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.

The Plan of Attack: an Inside Job

The Gospel’s plan of attack is an inside job; but in a sense, so is the dark side’s.

My morning’s time with the Lord started with 1 Peter 5:8-9. Those are the verses that warn us, “The devil is your enemy, and he goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to attack and devour.” Tricia Goyer writes about a safari she went on, where she witnessed lions beginning the hunt. The big cats weren’t roaring – yet. They were maneuvering in stealth, patiently closing in on their prey, spying out the weak and wandering. When they were heard, it was too late. For some poor creature.

A classic example of ‘us and them’. Some would say, humankind is no different. That we’re basically animals. It’s in our nature to kill or be killed. If the #1 question is whether the force that created us has a personality and purpose, then this has to be one of the next: what is it that separates us from all other species? (A: it has to be either nothing or something.)

I say it is our ability to rise above our instincts. For example, my son is a vegetarian; my daughter a vegan. Clearly, they have both made a conscious choice that goes completely against what their parents (and ancestors) taught as one of our foundational needs: what to eat. (We ain’t bred to eat just bread?)

‘How we shall live’ covers quite a lot of behaviors, obviously. But I think that ignoring our spiritual side is most dangerous to our survival. On the whole. As the ‘animals’ that people this earth. IOW, we need to think upon – to consider – what created us. To decide what we believe. To choose. And then live from where this belief starts us. The beauty of it is, even if one doesn’t agree there’s a purpose-driven creator, humans are still faced with rising above – if only to live peacefully together. (Of course, I’m assuming – again – that that is what we all want.)

Tricia continues:

“…in God’s Word, we are told to stand firm. …we have Jesus standing up for us. And even when our enemy roars, our Lord stands stronger. No one is immune from the attack, but all believers have a shield of protection in Jesus Christ.”

In short, there is a way to get above our impulses, our needs-driven, me-against-the world urges. It’s something that can be followed and learned. Studied. By hitting ‘the books’.

Moving on, Men of Integrity continued with excerpts from this week’s book, Recovering Redemption (I think I will definitely get this and read the whole thing), by Chandler and Snetzer. From 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” Ephesians 4:17-32 were the “dig deeper” verses:

“…don’t continue living like those who don’t believe… leave your old self… stop living the evil way you lived before… be that new person who was made to be like God…”

Certainly, this a clear indication we are able – and even expected – to change. To grow. To grow up. Upwards. That spiritual formation and development is a vital part of life.

I want to point out something very important about the New Testament, summarized in Ephesians 4:17. “Don’t continue living like those who don’t believe.” Nowhere does it say “kill the unbelievers” or “force them to convert” or especially even “hate them.” It implies continuing to live beside them, and directly states to not live like them. Hate the sin, yes; but love the sinner. Because, ultimately, salvation is only in the sinner’s personal relationship with his/her creator. Nothing external does that work. Believers can only be an example – not a standard – in our deeds (primarily) and our words. It’s how we deal with live – which will have troubles – that shows we have something better. Something to want.

From Recovering Redemption:

“Religion is always outside-in, but the Gospel goes from the inside out.”

The Gospel’s plan of attack is an inside job. Christianity is all – and only – about – in a word – self-improvement. Self-discipline. Self-discipling. (Learning. Studying. Growing.)

“…these things still require a battle of self-discipline, since we remain in the process of learning how to quiet those lazy, deceptive voices inside ourselves. But we’re not seeking God to get [accolades]. We’re seeking him to enjoy even greater intimacy with him, [and] to open more and more of those inner closets we’ve tried to restrict [him from accessing], thinking he might reject us if he knew…
“…we study his Word …attack our sin, share generously… serve the people around us… because [God] wants us to dig even deeper into the treasury of his blessings, into the joy and sweetness and abundant living his Gospel unlocks for us.”

Sure, we still have an instinct to attack. But the correct target is only our own old lesser self. The me of yesterday. What can I do today that makes me better? At living with people.

I started off by saying the ‘dark side’ also uses a plan of attack from the inside. To elaborate this, the example of the wolf in sheep’s clothing is more appropriate. Lions quietly sneak up on and deploy themselves for the sudden roaring charge. Wolves quietly insert themselves into the herd of “us” and assassinate one by one. They stir “us” up against a perceived external attacker (“them”), all the while they are the divisive enemy.

