Abstinence from areas of idolatry.

Abstinence has been a workable strategy for many people in AA for many years.  Why shouldn’t abstinence be a workable/helpful strategy for me, in dealing with my idolatry, another word for addiction?  Helpful for getting me out of the trap of addiction: A.K.A. the trap of proving myself worthy.  My idols really are less strong than they used to be, as folks have been praying, but I’m like an alcoholic down to six drinks a day, from twelve.  I’m sick of being on the pathway of worthiness-proving, and want to walk on the pathway of Jesus-worthiness.  Ahhh.

An addict to alcohol is weak as water, flowing down a hill, taking the path of least resistance.  Only the presumptuous/confident alcohol abuser feels like s/he can handle alcohol in moderation.  The recovering alcoholic, however, has come to realize he is powerless over his addiction.   Abstinence seems wise for the weak who know they are weak.  Abstinence is very humbling.  Too weak to drink alcohol.  Need to abstain.  The presumptuous imagine otherwise.

Two paths are before me: the pathway to worthiness-proving, and the pathway to Jesus.  The problem with the pathway to worthiness-proving is that it’s a horrible trap: the same things that give me life, also give me death, when things go south.  And death-avoidance is addictive, thereby weirding my life.  I am so much happier when I don’t obsess about death-avoidance, failure-avoidance.  I’m sick of that kind of lifestyle.  I feel too weak to place myself in harm’s way on the pathway to worthiness-proving.  While a strong person might not be devastated by death, a weak person, dysfunctional person, is so traumatized and re-traumatized by death, that he becomes obsessive about death-avoidance, and it ruins his life, ruins his health, undermines his relationship with Jesus, others and himself, as a control-freak perfectionis t.  He hates himself when he fails, and when you hate yourself, it’s impossible to love Jesus and others, to even care.

If a man is weak and knows he is weak, he is no fool to take extraordinary measures to avoid temptation.  So.  I’m contemplating a bold lifestyle change.  Abstaining from idolatry, another word for addiction: areas of my life where I obsess, am self-absorbed and self-contemptful when I fail.  Here’s what I’m thinking about changing:

Check ministry reports once a month, instead of many times/day.  Check investment report once a month, instead of many times/day.  Stop reading articles about improving my dysfunctional health.  Sell my cool, fast, hard-cornering car, and my fast motorcycle, and buy a used VW Golf: not sexy, not fast, not tempting to drive in such a way as to prove myself worthy.  Stop obsessing over bargains, researching purchasing decisions: just pick a supplier and pay whatever the price.  Stop helping others find good used cars.  Stop following my favorite sports teams on TV and online: no Eagles, Phillies, US Open, OU football, Messiah soccer, because with sports I’m vicariously proving myself.  Addicted to winning.  Suppressing my pain when losing.

Maybe some day, maybe next week, I can return to these activities w/o being obsessive, trying to use them to prove myself worthy, but for today, I’m thinking I’m too weak, too vulnerable, to face the onslaught of such temptation.  Think of a recovering-alcoholic of a few hours, and unemployed, being offered a good-paying job as a bartender with free drinks as a perk.  Unwise to say yes.  That’s how weak I feel.  Maybe in a month, year, decade, I can return to activity, or more-frequent-activity, in these areas, sell the Golf and buy a cooler, faster car, but I have no clue how long it may take, and I may decide I can never go back to life as it was before Sept 11, 2012.  I’m not abstaining from alcohol, BTW, because I don’t abuse it.  And maybe I’ll decide I can handle these temptations without abstinence, after all.   I just need your prayers.

Days later.

Since I journaled the above, I decided to check ministry and investment reports once a day instead of once a month, and I decided to watch a Messiah soccer match: our son is the coach, the match was video webcast, and I hoped it might be a good experiment.  It was.  I felt like an addict-wanting-a-drink-at-a-cocktail-party as I watched, and that awareness enabled me to have a much-healthier indifference than ever before, watching Messiah soccer.  I’ve not sold my car, but there too, when I’ve driven it, I’ve noticed more awareness than before, of trying to prove myself cool, worthy, and noticed more awareness of my critical/judgmental spirit toward others, and it’s actually frightened me: trying to feel good about myself by going down the worthiness-proving pathway, because it’s a trap by the forces of evil that sucks me in, leads to death, not life.  Unconscious self-hatred.  So helpful to have the mindset of a recovering addict, doing something very dangerous.  Driving my car is very dangerous, because it strokes my addiction, though I’ve never seen it that way before, and the same with TV-sports, ministry, bargains, investments, judging others, etc.  Feels like a game-changer.  Dunno what tomorrow will bring.

