Tag Archive: spiritual warfare


Broken but not severed

tree-callingWhat an evolution of thought plagued me while en route to my recovery meeting this morning! I didn’t want to go, but I knew I need to be involved. I almost gave into the impulse to do what I wanted rather than what I knew. Then it hit me like a big bang: I have to go to a recovery meeting, because when I begin to think I don’t need a meeting or the program, my thoughts betray that I am the sickest one in my head, and maybe even the sickest one in the meeting room I’m trying to avoid.

“Abstinence” in Overeaters Anonymous (or anywhere else, including the dictionary) is the action of refraining. (Technically, OA’s official definition of abstinence elaborates, but I shortened it for emphasis.) My personal declaration of abstinence has several food types and behaviors, but the primary point of my abstinence is that I will refrain from the “F- it, I’m eating!” response. (“F- it” is shorthand for “Forget it!” If you thought otherwise, get your mind out of the gutter. If you didn’t think otherwise, get real!) That’s the nature of my disorder – to know what I should do but do what I want in a given circumstance. If I am not careful, I can live in any number of “F- it”s that have nothing to do with my primary addiction of food.

“That’s the nature of my disorder – to know what I should do but do what I want”

I’m in good company according to reliable historical documents. My great-to-the-Nth-power grandparents, Adam and Eve, had one ordinance to follow in Eden. Wouldn’t you know it was a food-related abstinence rule! (Who says God doesn’t care about what we eat?) The sticky part of this bun is that when what they wanted conflicted with what they knew, they chose to block God out and indulge in the ripe, juicy succulence of the tree of “thou shalt not.”

I don’t know if it’s every human’s experience, because the only human I’ve ever been is me. I know, though, that the dysfunction caused by this tug of war between what the higher self knows and the lower self feels like is so powerful that it took the Creator of Earth coming down from Heaven to pay for the discrepancy and remind humans of the priority. So it must be more common than rare.

“…tug of war between what the higher self knows and the lower self feels like…”

The epiphany dawning on my cranial committee today is that if I am living in half of my “thou shalt not” statement then I’m 50% across the line already, whether I’m stuffing my face or not. When I permit myself to say, “F- it, I’m watching TV instead of studying,” or, “F- it, I’m buying that expensive item even though I’m out of money,” or, “F- it, I’m sick of caging my rage, I’ll let the fur fly this once,” I’m doing just as much spiritual damage to myself (and those around me) as if I had stopped by the bakery for a dozen doughnuts and destroyed the evidence down my gullet before arriving home. In fact maybe even more since, in the process, I’m lying to myself about how “recovered” I am and how little I need a recovery program in my life  just because my bathroom scales don’t groan when I get on them anymore.

“…if I am living in half of my “thou shalt not” statement then I’m 50% across the line already…”

The pretentious me (okay, more pretentious me) used to look at addicts of other substances or behaviors and say, “At least I don’t have it that bad.” The truth is, I have it worse than anyone when I’m thinking that way. Jesus observed two similar people in Luke 18:11, when he condemned the Pharisee who thought he was shiny stuff compared to the “sinners” around him. Frankly, the comparison is lopsided in my direction anyway, since the alcoholic or drug addict have to go to special lengths and pay tariffs or drug dealers to get their teeter to totter and it only takes a sandwich to make me crazy. Clearly, I’m still in need of a Savior. Daily. Hourly. Ok, each breath is a do-over. I’ll get the next one right.

