Monday, February 18, 2008

Breathing Underwater VI: Relational Lifelines

You can try to swim away but you will only die tired.

Surrender to God, to what He is doing in your life & stop fighting Him. In order to fulfill your dreams you have to wake up. Reality time.

My fear of all the previous steps paled as I faced the prospect of revealing to another, face to face, my very soul. I was going to show this person the throne room of my inflated, controlling self, my trophies of selfishness and abuse. As I did my moral inventory, I saw that I had perpetrated these hurts in order to fix and change other people, my wife included, and to cover the pain and other bloated feelings that might reveal the shame of my powerlessness and failure to be “enough”. It was pretty painful to realize all this. But when my pain and isolation had gotten strong enough, and I shared my list with another person, a kind of miracle took place. J. Keith Miller

There are things in our life that are harbors and safe houses for all our shame and secrets, things that we would just die if anyone saw or knew about, or so we think.

The miracle was that Miller realized he was not the shameful person he always thought he was. He wasn’t uniquely awful. Have you ever felt ‘uniquely awful’?

Shame and the fear of failure often wins the inner battle of our lives. We have a flimsy shield with our confident mask. Are you guarded in making a coommitment to change things? What if I decide to change & can’t, or won’t actually do it? Here is a step of commitment.

No one can get rid of the spirit of judgment by an effort of the will. As long as I am obsessed by a friend’s fault which has shocked me and made me reproach him, no matter how much I say to myself: “I do not wish to judge him,” I judge him nonetheless. But the spirit of judgment evaporates as soon as I become conscious of my own faults and speak freely of them to my friend, as he speaks to meof those which make him reproach himself. Paul Tournier

“Inside I felt hopeful, free. I wanted more- in fact, I wanted it all! I finally thought, “If life can be as different as it is for me after getting some of my reality straightened out through committing myself to God and the process, then maybe I can trust God with my whole future. I can actually enlist God in the entire inner battle with my shaming self.” Sue

Last week the step didn’t say, “I now promise to clean up my whole life.” It said that 'I am going to quit trying to straighten out my character defects’. Some of you are thinking, ‘Quit trying? I can’t do that. That’s irresponsible.’

What it really means is that we are going to detach from trying to control our life and our character defects. Instead we’re going to face them, name them, and turn them over to God for healing.

The greatness of a man's power is the measure of his surrender. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army

It’s ironic. As I quit trying to run the world, my life has become less stressful. After I humble asked God to remove my shortcomings, some of the things about my behavior that I’ve been powerless over for years- I mean serious character defects that were ruining my marriage- have gradually disappeared. I don’t pretend to know how this works, but I do know that because I want to see the truth about my life- because I know that this willingness will eventually lead me to freedom and serenity- I’m not so afraid to see my own faults and admit them. Roger

Step 6: Evaluate all my relationships with the help of God. I will offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I've done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.

Matthew 5:7,9
"Happy are the merciful. Happy are the peacemakers."

Ephesians 4:31–32
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Job 5:2
Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple.

Job 18:4
You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger, is the earth to be abandoned for your sake? Or must the rocks be moved from their place?

None of These Diseases, by Dr. S.I. McMillan, has a chapter titled, "The High Cost of Getting Even". McMillan writes that it might truthfully be written on many thousands of death certificates that the victims died of "grudgitis". People often say from between clenched teeth, "I'll get even with them if it's the last thing I ever do". Sometimes that’s the way it actually is.

Mark 11:25
If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.

"That hurt." Admit it. Explore & allow yourself to feel the vulnerable feelings. Expressions of emotion- ‘What’s wrong?’ Guys don’t have vulnerable feelings, do they?

Make a list of the hurts you want to forgive. There are other choices, though:

Repress it: just pretend it doesn’t exist, ignore it—push it out of the way.

"A psychological process in which memories and motives are not permitted to enter consciousness but are operative at an unconscious level. Repression is one of the reactions to frustration and anxiety. It serves as a means of altering conscious motives and ideals."

Suppress or deny it: “It’s no big deal, it doesn’t matter, they did the best they could.”

Confess it: “I’d really like to close the door on my past. I’d like to get closure so this person doesn’t hurt me anymore.”

Release the offender & let it go. How do you know when you have released an offender fully? You can think about them and it doesn’t hurt anymore. You can pray for God’s blessing on their life. You can begin to look at understanding their hurt, rather than focusing on how they hurt you, because hurt people, hurt people. So you begin to understand their hurt. That’s when you know you’ve released them. You keep forgiving them, keep forgiving them, until finally you can think of them and it doesn’t hurt anymore. How do you forget a divorce? You can’t, but you can get rid of the pain. You can let go of it.

Do it to an empty chair if necessary.

Hebrews 12:14-15
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Now make a list of those you have hurt:
Is there anyone I owe a debt to that I haven’t repaid?
Is there anyone I’ve broken a promise to?
Is there anyone I’m guilty of overcontrolling? A spouse? A kid? A brother? An employee? Friend?
Is there anyone I’m overly possessive of?
Is there anyone I’m hypercritical of?
Have I been verbally abusive to anybody?
Physically abusive? Emotionally abusive?
Is there anyone I have not appreciated or not paid attention to or forgotten an anniversary?
Is there anyone I’ve been unfaithful to? Or have I lied to anyone?

This step helps us learn some key life lessons: we grow by learning to share the painful mistakes we make. Mistakes are how we learn about life, as long as we don’t choose the lie of self-sufficiency.

“Keep your mouth shut son & they’ll always over-estimate you.”

Pain causes a fight or flight response. Jesus said, ‘Turn the other cheek’. We can use pain as a doorway to intimacy and wisdom.

What is the message of this pain?

How does God want me to use it as fertilizer for growth?

If we really resist, choosing to stay in our blame we may have a stronghold.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Fault-finder, gossip and a critical spirit.

We may think we have the spiritual gift of criticism!

These are not from God. Do you know where they come from? These take our eyes off of the perfect love of Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, and cause them to be fixated on our faults and imperfections.

This is how you know whether or not you’re with a ‘safe’ person.

I used to be proud of my sarcastic ability and criticism. Not so anymore. This is a big deal people.

Galatians 3:2-4
Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God's Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

The prayer of brokenness, “Without God I can do nothing,” is an antidote to an independent, faultfinding spirit.

There really is no self-help. There’s help from God and help from another source that’s not God. I think you know what I mean.

To write our moral inventory is one thing. To share it with another ramps up the honesty and is a real challenge for us shame-based people. But to actually face the dishonest, abusive and harmful things that we’ve done others with them, face to face, is to rekindle a deep fear and shame of a new magnitude.

"We must constantly build dykes of courage to hold back the flood of fear." Martin Luther King, Jr.

The responses of others will vary. Sometimes people will accept you sometimes they reject you. Their responses are about them.

Romans 12:17-19
Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."

Job 11:13-20
Reach Out to God
"Still, if you set your heart on God and reach out to him, if you scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home, you’ll be able to face the world unashamed and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless. You’ll forget your troubles; they’ll be like old, faded photographs. Your world will be washed in sunshine, every shadow dispersed by dayspring. Full of hope, you'll relax, confident again; you’ll look around, sit back, and take it easy. Expansive, without a care in the world, you’ll be hunted out by many for your blessing. But the wicked will see none of this. They're headed down a dead-end road with nothing to look forward to—nothing."

This is about peace with God. Peace with others. Peace within.

Genesis 6:6
God regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and it pained His heart.

Fortunately for us He had another way to deal with us wayward souls.

Let's celebrate Communion together.


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