–WeakDave, thankful for the prayers of many (please keep praying and please pray now)

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What does faith/dependency look like?

Enjoying Jesus, enjoying others, enjoying myself, enjoying my circumstances, just as they are.   What if I’m irritated with myself for struggling to live this way, for being such a loser as a follower of Jesus?   That’s not humility, that’s pride.  Self-contempt.  Satan loves us wishing we were different, unaccepting of where we are in the unfolding story of Jesus changing us, more and more.  A humble believer confesses sin, but a proud believer is bummed by sin, and tries harder to do better in the future.  A humble believer enjoys Jesus, others, self, circumstances, just as they are, but a proud believer wants others different, self different, circumstances different, is not content with things, just as they are.  Jesus is not enough.  A humble believer is thankful to Jesus for everything, just as it is, doesn’t know what’s best for himself and those he loves, but a proud believer knows what’s best, and pleads with Jesus to make it happen.

–ProudDave, needing prayer to be HumbleDave, so the pre-believers around him will be wowed by a contagious Jesus in him (please pray now)

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Arguing while humble.

What would that even look like?  Arguing with respect, admiration, enjoyment, of the opposition, rather than vilifying them?  Is humility the missing ingredient today in politics, as well as in the Church, business, education, sports, and the media?  And in Dave?

God opposes the proud/strong/confident, but his heart goes out to the humble/weak/meek.  True also, of us humans: our hearts go out to the humble/weak/meek.  I don’t know how to humbly argue politics with pre-believers or believers, or theology, or whatever, because I am always opinionated/confident/strong/self-righteous/proud.  Or I wouldn’t argue.  There is no Jesus-humility in me, nothing to endear them to the Jesus in me, because there is in me, so little of Him and His humility.  When I argue.

While I’m unlikely to win over anyone by argument, the overflowing Jesus in me is compelling, and maybe contagious.  But for there to be contagion, the Spirit has to be working: in me, in them.

Who cares about winning a convert to my politics or theology, compared to a believing friend freshly embracing Jesus as Lord, or a pre-believing friend embracing Him for the first time?  Paul says, “We endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel.”  I Cor 9:12.

–DumbSheepDave, freshly convicted of all his arguing about politics, and the theology of following Jesus, because folks have been praying (please keep praying, and please pray now)

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When I notice the pull of an idol,

what I learn from that desire, is that I’m evidently looking for relief, trying to prove myself worthy, which means I still have more suppressed childhood pain to face, experience. When I wish I were different – try not to be who I am, this also points to suppressed pain, motivating me to prove myself worthy, feel good about myself based on my performance, not Jesus’ performance. Noticing my need for further healing is a good thing. The immediate goal is not elimination of the pain, but noticing the pain. Noticing is vital for healing.

Confessing my sin is good, healthy, restorative, but despising myself for my sin is not healthy, and not humility, but rather pridefully treating myself as Satan would have me treat myself, not treating myself as Jesus treats me. Jesus loves/accepts/enjoys/cherishes me, just as I am, sin and all, and for me to do the same requires humility, which is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in my life. Humility is not something I can engineer on my own, so I get no credit for it.

–WeakDave, getting healthier because folks have been praying (please keep praying and please pray now)

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Why are my idols so strong?

I now suspect it’s because of suppressed excruciating pain from childhood, that I evidently have not wanted to face, experience.  What is the pain?  I’ve concluded that it’s my feeling unloved by my parents, and my being ignored, criticized and ridiculed by my dad, causing me to suppress feelings of worthlessness, shame, of being a loser.  Even though I remember my dad treating me this way, I never remember thinking I was a loser, worthless, as a child, or as an adult, but the analysis makes so much sense today as I look at my life.

