The world doesn’t know what to do with Christians in the valley. They are so used to seeing Christians preaching to them ‘morality from the mountain top,’ that when a believer fails and visibly needs the Gospel, the world and sometimes other Christians can only call them ‘hypocrite.’ Perhaps if we preached the Gospel at all times and our own need of it even when we “appear” to be on the summit, we would be less misunderstood.
Not to self: Always be conscience of and verbalize your dependence on the Gospel. Even when things seem to be going well.
Today was an especially lonely day. It is funny how in the midst of my addiction I sought to carve out alone time and now that I am in recovery but have plenty of alone time, it is as hollow and empty as the shell game at the carnival. And in these moments of loneliness, I often hear Satan walking down the hall and entering my room to pull up a chair. “I know how you feel, ” he whispers, “like you never quite fit in, like your never quite have what it takes. (Yes, Satan sometimes ends phrases in a preposition.) It’s not fair the hand God dealt you and how you chose to play the cards, well God wired you like He did. I get it.” Half-truths served on a platter garnished with sympathy.
And so we commiserate as the echoes of sad red dirt country song echo across the room from a jukebox that is not really there. A pity party ensues, where we both imagine that everyone has it better than us, everyone is out having fun with friends or tucking in their family, while we spend a Friday night alone, yet again. And I don’t know if it Satan’s ploy or not but I am not drawn to past addictions this night, merely sadness. Maybe this is where he wants to hold me tonight, in the remembrances of my deep failures, not in actual re-failing, for both can be equally crippling. And tonight he has done this effectively as I feel like the last kid picked on the emotional playground at recess, like I missed the easy layup so many times and everyone knows it.
From this sadness comes a question. It is a question we all wrestle with deeply. Do I have what it takes? I feel this now from a phone conversation I got off earlier this evening with someone whom I love who feels let down by me yet again. And when I ask this question, my “friend” is quick to speak. Sometimes my party companion tells me, “You almost do, just try harder,” for there are moments he knows that he needs to keep me far from admitting I truly don’t have what it takes. He knows this confession could be fatal to his cause IF the admitting it leads me back to the fountainhead of grace.
But other times, he sees a different disposition in me, and upon taking a stiff drink, he puts his arm around my back and says, “No, you don’t have what it takes.” I don’t. He is right–why keep trying, you cannot ever get it right, you always let them down, you’re a hopeless case. In these moments it is so easy to get sucked into vortex of fatalism. “This is what you are. This is how it will always be.” Down, down down, until you are doing what one of my high classmates ironically voted most=likely-to-succeed did. You type “clearing the wreckage” as your Facebook status and off yourself from living.
And I have listened to his tales long enough tonight….
Instead I’ll sing the refrain. Even when I don’t feel particularly feel like it.
On a day like today, where I am down after speaking with my family from a distance yet another day–I hear their disappointment and sadness and am feeling my own sadness, failure, and loneliness and am tempted to give up–God drops a film into my lap about Magic Johnson. His quote is in a different context, but it holds true and encouraged me.
You have to accept that you are going to live with this virus forever, and you have to have a positive attitude about it. If you feel defeated, then you are going to lose this fight.
Replace the word ‘virus’ with ‘addiction’ or ‘the flesh.’ (And yes, addiction does feel like a virus at times.) On my blah days, I must cling to God and claim this verse:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37 ESV)
And the reason I can stand firm and not shrink in shame or defeat:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
(Romans 8:31-33 ESV)
And I must do what Jesus, Paul (and Magic) did and not merely look inward but reach to to help others. Even in the smallest of things. ‘Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.’ John Piper.
There is hope. Keep fighting. Only surrender to God, not to the flesh or the enemy. Take it minute by minute, day by day, and realize the availability and nearness and power of God. Be about what you need to be about in this moment. A message to myself. Amen.
Don’t let anyone steal my victories–no matter how small they seem.
When you are an addict your failures are highly visible but your victories are not. No one knows the times that I didn’t act out, that I gained a small victory. To them I am just being normal, doing what you should do. But for me, this is a part of the beautiful fight to resist temptation and hold onto victories no matter how small. Don’t let anyone take victories from you. They are key to your recovery and sense of hope. Don’t let the enemy take them from you, don’t let a slip take them from you and don’t even let well-meaning loved ones take them from you. Those times when I were tempted and resisted, no one knows the fullness of except me and Jesus. No one but God knows the real internal battles won. Others do have a right to speak into my life, to offer challenge and encouragement–and I need to listen intently. But I shouldn’t let challenges or rebuke override some victories I know I have had–no matter how small they seem to others. Listen to others, yes. But realize God will ultimately affirm and judge me. I shouldn’t overly expect cheers for the small battles won against sin, because rarely are they outwardly visible. And to maintain a proper perspective, help me realize these victories are not to be jewels in a crown of pride, but stepping stones of hope for future victories. Fight on!