for.

I have good news and bad news for you. There is a way to break these habits, BUT it’s no miracle cure, no single button to be pushed or spell to be incanted. Transforming your life is a day-by-day journey, a voyage of discovery, and likely is a lifelong trip.

If you want to be the best you can be, take hope, it is very possible, but there are a few important facts to know before you start.

#1 The right word

First and most importantly, your “best” is that condition you have reached when you’ve run out of time. It’s the furthest you’ll ever get in this life. Were you ever to reach your “best,” you’d have nowhere to go but down. Better to want to be … better. Better today than you were yesterday, last week, last year. Behavioral change is all about progress, not perfection.

#2 You can’t do it alone

small-groupThere’s a saying, “People don’t lack strength, they lack will (power).” The way to build the determination you need is with support, especially support from others who are traveling the same path as you are. This is the idea behind 12-step programs like “______ Anonymous” and “Celebrate Recovery.” You meet with and get to know people who understand what you’re going through and why, and you share the struggle, out loud. You talk about it. You listen. You learn helpful stuff.

It also is a benefit (a huge benefit) to have an “authority” figure with expertise in self-improvement, in renewing lives. (For many, that ‘higher power’ is God or The Creator of everything. The reasoning is that He created each of us, so who better to know how to get us working well and feeling good?)

#3 You can’t “stop,” you must replace

I have a saying, “Thinking about not doing something, is the same as thinking about doing effortit – you are still thinking about it.” Call this a Law of Attraction. If your mind is focused on a thing, your body will follow right along to that thing. When you try to leave one habit behind, you must have somewhere new to head toward. With Mind focused on that (and not the old actions), Body follows and becomes able to do things you never thought possible.

#4 It’s no overnight stay

IMG_3215Here’s a great example: Imagine you’re relocating to a foreign country. It’s a permanent move, not a vacation. You have to learn the language, the customs and geography you now find your self in. You immerse yourself in it, but it’s still going to take time. Eventually, you’ll feel at home again. Each day you’ll make progress – sometimes only a little. It’s a process of improvement. It’s growing.

To conclude, I have a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Matrix. The characters in this film leave the real world to enter a simulated environment – a virtual reality. Their bodies remain behind, comfortably seated. If they die in that alternate setting, their bodies die, too.

“The body can not live without the mind.”

cslewisWe could go deep into philosophy and theology here and argue about whether the mind continues without the body or not, but the body definitely does not live without the mind. For me, that means that “I” am first my mind (the order giver) and secondly my body (the order taker).

“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

Hope For Life

This article appears in the New Beginnings newsletter, an Independent Prison Outreach Ministry, Summer 2017 Edition.

I have a good friend, ____, who some years ago served ____ years of a ____-year sentence for (a deadly serious crime). I’ve heard his testimony several times. He credits his time inside and the healing work of Jesus Christ for making him the man he has become: liberated from prison, college graduate, married, a father and grandfather, a man of God, full of faith and hope, giving back and paying forward in many ways (including visiting those inside), sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ; that all may be saved and set free. He was saved by Christ right in his cell and was immediately released (spiritually).

Released spiritually.

I have not been confined against my will, except for a few hours for a DUI in 1996 and a week-long stay at a behavioral health center following a suicide attempt, so I can’t relate literally to my friend’s experiences. But, like him, I am a lifer spiritually. The ironic thing is, today I’m “held” by my will, not against it.

You see, Christ found me on that same day I attempted to escape life, July 25, 2008. Before that day, I was in a prison of my own making, with bars of guilt and secrets, surrounded by a wall of shame, convicted in my heart and head of the things I know I did.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8 NIV

One thing my friend and I both have learned is that freedom and restoration are possible. These things are not at all circumstantial. You can be free no matter where you are. And all it takes is accepting a gift, receiving a new life. That gift is the one man who voluntarily accepted every sentence, punishment, and penalty, once and for all. He is Son of Man, Son of God.

Why would anyone, let alone a Son of God, do such a thing for the likes of us? One reason is that God is perfect, completely just and completely merciful. The only way He could fulfill his own verdict on sin and still hold each one of His creations dear is to pour out His wrath on Jesus.

But there’s another reason. He offers us this gift of being born again because he has an important task – a sacred mission – for every one of us, and He fully understands how we have been detoured and side-tracked and even kept ignorant of our purpose.

Now, my friend and I have something very much in common. We’ve been sentenced to life; a life of hope. Now that we know even a little about God and Christ, we will never be free from Him and the hope that he gives. And this is a very, very great feeling.

