Monday, February 04, 2008

Breathing Underwater IV: Come Clean

This series was partially inspired by a comment Anola made after witnessing a struggling grandfather: “I don’t want to get to 75 having not dealt with my issues.”

The days seem really long, especially in the cold but the years are actually short.

So many of us are living life trying to keep our head above water.

This series is about Spirituality and the 12-Steps. Spirituality is all about an interactive relationship with Jesus and the degree to which you are in touch with your own reality. The 12-Steps are a path that help us walk in that relationship, or help us find God’s breath, His spirit to help us Breathe Underwater.

Where do we start?

Step One: I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and my life is unmanageable.

“Will I ever break free? Am I doomed to stay in this spot forever? How did I end up here?” There is hope…

Step Two: Believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me recover.

Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us. Oliver Wendell Holmes

We need to do more than just believe in God- we need to hand our life over…

Step Three: I choose to commit all my life & my will to Christ's care & control.

Give the baton of your life over to Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 6:2
For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

We're all in need of salvation, especially deliverance fro our predicament.

This is about taking the dys out of dysfunctional. Getting beyond blaming. There is no blame.

The website is funny precisely because we experience significant portions of our life in that emotion.

God please help me to have a soft and pliable heart, that you may have full reign to teach me, guide me, and mold me into your image. Help me to see myself as I truly am and to know you and your love even in my ugliest, most defiant, and most vulnerable, grace-needing state. Reveal to me the ways that I look at the world that are contrary to your kingdom.

Lets ratchet up the honesty. This is a real challenge. Choose to come clean...

Step four: Examine & confess my faults to God, to myself, & to someone that I trust.

This is all about beginning to clean up the past, to let go of guilt and shame & to gain a clear conscience. Isn’t it exciting at the possibility of learning to live shame free and the way God wants us to live? Lets take this step together and continue this journey.

This is the bridge to reality.

Faith is a refusal to panic. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Can you lie to yourself? Are you in denial? Take these steps toward knowing yourself.

What lies in the way? Victimhood.

It can be wonderful to be a victim. I get to be right. I am misunderstood, mistreated, and miserable, but at least I know I'm right. I'm in pain, but my pain is at least a little bit satisfying. The end all and be all for life's perpetual victims is self righteousness-being the one who is right, good, or special. I get to be the star of my own drama.

If I'm really suffering you can't expect much from me. As the suffering one, I should be appreciated, treated special, or helped. You can't expect me to put out too much energy for others in this condition. You can't expect me to do much for myself.

Blaming also allows me to avoid looking at myself. It’s most often displayed as self-righteous anger. Or contempt. Or disgust.

A study by Dr. Glen Affleck discovered that people who blamed their heart attack on others were more likely to suffer another heart attack within eight years! Those who perceived benefits from their heart attack such as a renewed appreciation for life had a reduced risk of subsequent heart attack.

Blaming is a denial of who you are.

Do you know who you are?

You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.

Colossians 3:3-4
Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

Blaming, resentment, and suffering ooze out of the gap between how a situation is and how we want it to be. We see this gap and attach meaning to it. I want you to love me a certain way. You don't. I think this means I am unworthy, or that you are a bad person, or that somehow I can't be happy. In reality your inability to love me means nothing. The meaning I give to it is what causes me suffering. It causes me to resent and to blame. Suffering is eased when I accept you the way you are, whether you love me or not. Suffering is eased when I accept myself as I am.

Step four is crucial to acceptance & overcoming our victimhood.

How do you know if you are “doing well” with God? How do you decide if others are doing well?

Usually by how good a facade we put up- Churchianity. Well-dressed, well-spoken, “I’m fine, really” kind of dialogue.

They pounded nails into his hands. After that, well, everyone wore hats… Anne Sexton

Anne sexton was a confessinal poet who suffered from bi-polar disorder. She lived the lie that told her she was useless except in her ability to please men. She committed suicide not long after writing, Awful Rowing Toward God.

Come Clean.

What would church look like if every member were just like me? Properly humbled, I began concentrating on my spirituality, not everyone else's. Phil Yancey

The United States is said not to deal fully with its past. To which I say good for us. Too much dwelling on history can become a prison. Condoleeza Rice at Davos Summit

Not paying enough attention and dealing with our past is probably even worse Condi.

Galatians 5:16-18
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

This is basic brokenness.

Brokenness 101: Victimhood, denial, control & shame. All sections of the 101 course.

