Tag Archive: bondage of self


Photo credit: Woman's Day

Photo credit: Woman’s Day

Confession time! The transformation of recovery isn’t complete when Self keeps taking charge.

For the last couple weeks, I have moved, for the most part, into a guest bedroom in my house, partially to study without disturbing my precious bride, but mostly to hide from disappointment. I have repeatedly told the one who loves me that I was giving her “space to have her own way.” The truth is I have grown increasingly impatient, even intolerant, with her decisions lately. I have judged her actions as being based on her whim and emotion, when they are more than likely only lacking what I would deem an appropriate level of consideration of my own will, wish, and way. Either way, I am using isolation as a shield for disappointment, whether the expectations that feed it are realistic and fair or not.

Last night, while I fell asleep alongside her for a change, my mind and mouth were engaged even in the twilight of wakefulness. In the mental fog where the lies that support justifications begin to buckle under the weight of truth, I had some profound thoughts that escaped by way of mumbled, almost hypnotic, verbal expression. I confessed to my precious bride that, more than anything else, I am afraid of her. Not that I am afraid of her intentions or convictions, but that her intellect is not behind the wheel. After acknowledging my fear that her emotional navigation would run us, or more accurately – me, amok, I was forced to acknowledge that isolating myself from her to prevent injury puts my own emotions at the helm of my life, and so, constitutes me becoming the monster of which I was afraid.

The last thought I remember uttering before drifting off was that she is worth whatever pain I may experience, whatever it takes. As I recall what Christ endured for His Church (Ephesians 5:25), I am reminded that I have “not yet suffered to the point of shedding (my) blood” (Hebrews 12:4). I have not done everything I can. I have avoided pain by disengaging. I have behaved according to my own self-interest rather than sacrificing myself “as an act of worship” (Romans 12:1) giving preference to those around me. “As a dog returns to his vomit” (Proverbs 26:11) I have put Self on the throne of God yet again!

“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity…” (AA, 62).

Holy Father, rescue me from the bondage of self!* I have wandered back into my old cage, and it is dark and lonely in here. Deliver me so I can be relevant to those You have placed in my path, and that You, not me, may be glorified. Make Your light shine on me and reflect onto others, that they may be attracted to You and discover for themselves that You are able and willing to deliver us from our prisons, no matter how comfortable we have made them. Empower me to do Your will only always. Through Christ our Lord, amen!

 

* (a variation of AA’s Step Three Prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, page 63)

I write three blogs, two anonymously. In them I journal some of my deepest thoughts, and most stirring insights, as well as some ramblings that probably help no one but me as I sort through the emotional soup that stirs in my head. Most of the time, I am content to know that I have poured myself onto a page and released it with the Enter key. Other times, I wonder if my close friends or family members will see what I wrote, understand it, relate to it, or see any evidence that God was in it. On earlier occasions when I experienced the real sensation of God speaking through my keyboard, I often rushed to share the experience with my wife, and I would beg to know, “Did you read what I wrote today?” I am ashamed to admit that it took me a lot longer than it should have for me to learn this was unhealthy for me, and came across as critical of her. To me, it was a sharing of an intimacy, but it threatened to inflate my ego. To her, it was an obligation, one which she could never fulfill fast enough or with enough enthusiasm to suit me. My queries were a lose-lose proposal every time, so I stopped asking. Sooner or later I stopped caring whether anyone else read what I wrote or not. It took a lot of work and energy to transcribe my spiritual struggles onto a page, and even more to muster up the willingness to broadcast it publicly, but I was content knowing two things: I was strengthened by the exercise, and God will do what He wants with the seeds I sow.

Bible IlluminedThis week my Bible study small group was encouraged to candidly expose their devotional habits, and I had to confess I had fallen behind on my Scripture readings even so as to be unprepared for our weekly study. As I mulled over the significance of my confession, I was stirred to recall that God has painstakingly transcribed His very heart onto the pages of the Bible. He has inspired men over centuries to pen His Word, and rallied all manner of spiritual forces and political circumstances to preserve, translate and duplicate it at the cost of many lives. He has orchestrated history to ensure that the Bible is the number one best-seller in all-time and is readily available to most cultures today. Yet He asks, with perhaps a broken heart, “Did you read what I wrote today?”

Holy Father, I thank You for loving me enough to write to me about it. I celebrate the ease with which I may read Your Word and get a glimpse of Your heart. Make mine more like Yours, and keep it from pride. Deliver me from self-seeking, self-pity, and selfish fear. You gave me my life and patiently bought it back when I took it up; now I offer it back to You to do with it as You wish. You are a good and holy Father, and Your love for me is complete. I am content to love You and be loved by You. Your will be done, in Christ’s name I pray. Amen!

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[Or that you, a man of God,] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

Mary’s Song is Mine

46 And Mary[b] said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

father and child sillouhetteI started to only copy parts of the first two verses of this passage, but every phrase says something to me. I relate to the praise of thanksgiving in Mary’s heart for God’s goodness to me when I finally humbled myself before Him, and I relish the opportunity to call Him my Savior and Lord.

I started to omit the holy mother’s blessed declaration, feeling it did not apply to me, but from an eternal perspective, I saw that it does. There will be a day when all generations gathered before the throne of Heaven will call me blessed too, as I and the rest of the sheep are separated from the goats, and the bride of Christ, with me included, takes her place with the Lord.

From generation to generation, the invitation remains open for any who wish to avail themselves of God’s mercy to do so in the name of the One Mary was carrying. God’s demonstrations throughout history prove that He is greater than anything that comes against us and that He is faithful to His faithful. “He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).