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
Even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
Zechariah 9:12 NIV

What do I hope for? Something, anything, everything better, even though I may not receive it until I finally meet my Maker face to face.

How does it work? I describe it being given a new attitude, a tiny piece of awareness that caused a complete reversal in the way I looked at myself and this world. This is miraculous because my outlook hadn’t been something I seemed to have much control over – especially about myself. Deep down, I did not love, or even like myself, and that made me miserable and angry.

If I had to choose a single word to explain what changed in me, it is acceptance. Acceptance of several things:

  • acceptance that there is a God with a plan for everything, and incredible, unbelievable love for me, even at my worst, because He created me
  • acceptance of reality – of my current place in this world, my circumstances (and that my own decisions had led to the mess I was in)
  • acceptance that there are many, many things I have no control over – specifically other people, and that actually, the only thing I can control is myself – my own thinking and reactions
  • acceptance  (and this is huge)  that God has something for me to do with this life

I can see that this is God’s story, and that mine is just one small chapter. This does not mean that my part in the story is small; it’s unique and vital in some way to the biggest picture. I may never know exactly how.

There is someone who is a great example of this faith, Nick Vujicic. You may have heard of him. You can google him. He was born with no arms and no legs. Think about that. He can’t do even the simplest of tasks by himself. But he can control what he thinks and how he would react to his circumstances. Today, he is very much alive and living, a successful (meaning $$$$$$) motivational speaker, a husband and father, and famous. And he is a Christ-follower with hope for life.

My Past Must Stay Passed

My Past Must Stay Passed

This is a post about a key part of being made new; living (present tense) in recovery today. My past must stay passed. I’ve posted about this before (patient-for-the-present/), but it’s worth repeating. Much of my falling down is caused by my falling back, re-living the same old hurts and habits. I literally repeat the same old bad behavior, expecting a different result.

Because I am doing something new! Now you will grow like a new plant. Surely you know this is true… (Isaiah 43:19a ERV)

Think of a plant, overgrown in a little pot. It’s roots are cramped. It stagnates, or worse. It stays small and it looks dreary. But move it to a bigger pot and it blossoms and increases. The moment I entered recovery was like being put into that bigger pot, with fresh new soil and room to grow and stretch.

Clearly, I remain the same person, my past doesn’t change, but now everything is new and full of potential. Bigger and better, I flower into the beauty the potter (lol I like the redefinition!) intended. And anything becomes possible, even what had seemed impossible before:

I will even make a road in the desert, and rivers will flow through that dry land. (v :19b)

But I remember that God is the difference, as the verse shows. (‘You’ will grow, ‘I’ will make.)  It’s not me on my own. Humbly, I acknowledge that He is the change in my life.

One of the things I like about the Celebrate Recovery 12-Step program is in its first word, ‘Celebrate!’ Present tense, it means now! This moment! It reminds me that I’m on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment journey of progress, not perfection. It reminds me to consider all the growing I have done: into a for-real worship musician, a program leader and teacher, a testimony sharer, and a volunteer experiencing the benefits of giving and service instead of taking, hoarding, and selfishness. I am living and not just existing!

Today I’m focusing on the new, the now, and what’s on the way, both in this life and the next. I can remember and accept my past and that it can’t be changed. But my past doesn’t define who I am now, and I understand that I do not have to keep going back to it, as if there is an answer in it.

Verse :18 puts it more directly:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

A great song that expresses this letting go of what’s behind is Let It Fade by Jeremy Camp.
Download it here for only 69 cents!

Have you been walking on a surface that’s uncertain?
Have you helped yourself to everything that’s empty? yeah!
You can’t live this way too long.
There’s more than this, more than this.

Have you been standing on your own feet too long?
Have you been looking for a place where you belong?
You can rest, you will find rest.
You can rest, you will find rest.

Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Let this new life offered be your saving grace.
Let this old life crumble, let it fade, let it fade.

Have you been holding on to what this world has offered?
Have you been giving in to all these masquerades?
It will be gone, forever gone.
It will be gone, it will be gone

Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Let this new life offered be your saving grace.
Let this old life crumble, let it fade, let it fade.
Let it fade.

Are you carrying the weight too much?, are you running from the call?
Let it fade, Oh yeah.
You can rest, you will find rest.
You can rest you will find rest.

Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Have you been standing on your own feet too long?
Have you been looking for a place where you belong?

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:

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:

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!

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.

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.”