Abstinent Today:

I am a recovering compulsive overeater, abstinent by the grace of God one more* day at a time.  †

On the rare occasion I get a Thursday off, it usually means family time.  For the past twelve weeks, my wife has been engaged in a group study that landed on Thursdays, so we have had very little time together.  This would be bad for any marriage, but ours is strained already of late, and I am having difficulty holding onto hope.  I was looking forward to tonight’s Thursday Family Night with (and here’s the toxic word) expectations.  Those were dashed first thing this morning, when my wife announced she would likely be working late tonight.  I realize everything is not about me, but my twisted mind still suspects that when I become available and everyone suddenly clears out, the stink in the room might be mine. History doesn’t help these matters, because in the past this kind of assumption was a fairly safe bet. And that is how expectations become disappointment which turn to self-doubt and lonely despair.  I told you it was a twisted mind!

Not all expectations are unreasonable.  For instance, we have plans for Friday night, which is our wedding anniversary.  I believe, because we have discussed them, that to hope for a night out together is a reasonable expectation.  I don’t think I have a right to her time, or that I am even entitled to an evening of her company, but that it is, under the circumstances, a reasonable expectation.  The funny thing about reasonable expectations is that the only real difference between them and unreasonable ones is the height of the fall when they are disappointed.  Perhaps it is better not to have any expectations at all!  Still, a life with no expectations at all seems like a boring, lonely way to live.

 

 

 

From today’s entry in Voices of Recovery:

“Instead of acting on impulse, we pause long enough to learn God’s will. Then, instead of resorting to willpower, we relax and reach out to receive help from our Higher Power. All we need say is ‘God, please help me do Your will.’” — The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, p. 26-27

As I demonstrated above, my impulses are linked to some twisted thinking, and even scarier emotions, so acting according to them would be harmful both to me and to those around me.  Pausing and seeking God’s will is not just counting to ten and then exploding; it is disarming the bomb and removing the explosive material.  Rather than acting as if my thoughts and feelings are right, I find that acting as if God is in charge, that hope is alive, and that love will endure works much better.  Maybe I will be able to pause long enough to engage that kind of action.  God, I hope so!

 

 

 

From Proverbs 7 (NKJV):

21 With her enticing speech she caused him to yield,
With her flattering lips she seduced him.”

The crafty seductress, who is really nothing more than the tempter, the ancient serpent, Satan, has smooth and persuasive speech, whether he is enticing a youth to a perfumed bed chamber or a grumpy man to bitterness and discontent.  The arguments of the harlot seem reasonable: there is time, place, freedom, furnishings, promise of pleasure, and the possible consequence is not in sight.  Not only so, but the toxic distraction is flattering: she rushed him and kissed him (v. 13) and told him he was just what she had been looking for (v. 15).  To be wanted, sought, and embraced by something/someone is a hunger God programmed in each of us; but the original need is for Him.  The counterfeit idols we put in that empty hole – thrills physical, emotional, chemical, or even relational – are all just added weight to the burden of an empty soul.

 

 

From my reading through the Bible, currently in John 5 (NKJV):

14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’”

Jesus and Bethesda crippleJesus healed a crippled man beside a pool of miraculous expectation and what had become for that man a thirty-eight year disappointment.  The man’s thinking had become warped.  When asked if he wanted to be healed, he regurgitated the disappointments that had become his excuses, much like I have done today.  He got on his feet alright, but the instruction to “sin no more” was probably a lot weightier than even his bed on the Sabbath.

The religious accusers were right on the healed man.  They chided him for carrying his bed on the day of rest, and sought to kill Jesus for giving him such an order and for calling God “father.”  It reminded me that the chronically religious hypocrites really are hard on others, and even harder on themselves, which makes for a spiral of hateful discontent that can engulf and capsize even the most hopeful spirit.  I wonder how many times I have discouraged a new seeker by criticizing their search, or finding fault with their following.

In this setting, the religious were Jewish, and it is those religious over whom Jesus lamented:

38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

They dressed right with Scriptures on their heads, prayer shawls around their waists, and heads covered; they ate right, feasting and fasting on schedule, abstaining from the forbidden foods; and they acted right, keeping the Law, abstaining from work on the Sabbath and, in their way, encouraging others toward obedience; but there was no life in their right-ness.  True Life comes from the righteousness of God, not the right-ness of man!

God, help me to live according to Your righteousness, and not be so inflated with my own will, wish, and way that I trample on others who are finding their way toward You.  Keep me from grieving the Spirit with my confounded self-will and empty expectations.  Let my hope be in You, and not on my whim.  Your will, not mine, be done!

 

 

From the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 10 and 11:

“With ministers, and the world’s religions, I parted right there. When they talked of a God personal to me, who was love, superhuman strength and direction, I became irritated and my mind snapped shut against such a theory. To Christ I conceded the certainty of a great man, not too closely followed by those who claimed Him. His moral teaching – most excellent. For myself, I had adopted those parts which seemed convenient and not too difficult; the rest I disregarded.”

“It began to look as though religious people were right after all. Here was something at work in a human heart which had done the impossible. My ideas about miracles were drastically revised right then. Never mind the musty past; here sat a miracle directly across the kitchen table. He shouted great tidings. I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil.”

 

 

 

 

Footnotes:

*Abstinence began for me on May 11th, 2010.

For the sake of accountability, the details of my eating are posted in my online food log.

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