 

“I’m a very important passenger car following at exactly the right distance from my Higher Power, the only Engine that can…”

Truth is I’m not The Little Engine that Could, but I’m not the caboose either. (Don’t you dare call me a “Bozo on the bus!” I have a problem with clowns.) Instead I’m a very important passenger car following at exactly the right distance from my Higher Power, the only Engine that can, and He is faithful to provide exactly what I need to follow in line as long as I stay connected to Him. Want on this train? Hitching in is optional, progress is our destination, and anytime you want off your first dozen doughnuts is on me. Okay, not really. Considering the train wreck I have been, I’m just happy to be on a track at all and linked with such fine people as those in recovery from various addictions. Thanks for sharing the journey, for going ahead or falling in behind. We make this thing go when we link together and drag each other along.

white flag surrenderWhile I believe the world was created in an instant cosmic response of obedience to God’s word, I believe that same God designed an order of things – an order defined by variances of growth or decay. In this balance, homeostasis is delicate and requires change to be kept in check. Failure to sense imbalance can lead to indifference, then to neglect, finally to decay. That is one of the main reasons I find maintenance in recovery so difficult. When I am free from my obsession of food and weight, I am liberated from the constant weigh-ins, content with what I see in the mirror because I am looking at the spiritual child of God and not his outline. A few extra pounds attached themselves to me while I was in the bliss of just such anesthetized ignorance – routine that looks just like spiritual fitness only isn’t. Awareness of this unwanted growth came just as my enemy would will it: timed perfectly in a bed of weakness, insecurity, and self-doubt. Clearly, not a fit spiritual condition.

I have been sick with a respiratory infection to varying degrees for twelve weeks. Twelve weeks! I have been on and off powerful antibiotics, breathing treatments, and even steroids. Some of the medicines I have taken came with warnings that they might make me “edgy,” a gentle euphemism for a condition I used to call home. They cannot, however, take the blame for what happened yesterday.

Just like most spiritual attacks, this one was well orchestrated to undermine a ministry commitment. Yesterday was our rotation for church prayer ministry, and it involved both my precious bride and me. No good attack comes from only one direction or by only one weapon, and so it was with this one. The weakness that comes by disease affects the body, but it takes something more to erode the spirit. This one, unfortunately, was complete.

My physical illness has been so chronic that my wife declared by assertion that she was taking over the lawn maintenance responsibilities whether I liked it or not. She rightly pointed out that caring for the lawn aggravates my allergies, and argued that we cannot afford for me to be sick. This tied together two insecurities, physical and financial, rolled them into a ball, and gagged me to silence. So, with my body bound by affliction, and my opinion choked out by insecurities, I was cast into helplessness. Well, not entirely. Yet.

I bought a new self-propelled lawn mower, set it up, and showed my precious bride how to run it. I offered suggestions, but was soon made aware that they were being taken as manipulative assertions of my selfish way and will. In keeping with my living amends, I kept my advice quiet. Mostly. Its new operator lowered the deck on the lawnmower so that the previously well-manicured lawn was shaved bald. When I asked why, I was told it was to keep from having to mow as often. I gritted my teeth, but somehow managed to delicately sum up the hours of research I had done on the optimal height of grass. The exchange was positive and concluded with mutual agreement. When the second week went by without any trimming or edging, I spoke up again. I was told the neglect was intentional, an effort to grow centipede grass runners which would then be cut and transplanted in areas of thinner grass population. I agonized in silence for a steamy couple days. Then, in a single hour of defiance, I donned my particulate filter mask and tore through the chore of trimming and weeding the front yard with the most contemptible resentment of my recent recollection. What could just as easily have been performed as an act of love was, for me that day, a venomous blast of selfish, fearful, insecure anger. But that was almost a week past, merely groundwork for the attack that would come yesterday.

My work on the front yard went unrecognized, and perhaps unnoticed. Wounds fester better when left unattended.

The spiritual topography on which it was fought would have a lot to do with how this battle was lost. With the mountains of financial insecurity defined by retirement, college expenses, and an unanticipated job loss in the family, it was easier to pin me down against the insecurity of the eyes of the neighborhood homeowner’s association. But that would have left some wiggle room. To be sure I didn’t survive the onslaught, my other weaknesses were covered in the several hours before, as conversations bounced off my frailties like a pinball racking up bonus points. Old hurts and fears were brought up in benign ways like viewing harmless artifacts in a museum. But their ghosts lingered and began to swirl around me. I began to remember the painful fear of abandonment, rejection, failure, and isolation as “remember when” and “what if” made themselves at home on my left and right.

