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I love Winston Churchill's sentiment:
"If you're going through hell, keep going."
Life is tough. Sooner or later, we'll experience a trying situation which feels like hell. It isn't actual hell, thank God. Nevertheless, the power of that notorious situation/trauma makes us feel tortured with pain, despair and hopeless evidence. Eating disorders, addictions, compulsions, loss and grief are just a few examples of things which can feel like hell, if, indeed, torture is its calling card.
It's painful and almost impossible to see future, life, possibility or God. We can, instead, much more easily see ourselves as failures, weak, forgotten and ruined. It's, therefore, inevitable we come to a screeching halt; we stop in the mire and can only feel ourselves sinking…down to where? Greater depths of hell and torture?
But that's not God's truth about us. Even in the middle of hopelessness, God is there… living… loving… working…
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" Jeremiah 32:27
It can be tempting to believe that
"The doctor is real in."
Those words are written on a psychiatrist stand the character Lucy has in the Christmas classic, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!"
That got me thinking. We're once again, at that festive time of year, with all of its parties, concerts, kiddie pageants and assortment of other holiday events. There seems to be an overwhelming amount of stuff to go to. And yet, during this festive season, it's more than difficult to get a doctor's appointment. Or is that just my experience?
When I was sixteen years old, I got the chicken pox at Christmas. Ho ho ho! There was not much I could do; there was no doctor I could see, because every single one of them were off for the holiday. So, it was me, the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" (colorized version), some calamine lotion, a couch and itching. Because I didn't get chicken pox like most kids, at age six or seven and because I was this late bloomer, my stint with the itchy stuff lasted about three weeks. It was not a festive time.
And, years' later, I seem to have run into the same dilemma repeatedly whenever I try to schedule an appointment with the doctor or dentist. Most of the time, the doctor is real out. So, what's my option? Where do I go from there?
Well, there's a potential and dangerous choice out there, left unchecked; I could turn to my definition of a panacea. Instead of dealing with the discomfort and pain in the moment, I could choose to numb, escape from and soothe it. Sounds like classic addiction, doesn't it? We try to cope and turn to anything to attempt to make that happen. Those coping methods can include a wide variety of consumption choices for each one of us: food, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, just to name a few. And the excuse we possibly use for turning to them? The doctor was out.
It's so easy to feel intimidated and overwhelmed by all of the holiday treats available now. We give so much power to various "forbidden food." We wonder what the caloric and "fattening" damage may be concerning the buffet that's presented to us. We're so worried about what food is to us, we often don't think much about what we are to God.
What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Psalm 8:4
Yes, there's no sugar coating it (pun intended): the holidays are challenging to us all. We are faced with numerous, unique fears, memories, expectations and simultaneously occurring situations of /joy/terror/destruction. We can, however, take a second and look at another couple of real promises, as we
1. We admitted that Thanksgiving and Christmas have a deeper meaning than drinking, drugging and overeating.
2. We came to believe that God, a power greater than ourselves, could help us see and celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
3. We came to believe that God could help us appreciate the joyfulness of the season as intended by Him.
4. We made a searching and thorough examination of our relationship with our addictions, obsessions and overindulgences during the holidays.
5. We admitted to God the exact nature of our addictive habits and overindulgences during holiday seasons past.
I don't know who said it, but there is a quote which goes something like:
"You either embrace the pain of discipline or you embrace the pain of regret."
Yes, I know, it's a festive one.
Nevertheless, it is a reality check, especially for those of us in recovery from any particular thing which has seized our pleasure centers, all in an effort to escape pain. We desire pleasure to soothe, numb or obliterate our pain. We believe the lie it will happen. Furthermore, we also believe there can be no good thing which comes from denying our indulgences for it.
Therefore, as we stumble and relapse, we often choose to embrace the pain of regret concerning our addictions and the harmful consequences which can follow.
It's not to shame anyone. Rather, it's, again, to provide the reality check that none of us are immune from relapse and bad decisions. We are all vulnerable.
For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. Psalms 103:14
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Romans 3:23
It's acknowledged in the first two Twelve Steps:
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
Artist, Gerald Moira, creator of the 1898 piece, "The Silent Voice," is a haunting image. In it, we see a young woman with an ethereal creature whispering in her ear.
To me, it calls to mind recovery from addiction as it relates to silence and the voice. Personally speaking, my restrictive abusive childhood discouraged any use of my voice which was considered displeasing. "Children are to be seen and not heard." That's how the saying goes.
