“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.”

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.

Undeserved Privilege

“White Privilege”. There, I said it. It’s been burning in my mind for several days now, after a friend posted a meme that stressed the words, “We whites”. I responded in an un-Christian manner, because that phrase really got to me. Let me tell you why (but first, let me sincerely apologize for my manners. You know who you are.)

Using the pronoun “we” in conjunction with anything is to include yourself and myself. In the case of a negative thing, this amounts to accepting (or even claiming) responsibility. In the case of today’s socio-economic situation, this is most definitely undeserved guilt. To give a sense of why, I quote from a movie:

“None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended.”
Balian of Ibelin, Kingdom of Heaven

The only one capable of taking on undeserved guilt was Jesus Christ. It was The Undeserved Privilege of all time, and He did it willingly. I will not boast that I am able to do so great a thing. In short, you and I are not responsible for the way the world is, and I take offense at any words to that effect.

The only undeserved privilege I have ever had is to be chosen by God, The Creator, to receive His gifts of faith and a changed heart. Faith is what made everything in my life different. It makes everything in my life worthwhile – no matter my circumstances. Frankly, it bothers me when I’m accused of being given something others do not have the equal opportunity to experience, or that I am somehow to blame – guilty only by association – for their lack. Is this a Christian view? Yes! To be Christian is to have an individual relationship with God; to realize a personal need for salvation, and then to serve others who are in need, so that others may hear and see this Good News through my words and actions. Meanwhile, I hold quite enough guilt for the evil I have actually done. I struggle to grow beyond it.

1 Peter 1:14 ERV
In the past you did not have the understanding you have now. So you did the evil things you wanted to do. But now you are Children of God, so you should can obey Him and not live the way you did before.

How aptly this verse describes me! Falling for my selfish desires, I did do harm – but to myself and to those closest to me, not to any I have never met. This is my guilt. By my own hand I descended into a perversion of life, and that is where God found me and from where He saved me. And He continues to strengthen me, one day at a time.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

God wants all people to be saved – not from having challenges here on earth but from falling to them, from failing to get up again. There is no doubt that life will have struggles, but it is fact that God yearns for us to turn to Him for help to rise above. He stands beside everyone of us, ready, willing, and able to lavishly give faith, encouragement, strength, and hope to lift us to our feet, whatever our situation.

John 16:33 NIV
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

I see this faith in people from all walks of life and all geographies and all economic and health conditions. This confirms to me that God is working to make salvation available to anyone. To everyone. The only lack one needs to realize is the lack of God in one’s life. And with God present (and with His presents), believers are equipped to work for what is truly worthy and important, giving and sharing from whatever their bounty is.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Without God, I self-destructed. With Him, I live. I accept what is, and, knowing my starting line, I am guided forward. I take my place as a member of the Body of Christ, with my own situation, talents, and purpose – to voluntarily share, Christlike, sacrificing only what I have been given in abundance. This is my privilege.