We see the results of our brokenness, our self-will: moral failure; unhappiness & an inability to do what we know is right to do. Like telling the truth. Fear gets in our way because we are afraid we won’t get what we want if we tell the truth (control). A little boy is asked what a lie is & he says, “It’s an abomination to God and a very present help in times of trouble.”

The outcomes of the flesh, our self-will are listed in Galatians 5:19-21. When we live from our self-will this is what you happens along the way to getting what we want. Contrast them with the fruits of the Spirit. We need to realize that the old life is not best dealt with in denial, but rather confession & pursuit of the new life.

Brokenness isn't like cancer, a disease that temporarily afflicts us- it's our dominant condition.

The need of our brokenness is to have full dependence on the Father, just as Jesus did.

The primary function of our will is to trust God. To turn away from God & trust one’s self is the primary corruption.

Psalm 23: I am my shepherd & I am in real trouble!

Say what you need to say- come clean.

Phil Yancey writes of being asked to visit an AA group with this invitation from his friend, “Come along & you’ll get a glimpse of what the early church must have looked like.”

“Hi I’m Tony & I’m an alcoholic.”

A local church is the last place they would stand up and declare, “Hi I’m Tony & I’m an alcoholic and a drug dealer.”

Now why is that?

Historian Ernest Kurtz writes that AA came about when Bill Wilson, tired of his alcoholism & exhausted by six months of willing his own sobriety realized that, “I don’t need another drink, I need another alcoholic.” This led him to Dr. Bob Smith who would cofound AA with him. Church is a place to say, "I don’t need to sin, I need another sinner.”

"Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities." C. S. Lewis

When we finally have to eat and taste our own hard-heartedness, our own emptiness, selfishness and all the rest, then we open up to grace. That is the pattern in all our lives. I have wept over my sins and felt tremendous sadness at my own silliness and stupidity. How about you?

What do I feel guilty about?
What am I ashamed of?
What have I regretted?
What do I want to change?

And you ask God to help you answer these questions.

What do I blame others for?
What am I resentful of?
What is something that consistently re-occurs in my life that is unpleasant, painful and negative that I am powerless over?
What am I afraid of?

What fears seem to ‘pull my strings’?
What effect is this having in my life?

Do you relish pointing out faults? Of who? Pronouncing judgments? On whom?

Write all of these down. Come clean.

I am very aware that this can be painful. It can also be very relieving.

As I did this moral inventory my denial crack began to open at a deeper level. When I listed the first item and confessed to the harm I had done, it was as if I was pulling a thread out of my mouth. Tied to that thread was a string, a rope was attached to that, and a chain was attached to the rope. Hanging from the chain was a bucket of garbage filled with all kinds of things I had denied and repressed for years. As I brought each new bit of knowledge to the surface and wrote it on paper, an amazing thing happened. Suddenly some of my lifelong fears subsided; some of the restlessness, the inner turmoil, and the fear of intimacy and of love began to dissipate. Fresh breezes began to blow through the basement of my life, where all those hurts, pains, fears and resentments had been stored. J. Keith Miller

My prayer will be that God stirs things up for us. I know that He has been.

I confess that I often use humor to deflect pain and keep control in a conversation or social situation. It has entailed several apologies over the last while & my coming clean about it. It's humbling but also freeing to come clean.

James 5:16
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.

"He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, not withstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, theydo not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a regal sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!" Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There is a little video on YouTube about a man going to confessional with respect to adultery. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

"The discipline of confession brings an end to pretense. God is calling into being a church that can openly confess its frail humanity and know the forgiving and empowering graces of Christ. Honesty leads to confession and confession leads to change. May God give grace to the church once again to recover the discipline of confession." Richard Foster

Hebrews 4:15-16
Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let's not let it slip through our fingers. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

If we see God as a loving Father, we will draw near to Him; if He seems to be a harsh judge, we will withdraw and run.

1 John 1:9
If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.

God, I offer myself to you - to build with me and to do with me, as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your Power, Your Love, and Your way of life. May I do Your will always!

"Humility is perpetual quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble. It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore; to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised, it is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace, as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and about is seeming trouble." Dr. Bob

Step four: Examine & confess my faults to God, to myself, & to someone that I trust.

Matthew 5:8
You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

God while it seems more than I can stomach, please whisper to me about the times and places where I caused pain to those you love—those I should have loved more. Walk me through this... Help me to come clean.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.


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