Note: I write this the morning after Nice. And I’m really wondering if we are called to … preserve… the peace and safety and security that civilized community requires. Spiritual formation is best done under these conditions?

All ability comes from and for you.

So many juicy, lush phrases I could use as the title for today’s blog!

“I love James Altucher.”

“Oh, So Trippable.”

“O.T.” Another Way to Spell “Ought”.

“Pridefall”.

“Desire Does Not Equal Ability”.

“Blog-Plug. AKA Name Drop”

“I Must Be Getting Better”.

Maybe starting at the beginning will help me to choose. It’s become usual for me to wake early. Can I call it “overwhelming desire to get together with the Lord?” Yes. Yes, I do nap during the day – OK, that might have something to do with it. But, in reverse. Which came first, the napping or the early rising? (With my myriad health issues, these are patterns that developed together. Note: did you know “myriad” classically means a unit of ten thousand? And, as an adjective, it means “countless or extremely great in number.” So, it would be correct to write “a myriad of issues,” or “myriad issues”. That’s some cool and useful knowledge, right there!)

Where was I? Oh, yes. I must be getting better. About getting up early. And napping. Less. Or more! Getting better at writing – ’cause I didn’t make it past the editorial intro, “Flexing Your Muscles“, to the May-June issue of Men of Integrity magazine before my brain was churning out blog ideas. I really love this publication. It’s full of week-long excerpts from relevant books, which really compounds your reading list. Please, check it out.

Blog-Plug two: a book I’m already tempted (in a good way) to get, and the subject of said editorial, Tim Chaddick’s The Truth About Lies. Such beautiful and true combinations of words, both in the intro and quoted from the book! (Including the word lush.) “Each time we choose truth in the face of a lie, we are, in a sense, flexing muscles in our spiritual life that grow stronger with each challenge.” “Ever since our first mother and father chose to indulge…” “…the empty promises of forbidden fruit, or, will we obey God and trust that his rewards are better?”

Obey. Trust. OT (pronounced “ought”). We OT to obey and trust. A new acronym! (We Celebrate Recovery people love acronyms!) (That was plug three, of course.)

“I want the pleasure of sin more than the reward of obedience.” “…When you reject temptation, your allegiance to Christ grows stronger” [like] “…athletes… fueled by a love for their sport that … gives them the resolve to reject… they grow a little bit stronger, faster, tougher.” Recently, when I was choosing video games over remaining abstinent, I could literally feel myself saying, in effect, I want this more. How humbling!  How great to be given the words to so aptly describe what I was feeling! (“Apt” is an excellent acronym word. Stand by for a good meaning.)

The only caveat I would add, though, is still, oh, so trippable. Perhaps, we become more able for our purpose (to compete in the sport). However, my pridefall warning bells were clanging at the thought that I could ever be – in my own strength – better able to lift myself out of harm’s way. It might be better (for me) to say it is my desire to obey that grows, but not my ability. I forever will depend on Jesus for that.

I’m reminded of my brother-in-law, Marty. Because he was in the Air Force, he would run a lot. One day, his foot hit a sidewalk slab that was uneven – and his femur snapped! All the training was as nothing, and he still limps today.

“Each test that temptation brings your way is another opportunity to affirm and grow your love for Jesus.” So very true! “… Use it as a reminder to praise and profess your obedience…”, to declare emphatically your belief and faith “… that his way is better.”

Wow, I feel like I didn’t actually do any of the writing of this entry – so much of it was quotes. But that leaves just one name-drop to explain: I Love James Altucher. James is a blogger and author and pod-caster, founder (if that’s the right word) of the Choose Yourself approach to life in this new era. I credit him as the one who finally got me writing and delivering – no, that’s the wrong word – pursuing my creative dreams and what I believe is the big piece of God’s vision for me, Sharing God’s Story in my life. James is famous for recommending the practice of “write 10 ideas every day.” In other words, just do it. That got me just writing, which has turned into a post almost daily for me. Thank You, James!

Thank You, Heavenly Father, Saviour Son, and Holy Spirit within. All ability comes from and for you.