This is the climate in which my weigh-in came. I had tried to fasten a pair of shorts and their belt the day before and noticed they were tight like some of my tee shirts had lately begun to feel. I made a commitment then to weigh on Sunday morning. In retrospect, I admit that could surely have been planned better. Seven pounds may not seem like much for a guy who used to gain and lose that in two days, but it is a lot when confirming fears of a delicate balance lost. As much as I tried to remind myself that pounds are not my responsibility, but are the result of many choices which are, I still read the scale, “Seven pounds of failure!”

As my bride and I readied ourselves for church, the casual, if not playful, conversation turned too quickly for the slippery surface of a frightened compulsive overeater faced with failure on a bed of every imaginable insecurity. Wounded, scared, and backed into a corner, I bared my teeth the way any beast, no matter how fluffy or cuddly, will do when cornered. I harmed again, spewing venomous curses, laying down my will like it was law, and issuing threats.

Now, I am sitting in the dark, alone. The isolation and abandonment I feared has become my sentence. That, and the awareness of the uncomfortable constriction of my belt around my waist. She’ll be back. I know this well enough that it should never have been a fear in the first place. But she will not be happy about it. Of that I should have been reverently afraid. My selfishness makes me needlessly and harmfully afraid. To defend myself against the things I fear, I have perpetrated acts that have realized those very fears. Again!

So I admit to God, to myself, and to you the exact nature of my wrongs. I am entirely ready to let God remove my defects of character. I have humbly asked God to remove my shortcomings, have chronicled my harm, and am ready to mend what I have broken.

God, grant me the opportunity to live in a mended fashion, but to trust You to do the mending. Help me to flex rather than snap, to give rather than grab. Help me concern myself with the emotional welfare of those around me rather than what I might lose or fail to attain. You are the owner of all, and I have no reason to insist on anything. May Your will be done, and Your glory magnified!

 

white chipsDear sponsor,

As a result of my recent lack of exercise and increase in girth and weight, I am making a change in my plan of eating (POE). I am reducing my daily energy intake by 150 calories. I also plan to eliminate the daily breakfast egg as well as the single red potato lately taken at suppertime. This will put my caloric target at 2150 rather than 2300. When I get back on my feet and off my butt I will reexamine my energy intake. Until then, I’m splitting the difference between what I have been doing and the RDA of 2000. My food log is still published online at http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/diary/who/TLJax/.

 

 

 

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)

 

Every Choice a Crossroad

crossroad treeThe devotion Our Daily Bread focused on this verse this morning:

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life… (Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NIV)

 

Every choice is a crossroad, an opportunity for compromise that leads to judgment or for integrity that leads to the abundant life God bought for us with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. All spirit and nature testify against us that we have chosen poorly since the seed of our race fell in Eden. There is no room for middle ground. I cannot be partially alive and fully in God’s will. This means that every choice I make comes with its own litmus test: will this bring life, light, and good; or death, darkness, and evil? The lie that everything is acceptable in moderation is one straight from the tombs of darkness. I choose to abstain from the things of death and darkness, and choose life instead!

John 10:10; John 3:16; Genesis 3:6; Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:33; John 14:6; 1 Peter 5:8

 

In my NT in a Year reading, I got this confirmation of my new mission:

and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. (Luke 9:2, NRSV)

 

Dear Father, today, as I offer my life, my day, my resources, my very being to You, empower me to do Your will, never mine. Forgive me when I snatch back my will and greedily act out of selfishness and vain fear. I lay down my carnal self before You again and ask that You replace it with my daily portion of Your Spirit, that I might not sin against You or Your children. Cause me to be useful in Your hands today, precious Lord. Make me shine with Your love that others may know You.