When I was living according to my selfish desires, I occupied the throne of my life. I made myself king, even demoting the God I professed. I was an idol-worshipper, so verse 52 applies to me in both senses. He brought me down, so He could lift me up. He has never stepped on my neck or celebrated my humiliation. He is always faithful, when I submit myself at His feet, to lift me up as a child, hold me in His lap, and love me. His powerful arms protect me, warm me, and affirm my relationship with Him. I am included, provisioned, and prepared for His purposes, not as a slave, although I readily accept this service, but as His own heir (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29, 4:7; Ephesians 3:6; Titus 3:7).

When I esteemed myself as rich, He allowed me to wander to complete my fruitless search for what I wanted. When I recognized my emptiness, He welcomed me home, and filled me with abundance from His limitless provision. All the substitutes I had abused were shown for their futility in comparison with the magnificence of His authentic blessing.

 

Dear Father, I lift You up today, for You are great and greatly to be praised. You have brought me, and continue to bring me, out of the bondage of self. Help me to live in the liberty of Your grace, so that I will not wander back into the sensually appealing trap of that dungeon again. Secure my feet along the secure path You have for me, and let me not stray from Your Word. Thank You for protecting me while I wandered from you except that I would experience the pain of separation from You and the consequences of my own choices. Now that I have chosen You, reveal to me the parts of me that remain in need of Your corrective pruning. Make me more like You intended me to be. Your will be done in me, Lord. Only Your will! I submit the dead flesh of self at your feet for Your disposal. Take my spirit and cradle me in Your arms, Papa. I am Yours!

18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” (Mark 5:18-19, NRSV)

spiritual isolationDelivered from the bondage of my own captors, I too have been instructed by Jesus to wait until our reunion and to be faithful until then to share with others how much the Lord has done for me. Should I turn away dejected and pout until my King comes for me? Or shall I rejoice that His Spirit lives within me and tell you of the wonders of His mercy? My heart chooses to sing of His grace!

In His gentleness He patiently waited for me to explore countless options and to do even more harm to myself as I struggled to prove my might over trouble and my right over others. When I feared rejection and abandonment, my fear gave way to rage, and as I exercised my will and flexed it in the direction of those around me the crowd around me grew thin. Vexed with the pain of loss and the fear of more, I retreated from social contact and hid in dark despair. I wound around me spiritual chains of hate which manifested themselves as bands of fat. So complete was my covering that I ceased to be me, but was “fat.” I was very much like the unnamed man in this story, identified by the legion of spiritual attackers that tormented me even more than my own identity. Then Jesus came to my cave. What a wondrous day! He closed the distance and called me from the insanity of self. Like Lazarus, I heard Him call for me to rise and walk in newness of Life. I stand with Him resurrected, my flesh and all its desires nailed to a cross next to His. I am never alone as long as His Spirit burns within me. A clay vessel of His warm, loving light, I remain where He has sent me, shining for you, dear friends, to see the mercy the Lord has shown me.

Dear Father, today, keep me faithful to my commission to show Your mercy to my friends and represent what You have done for me. Keep my sinful nature fastened to that cross and burn inside me with a passionate flame. Make my life a lamp in which others may see You, be drawn to You, and glorify Your Name.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

The Impetus for Change

change ahead signSomeone asked me yesterday, “What happened in your life that made you decide to make such a big change?” While I am used to answering with Step One, “We admitted we were powerless over food; that our lives had become unmanageable,” I was drawn deeper into thought by this woman’s question. I decided to recall a few of the precipitating factors in my coming to Step One.

  • I was running out of doctors because I kept firing the ones who told me I needed to lose weight.
  • I was diagnosed with hypertension, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, and extreme obesity (47.3 BMI).
  • I saw myself in the mirror.  It was a several times daily experience.
  • I stopped sharing photos of myself, even when honored at work and featured in the news, too ashamed of my size and appearance.
  • My tool belt fell off me in the middle of the street while I was working because it would no longer reach around me.  It was something akin to losing one’s pants in front of an audience.
  • I got exhausted just getting dressed or walking to a flight of stairs.  (Not up them.  To them!)
  • I profusely perspired in 65 degree air-conditioned rooms.
  • I suffered the embarrassment of rejection from a roller coaster ride in front of my children because I was too big to fit in the oversized harness even with two attendants pushing and squeezing with all their might. (They had me stand with the discarded shoes to wait for my kids.)
  • I grew too heavy for my own skeleton, and severed my ACL (knee ligament) during mild play with my nephews at a city park.
  • I was denounced as a hypocrite while preaching “total balance: physical, mental and spiritual” to a group of healthy twenty-somethings, while I stood with crutches, weighing 320 pounds, beet red, sweating in a 65 degree air-conditioned room.
  • Three days after attending a seminar on the physiology of addiction as a conditioned response to stress, I caught myself eating, in response to stress, half of a pie that was given to my wife to honor her for Mother’s Day and was supposed to have been reserved for later.
  • I recognized that I was pursuing the will of the flesh rather than the will of God, and serving my lusts and desires as an act of rebellious idolatry. The irony is that what the flesh wants is detrimental even to itself.

This is a short list, but it served to remind me that I would rather live a day in the vitality of recovery than a year in the misery I once survived.  By the grace of Almighty God, and through working the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous, I am a recovering compulsive overeater.  I have been freed from 140 physical pounds and untold emotional weight. (More details can be found on my blog pages.)

Whatever shadowy death valley you’re walking through, there is hope for Light and Life on the other side of it. Just ask my Higher Power.  His name is Jesus.

Psalm 23 NIV

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Psalm 147:3 NIV

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.