And that sentiment had its oppressive hand in my eating disorder development and thought processes. Things "innocently" started out as a desire to lose weight and be thin. But it wasn't long before the disorders, in all of their different forms, became about control and exerting my declaration of independence. In short, disordered eating/image became my voice screaming against the silenced abuse, inequity and toxic environment I endured.
But, just because I've been removed from that confining time and space, does not mean my need to deal with those triggering voices is over. Quite the contrary, in fact. For whispers still come from unexpected corners.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Proverbs 18:21
And these whispers are certainly not affirming. In the context of disorder and self-destructive tendencies, the whispers go more like this instead…
Remember when things used to be so great...
Remember how in control you were...
Remember how much better you looked being thinner...
In Haggai 2:12-19, God drives home a very telling point to the prophet. If we place an unclean thing together with a clean one, the cleanness of the latter will not rub off onto the former. If I rub my dirty and ink-stained hands on a clean towel, the cleanness of the towel will not rub off onto my hands: rather it is dirt that is transferred, and the towel becomes dirty.
By this means the Lord made clear to Haggai and Judah that sin is contagious, but righteousness is not. We are not Christians simply because we belong to a good church, a good family, or a fine community. Moreover, a good profession of faith does not make us holy or godly.
God has been teaching me His way concerning heart health. The condition of my physical heart mirrored the state of my spiritual heart. Through a physical and spiritual heart catheterization He exposed blockages, which left untreated, would be my certain physical and spiritual demise. He exposed areas of my heart that were still wounded and thus divided. I suspect I am not alone in this process.
According to the parable of the sower, Jesus teaches that It is from our hearts that we gain all spiritual guidance and understanding.
"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" Luke 8:15 NIV.
"All valid spiritual direction comes to us through our heart-the seat of true knowing and our "eyes and ears" in the spirit. If we discern the "will of God" it is through our heart. Knowing our true identity and destiny is achieved through our hearts as well." "Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You", pg.67, published by Shepherd's House, Inc. revised version 2000.
As a direct result of these remaining heart blockages, I was no longer able to fully hear, retain, or re-produce a good crop from the word that had been so wonderfully planted in my heart for decades. The ability to correctly discern, know and understand Papa's will or my true identity and destiny as Papa's beloved son were being robbed from me. In this state, my capacity for joy was weakened. Of course my loved ones were profoundly affected by my heart disease as well (which of course there has been profound mercy and the amazing grace of forgiveness).
When your heart has blockages, your core identity becomes at best skewed and can even lose touch with reality. You are less able to live from the new heart Jesus gave you as your birthright. You even can end up not behaving or acting like who you truly are-an adopted child of God. Probably the most devastating part of this condition is being blocked from enjoying Christ in your heart. He-of course, will never leave us or forsake us-but our intimacy with Him can be diminished.
I am being so transparent about this in hopes to impart the courage for you to ask Papa to search your heart and know truth in your inner most parts, as King David did. This is why he was "called a man after God's own heart."
The single goal of heart healing is to
Recently, a young girl reached out to me concerning her struggles with disordered eating; she informed me she just took up the habit of smoking.
For what I am doing, I do not understand... The Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15
She's currently in a facility, being treated for bulimia, a mood disorder and self-injury behavior. I asked her what her treatment center thought about this habit. She told me she thought it was a better action than engaging in the eating disorder and self-injury behaviors.
But, to me, it smacks of cross-addiction. Indeed, someone afflicted with an addiction, obsession or disorder can often become convinced if they just switch it for another passion or behavior, he or she will be fine.
I did this myself.
Addiction is not just a moral defect of character we wish to be rid of. In the realm of religion, it is a mortal sin.
Do you feel that something is missing deep down in your soul? Do you feel an emptiness that you cannot explain - sometimes loneliness - even among many? Most people with substance abuse problems do.
In moments when we are most thoughtful about the meaning of life, there is a craving for something more. At its core, this is a longing to know or experience something or someone bigger than ourselves - "God", a spiritual being.
Often, people try to fill this emptiness with things that aren't always good for us - like alcohol, drugs, and sins of the flesh. However, none of these can fill this emptiness, or take away the inner loneliness.
What separates you from God? What causes that emptiness in your life? And finally, what causes you to use drugs? Could it be sin? The answer is most likely a "definite yes". In my opinion, drugging and excessive drinking are sins. You may not believe it on one side of the coin; on the other side, you may believe it, but you have trouble accepting it. It makes no difference. When you get high you break God's law, and that is where your life falters.