Tag Archive: spiritual recovery


bible-studyThe following Bible verses met me in my morning devotion today, and prompted reflection that I was compelled to share:

 

“The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.” Daniel 6:23 NLT, http://bible.com/116/dan.6.23.nlt (emphasis mine)

“And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him—” 2 Peter 3:14-15 NLT, http://bible.com/116/2pe.3.14-15.nlt (emphasis mine)

My nearly constant state of disturbance proves that I am generally not living in a state of trust. Daniel’s miracle was attributed to his trust — his faith. It is by that faith that Christians find the ability to live peaceful, pure, blameless lives. I step outside pure, blameless peace when I grow discontent with circumstances, fearful of outcomes. That’s not faith! Our Lord is patient, so I should be too. If He’s not getting uptight about things coming unwound, why should I?

 

When anxiety grips me, sometimes it helps me to work it out to its end and be done with it. In practice this takes the form of several questions I answer in series:

  1. What is the worst case scenario? Usually whatever fear torments me it’s not even close to the worst case scenario. So this gives me some sort of scale. When I’m sweating a low grade on an exam, it helps to recognize that even failure of the whole class won’t trigger a global apocalypse.
  2. Even if the worst possible outcome happens, won’t God still be sovereign over the universe, and big enough to guide you through? This one’s easy — the answer’s always “yes.” Through persecution, meteor showers, pestilence, and apocalyptic insurgence, I will still be a child of God, purely and dearly loved. Dead or alive, I’m still God’s prince, priest, and bride.
  3. What is the likelihood of the outcome I fear? This brings the scale back into a manageable perspective. It helps to recognize that fear is the anticipation of something that might not even happen, while conceding that it is somewhere on the plane of possibility, almost always lower on the scale than it feels. I might not be forfeiting my occupation of earth, but the critiques I am subject to are far less predictable and administered by far less holy people than the terrorists who might only saw my head off once. I acknowledge the chance, however small, of responding to a perceived failure in my very near future.
  4. If God is big enough in the worst case scenario, isn’t He big enough to see you through this medium sized catastrophe in the event it does come about? Another easy “yes.” And I’m feeling better about my position in the universe.

 

It also helps to recall who and what I am in relation to the fearful obstacles around me. Remember Star Wars’ lonely, afraid astro-droid R2D2 traveling alone through the Gungan Wastes of Tatooine, in a classic cinematic representation of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. R2 slowlyr2d2-on-tatooine propels forward, looking about, humming and chirping to himself, to achieve his higher purpose. Armed Gungan “sand people” on Banthas, Jawa pirates, and mysteries of the rocks be hanged! He’s on a top-priority mission from the princess, so he presses on.

I, too, have a higher purpose, and it is far outside the view of those who seek to assault me or sell me for used parts. My Creator is not finished creating me. He’s shaping me even with the obstacles I now face. He’s forging and hammering my character into the precision instrument I will become. It’s hot, and it hurts, but it’s going to be worth it when the Master is finished and he hears my blade sing.

It’s been said, “This too shall pass,” but I add to that, “No pain is permanent,” and, “This is for His glory and my refinement!” From these statements come resolve, and from resolve courage to stand firm.

God, rebuke the destroyer from my mind, life, family, and estate. Make me slippery to his footholds, and frustrate all his assigns. Cast away every remnant of his authority, and clean my mind of any tendency to repeat his lies after his removal. Consecrate me, my family, and my estate to Your purposes, and use them at Your pleasure. All I am, have, and do is Yours. By Christ Jesus, whose blood bought me from death, amen!

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)

Not of This World!

second coming Jesus“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. (Joshua 24:14, NLT)

Most of us were raised by worshipers of the idol of Self – selfish fear, insecurity, or anxiety; selfish ambition, pride, condescension; selfish indulgence, greed, compulsive hoarding, eating, or addiction. We need to destroy these idols with no less determined zeal than Israel destroyed all their statues, taboos, and Ashera poles so we can live according to a singular purpose. It is our duplicity that so vexes us that we seek medication in the satisfaction of Self.