Dear sponsor,

In preparation for our overseas travel April 15th I had to change my plan of eating yesterday from four meals to three to accommodate an oral Typhoid fever vaccination which must be taken on an empty stomach. I will have to do this again tomorrow and Tuesday. Yesterday I did this by adding a couple higher-calorie healthy foods to my third meal. I put an ounce of walnuts and a serving of unsweetened Shredded Wheat N’ Bran on my dinner salad. In future occurrences, I plan to spread the calories of the fourth meal into the other three more evenly. This requirement was made of me at the health clinic where we got our vaccinations caught up yesterday. We are very excited about traveling to Africa!

 

 When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” (Luke 8:50, NRSV)

In today’s New Testament in a Year reading, I read the accounts of three miracles which all give some insight into the spiritual reality of man and this dark world. In the account of the demoniac known as Legion, I read of a man who was tormented such that everything in him possessed him to the exclusion of himself, his sanity, his physical well-being and self-care, and even his motor control. The story gives me more questions than answers, as I wonder why the pigs into which the “legion” of demons was cast immediately suicided themselves in the lake and why the demons would prefer that to “the abyss” into which they begged Jesus not to send them. Two things I learn from this: evil spirits are real and they have personalities, struggling to get what they want and to use man as their tool if they are able; and Jesus has authority over all of them, and they submit to Him even when He is casting them to their doom. On a side note, Jesus willingly allowed them to escape this “abyss” for a time, and granted their wish to go instead into the herd of pigs. This holds promise, because they and we know that the eternal condemnation of all evil is yet to come.

 

In the account of the hemophiliac, I read that the faith of the woman in the power of Jesus cured her rather than the will, words, or touch of Jesus Himself. When He asked, “Who touched me?” He announced that He didn’t know, but that He was cognizant of the fact that power had gone out from Him. There is power in those spiritual principles! God’s price for eternal, abundant life has been paid. It is ours to avail ourselves of it if we have the faith to receive it.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5, NIV)

 

Jairus’ plea and his daughter’s resurrection gives us a type by which we redeemed are also dead in the flesh and raised to walk in newness of life, but I read of a spiritual principle when I saw the words, “Her spirit returned”. The dead girl was without spirit. She wasn’t carrying a dead spirit, she was altogether without one. It had gone from her and was somewhere else. The Bible shows that, before Jesus conquered death, the spirits of the deceased took rest in a dark place of sleep, referred to as “the pit,” “the grave” or just “death.” This underworld of quiet rest was referred to in the original Hebrew as “Sheol” and in Greek as “Hades” and is not to be confused with Hell, (Greek: Tartarus, Hebrew: Gehenna), the place of eternal torment. The New Testament teachings indicate a different order – of being at home with the Lord when absent from the body (Philippians 1:23-24). There is what seems, on first reading, like a bit of a conflict when one reads of the dead in Christ rising on the last day (1 Thessalonians 4:16). It leads me to believe that the difference is one of soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). While one or the other sleeps at rest until the Day of the Lord, the other is with Him in paradise, as the thief on the cross was promised (Luke 23:43).

 

Whether in spirit (life energy, breath of life), soul (mind, will, and emotions) or in body (the tent that will be transformed from flesh into heavenly likeness), we are able to enjoy togetherness with God when we practice it now, aligning all three with Him and His will in ever-increasing measure and be transformed into His spiritual likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

Dear Father, today, I recognize that I am occupying a dark world that is not my home, but that You are King over all, even that prince of darkness who has limited rein in this age. I submit to You, Lord, and ask that You use me as an agent of Your will here on Earth. Bring about Your will for me, even as I am used to bring about Your will in the lives of those around me. Keep me from harm while I am employed in Your service, that I may be of better use to You and my fellows. Give me this day my daily supply, and protect me from evil, both from the spiritual attacks of the powers of darkness and from the deplorable rule of self in my mind. Help me live in Your liberty, and accept the gift of my voluntary service to You.