If you have followed me for any time then you know that two years ago I humbled myself and placed myself in Celebrate Recovery. I did this because I had allowed myself to become consistently enraged. Sadly, this was not something I could keep hidden, and I lost a job due to expressing my displeasure at a manager. Fortunately a friend pointed out that I needed help. Thus began a lifelong journey. I call it a lifelong journey because I really do not know anyone who has it altogether, nor do I know anyone in recovery who believes they are permanently healed. Sure, they may act like it for moments at a time, but they are merely good actors.
Part of this journey I am on included several trips to a John Eldredge inspired Band of Brothers boot camp. The idea and hope were that the camp would be life changing; while it dug up a multitude of wounds that needed attending too, the most significant thing that happened was that God directed me to a man who eventually brought me to recovery. Almost immediately I got signed up for a twelve step group. In the group, because I was challenged by a barrage of difficult and soul-searching questions, I decided that being painfully honest in my answers would be the best course of action, and bring about the best chance of healing. To be honest, the process of getting through what I thought was the only issue, took about a year. Slowly the rage began to subside, and then something overwhelming happened, I began to see all the codependent issues in me that fed the anger (I am aware that they have been there most of my life). It took my breath away.
I am now a two-year veteran of recovery, and battling depression associated with the codependency. I believe this depression, like the anger, is the result of unresolved issues, things I am powerless over. When I describe how I feel, I often feel more lost, as most have no idea what I am going through. Those that have not experienced depression will rarely be able to understand. A friend of mine recently told me that many of the things that cause us grief, are real. While that may be, I also have what I call voices in my head. These voices sound like my dad, my mom, ex wives, religious themes and in general they berate me, telling me that I am a loser, that I screwed up again, and that I have no value. The voices typically are contrary to what I see in God's word, and they are designed to make me feel anything other than what God's word tells me.
Just telling you about it seems to cause one of those voices to rise up, telling me that, you, the reader, will also turn against me. As I sat last evening, trying to flesh this theme out in my head, I vocalized it to my girlfriend. In doing so I said something that is probably a desperate truth – I am not alone, and God has allowed me to go through this discomfort and sometimes despair, because He believes I can handle it, and knows that I will write about it. So I quickly realized that negativity is one of those weapons we are to guard against with this shield of faith we believers wear.
Let's talk about this armor for a moment. Instead of mentally taking it off every night as some imply they do, why not assume that it is an aspect of your life in Christ, and like a knight of something like the round table, presume that your calling and job is for life. Your armor is custom fitted and there is no need to take it off. Besides, should you need it, there is no time to redress yourself, so merely live in it. Now should you need to remind yourself that it is still on, there is no penalty, except for loud clang as the enemies arrows bang into your breastplate. Perhaps you can take that as a wake up call.
To put some reality to the voices I will give you an example. This one was inadvertently and recently added to the repertoire. I, at one of my meetings, (I am in leadership at two recovery groups) stood up along with a lady, to give out chips marking milestones in our recovery. The chip given most often is the welcome/new comer/fresh start chip. I have several of these. My addiction is no easier to overcome than the next guys, and at one point I was going on six months without getting enraged at someone. I was so proud of myself. As I sit in meetings and watch people who have been addicted to horrible things, go up and get a chip for years of sobriety, I think to myself, I want that too. Sadly, I discovered how easy it is to simply make a choice to relapse. In other words, I allowed myself the freedom to rage once again, and had to start over. I wish I could tell you what that did to my head. I was so disappointed in myself, because taking another chip indicating that you are starting over can be a humbling and difficult moment, even when people are telling you that you are exhibiting incredible bravery and demonstrating the willingness to be a victor when you do this. I believe that if your heart is right, and you want help, then yes, you just overcame once again. Back to my female partner in passing out chips. As I stopped myself from my typical impromptu speech about our choice to pick ourselves up again and move forward, I said, “and I am taking a chip to start afresh on my journey to recovery over anger.” She immediately, in front of everyone, said, “you have those.” Inwardly I was crushed, but outwardly I laughed it off because I am standing there now exposed in front of the group. We have talked about this, but the voice still remains, as well as my collection of chips. And though I should be picking up another blue chip, I cannot bring myself to add another to my collection just yet. In the midst of this mess - yes, I have my moments of despair - God began to speak to me. Fortunately, I am accustomed to hearing God's voice and I recognize it; it even speaks louder than the negative voices most of the time.
Since this is actually my attempt at screwing my head back on straight I have to integrate this with scripture, and, in a sense, a bible study. So here goes.
About 38 years ago, I was angry, depressed, and drinking a lot. One day my dad asked me if I wanted to go to a men's retreat with him. Since I knew they had a swimming pool and they feed you well, I opted to go. I think this was the first time I heard Jerry speaking. Over the years I have backed away from Jerry and others like him, but there at camp God used Jerry to get my attention. The next time he spoke I moved up to the front row. That day he compelled us to stand, act like men, and repeat what he said. It is what he had us say, and how my heart responded to it, that changed my life.
Here is a representation of what he had us verbalize:
- I am what the Word of God says I am.
What does that mean if you do not know what the word of God says about you. It also impacts you, because as you find out what God says about you, you begin to understand his character. Above all else, He loves you
- I have been chosen by him
You come to find out that God had his heart set upon you before the world began. You can find multiple references for this idea. 1:4,5
- Made in His image
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
- Because I am in him, I am holy and blameless before him.
Colossians 1:22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
- Adopted into the family.
Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
- He designed me to show his glory.
Ephesians 1:12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
- I have been redeemed by his blood.
Revelation 5:9 …. because You () were slain, and You redeemed us to God by Your blood, out of every tribe and language and people and nation;
- I am not of this world.
Ephesians 2: 1-6
- All things are working together for my good
This went on for several minutes. By the time we got done I felt like I was a changed person on the inside. Although, in honesty, several years later, due to my codependency, and marital issues, I pulled away from God for about ten years, and no, they were not all good as some would say, but I can tell you that I was very much aware that God was right there waiting for me to turn around and run to him.
I hope you understand what I mean when I say, I have run into far too many pharisees in my life, therefore I always feel like I have to define everything (even to write this is partly a response to the voices in my head.) Do you see how the enemy works, because the voices sound very much like the negativity people have shoved in my face.
All of the words we said that morning were God's words and you find an aspect of them in almost every letter Paul wrote. But Paul was not the first and only one to write like this; these words of encouragement are found in every book of the bible.
Psalms 139:1-4 To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O Jehovah, You have searched me and have known me. (2) You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. (3) You search my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. (4) For there is not a word in my tongue, but, , O Jehovah, You know it altogether.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
When you think about people you can look to as an example of life done right, who comes to mind? What is your basis for success? For me, they have to be people who are real, made mistakes, and yet God still loved them. Fortunately, the bible is filled with real people, who came out of very dysfunctional households, and yet God still loved them, moved through their lives, and called them a success. King David was one of those.
If you will take the time to study David's life you will find it filled with human emotion and error. However, you find that David kept coming back to one thing, his relationship with Jehovah. He often poured out his heart with tears to the Lord, and sometimes those tears were in response to getting caught. Through it all God called him a man after His own heart, and those words are the ones that ring true to me. I am constantly asking and wondering, especially after seeing his failures, what was different about David. I believe he never stopped loving God, and therefore neither will I.
A heads up: The story of David really begins with an old but powerful prophet named Samuel. So I suggest you begin your reading in 1 Samuel 16.