To compensate, I’ve unconsciously been trying all my adult life to prove myself worthy: to myself, and to others.  Feeling good about myself.  Worthy, I now think, of being loved/enjoyed/cherished.  But I would never have guessed, until recently, that as a child, I stuffed wanting my dad’s love.  As an adult, I’ve been consciously indifferent to my dad’s unlove, but now I see, I must have wanted it badly all along.  Denial is powerful.

So how do I attempt to prove myself worthy?  By striving for excellence in my areas of idolatry/addiction, such as ministry, health management, investments, bargains, brilliant decisions that never produce regrets, and walking, driving, working, more rapidly and with more excellence, than others.  Hyper-competitive, but also highly loss-avoidant: I’ve noticed I avoid competition/debate unless risk of losing is extremely low, and even then, I’m uncomfortable.  Performance gives me relief from the suppressed pain of feeling worthless/unloved, like alcohol provides relief from the suppressed pain of an alcoholic.  Performance addiction has nurtured me into a control-freak perfectionist and my poor body has paid the price for a lifetime of self-abuse.

Cognitively, intellectually, I’ve known for thirty years that Jesus’ righteousness and love, is all I need, but my idols have been so strong/addictive, the suppressed pain so huge and excruciating I now suspect, that His imputed righteousness, even His love, and the love of other humans, have seemed unsatisfying to me, most of the time, unless I’ve been freshly convicted of my dissatisfaction, my wanting to feel worthy by having some righteousness/performance of my own.  But over the past six months, and especially the past week, Jesus has been inviting me to look inside, get in touch with my suppressed feelings, experience my painful father-wound, so I can begin to heal.  And He’s been healing me, little by little.  With increasing self-awareness, my idols are beginning to lose their intensity, their grip on my life, their addictive nature, and I’m amazed at the difference it’s ma king in me.  The joy and the peace are priceless.  It’s so much easier to fix my eyes and thoughts on Jesus when big idols aren’t in the way.  And I’m finding this self-absorbed control-freak-perfectionist better able to enjoy those around him, extending grace/compassion to them, instead of robbing them of grace by judging them, looking for their areas of inferiority to JudgeDave, so he can feel worthy, by comparison.

–WeakDave, the beneficiary of the prayers of God’s people (please keep praying and please pray now)

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How to get more amazing grace.

Grace flows downhill to the lowly/needy who know they are needy: sinners/failures/losers who know they are sinners/failures/losers.  Not uphill to the strong/confident/superior.  But this grace is impossible for us mortals to orchestrate.

So how can I get more grace?  Ask Him, and if it helps you believe, claim the promise of Luke 11, that if we ask for the Spirit, He will give us the Spirit: fresh conviction of sin, fresh death to my agenda, fresh Jesus-dependency, fresh enjoyment of Jesus, others, myself and my circumstances.

–WeakDave, who qualifies for grace, because folks have been praying for fresh conviction of sin in his life (please keep praying, so pre-believers will want this amazing grace for themselves)

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Having self-awareness and self-acceptance,

doesn’t mean I’m emotionally and spiritually healthy; it means I know who I am, and accept/enjoy all of me, including my emotional and spiritual dysfunction, just as Jesus accepts/enjoys me, dysfunction and all.  What keeps me from self-awareness and self-acceptance?  Pride. 

–ProudDave, needing prayer for fresh conviction of sin so he’s HumbleDave, not needing any performance/somebodiness of his own, free to be a loser, so he’s free to enjoy Jesus, others, himself, his circumstances, just as they are (please pray now)

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“I’m no loser, but a winner.”

These six words have defined me my whole life, since high school, when for the first time in my life I got some real encouragement in the direction of somebodiness, and it felt so good it has driven me like nothing else would have driven me.  And explains so much of who I am and why I’ve done what I’ve done, although I never consciously thought those six words until July 21, 2012.

–IndependentDave, who needs prayer to be DependentDave, free from the need to prove himself to himself and others, content with the imputed performance/righteousness of Jesus, so he’ll be able to enjoy Jesus, others, himself, and his circumstances, just as they are (please pray now)

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