“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. 26 People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man[e] coming on a cloud with power and great glory.[f] 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:25-28, NLT)

In order to see without fear the things coming in the sky that will terrify all the friends of Earth, we have to be so opined to a preference for deliverance that we hesitate not one moment. Rather than looking back as Lot’s wife did (Genesis 19, Luke 17:32), we must seek Heaven so fervently that we are not even momentarily afraid, but stand and look up, for our salvation is near!

Self SatisfactionHoly Father, today, I look to You rather than cast my eyes on the habitat You have provided me. I turn my motives to Your Kingdom and will, and cast off the sin that so easily entangles me. Graduate me from the mire to which I have become so accustomed that I scarcely find it objectionable. Grant me an awareness of my sin and wash it off me. Let me not be so bound to the ways and whims of Earth’s people that I join them in their disobedience, but never let me forget to love them with the self-sacrificing passion You did and do. In Christ’s name, amen!

alabaster jarThe NT in a year reading today contained Ephesians 5: 8, “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light”

It caught me that the verse doesn’t say I was “in” darkness, but that I “was” darkness. I am now not merely walking in light, but I “am” that light. The next verse explains it in more detail, that the fruit of light is light. I like it, but I have more meditating to do about that.

Yesterday, I had a thought while at YoGod (a Christ-centered, worshipful, yoga experience). Joye, our facilitator, read about the broken alabaster jar of nard that was poured out onto Jesus at the home of Simon the Leper. The devotional she read pointed out that the jar, an expensive product itself, had to be broken before the precious contents could be spilled out. While that was certainly a picture of what was about to happen to Jesus, the most precious of vessels issuing forth the most precious of anointing, it is also true of me. I more closely associate with the clay pots of Gideon than with any priceless jar, but the fact remains that I must be broken before what is inside, whether actually valuable or just prized by me for a temporary occasion, can be poured out. It is also only then, when I am broken and completely poured out onto Jesus, that I become the blessing to Him I was created to be, and come into the relationship I was built to maintain. I am broken and poured out, so that I can accept, freehanded, what Jesus was broken and poured out. I empty myself of me, and He empties Himself for and to me. I am all I am, and have all I have, for, to and because of Him. I do so love my Jesus! I do so wish to please Him.

Holy Father, make me more like the One to whom I belong – Christ Jesus, Your Son. Thank You for grace. Help me live in it and love with it.

I started today poorly, griping about the sleep I did not get, but You, who make all things new, please help me start again, lovingly sacrificing myself to the world around me rather than trying to claim what parts of it I feel are mine.

Warring with Flesh

flesh vs spiritI get very critical of myself for not being unified enough, for being duplicitous. There are two notes left on my bathroom wall staring at me every morning. One is of Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you,” and the other is Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth: give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” They serve to remind me that, whatever progress I have made, I haven’t arrived at “finished” yet. Sometimes that realization can be overwhelming. There are days like today, when my defects and failures seem bigger than my goals, dreams, purpose or personal value. Even as I write just now, I recognize that I am merely listening to the wrong voice – the accuser rather than the Redeemer.

I still struggle with Step One, afraid to introduce myself at meetings as “a compulsive overeater” without clarifying that I am “gratefully recovering” or some other such disclaimer. I am not who I was. I am constantly being remade by a loving Creator. So how do I acknowledge what I was with the tendencies that still haunt me while being faithful to look forward to the work being done in me without feeling as though I should have two faces?

The Apostle Paul, the great missionary of the early Church, struggled with this too. The “New Testament in a Year” reading for today was Romans 7, known for Paul’s description of this inner battle. He concludes it saying, “So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:25b, NRSV). Apparently, as long as we are draped in the tent of these physical bodies, we are sentenced to drag around with us the tendencies that come with being made out of meat: craving, lust, inflammation, death and decay. There will be a point at which we are liberated from them though, and it is that Independence Day for which I now prepare. The more I live according to the Spirit today, the less alien I will be on the day of spiritual deliverance, and more at home I will be in my new accommodations. Heaven isn’t about the place anyway, but about the Host.

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a, NRSV)