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God Doesn’t Do Rehab…

I’ve been rehabbed and relapsed, recovered and recycled the program. In fact, I’m considering applying for the television show, Celebrity Rehab. If one of the prerequisites is turning rehab into a hobby, I’ve got the experience.

Welcome to hot-seat, please sit down

Christian, let me put you on the hot-seat. Don’t worry, I’ll sit there with you. We can warm our buns together and talk about sensitive subjects.

It seems these days you can’t turn around with hearing someone decrying the shame of homosexuality, the evil of abortion, the wickedness of corrupt and dishonest politicians. From nearly every pulpit and Christian media outlet, we hear of pending doom, the unbearable wrath of God looming over society’s collective shoulder as it marches into hell.

Seriously, where do we get that??

Despite our pious followup of “grace” to this vehement condemnation, we hardly live out what Christ the embodiment of LOVE actually exemplified. Think with me.

We’ve heard it and likely said, “Hate the sin and love the sinner.” Is that anywhere in Scripture? NO! In fact, the closest we can get is re-wording Ephesians 6:12, which says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

What we wish it said, what we often act like it says, is, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood sinners, but against all the evil things they’re doing.

Or take, John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.”

What we seem to think this verse says, For God so loved those who believe in Him that He gave them eternal life. 

We act as if Jesus never met a homosexual or prostitute (think of the woman at the well). We seem to believe He didn’t know any corrupt politicians or evil government officials (think Roman soldier and Pilate and Herod). And maybe Jesus didn’t ever actually see a thief or a murderer (who hung on the cross next to Him?).

I challenge us who grew up in the protective boundary of the church, and who have the privilege and honor of reading the Bible whenever we desire and knowing Christ, God’s Word, personally – I challenge us to name one time when Jesus rebuked an obviously evil person.

The people Jesus spoke against most often in Scripture were those who not only thought they were good people, but from all outside standards, really were keeping the “whole law”. Except, to love their neighbor – the Samaritan, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the sinners. Christian – who do we most look like today?

Do we keep the whole law, behaving well and even performing outreach and being faithful to our spouses and being activists in our communities – but then, hold our neighbor at arm’s distance, telling them first of their sin and finally of the God who loves THE WORLD?

Another couple verses that often pop up in this delicate conversation are John 16:7-11, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Usually, I think, we read this as if the Holy Spirit is standing indignantly within us, slapping our wrists when we miss behave and giving us the authority to point out sin in the world. But I don’t think that’s what it means. Follow along to the next verse…

“…concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” What is the sin that the Holy Spirit convicts of? It is the sin of unbelief. No other sin is unpardonable. Lay it along side that other verse we struggle over and worry about:

Luke 12:10 “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to deny what He says, namely that we must believe. What if we quit beginning our conversations with rebuke, and changed our public arguments to stop railing against the evils of society and simply pleaded with everyone to know the God who loves them and believe in Him?

“…concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father;” because Jesus became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. All righteousness anyone could ever need to perform has been taken care of, all that’s left is belief.

“…concerning judgement; because the ruler of this world is judged.” IT IS FINISHED. There remains no means by which to condemn anyone, except unbelief. So perhaps we’re wasting our breath by tackling all the blatant sins in the world. The only good thing that remains to be done is to believe in the fully sufficient righteousness of Jesus Christ.

And after all, “It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.” All of our indigence and law quoting is for naught. Jesus never quoted the law to an unbeliever. He merely and only loved them, and that drew them to Him, that they might believe and have eternal life.

Waiting to be…

“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away.” Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

I felt so guilty as I drug my family, friends and my God through the dregs of my eating disorder. I remember thinking so many times, “I’ll get this right tomorrow, then they will love me again.”

“I won’t be such a disappointment when I weigh enough, finish the program, eat cake with everyone, go out for pizza, etc.”

“God, I know you must be so fed up with me, so tired of my relapses and recurrent fears. When I finally get well, then you can use me. Then you can be glorified in me.”

A well-rehearsed Bible verse echoed in my mind, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8

How on earth can God be glorified in you? My heart accused me. You have so little faith, you can’t even eat!  What godly fruit are you evidencing? Why would anyone believe in your God? You’re a terrible example. 

No one else ever said those words, but I believed them deep in my heart. The feelings of failure served only to push me deeper into depression and deeper into anorexic habits fueled by fear and hopelessness. What if God gave up on me?

Just this morning, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to another Bible verse that I’ve known almost all my life. I can hardly believe I didn’t see the full truth, the full counsel of God’s Word before!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23a

The fruit that glorifies God and that identifies me as His disciple is not my performance! It isn’t how well I demonstrate Christian behavior. The fruit that I marks me as belonging to Jesus is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the very same Spirit that He sent to teach me all things and remind me of everything Jesus said and did for me. (John 14:26)

But the best news was yet to come. Jesus also said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

I began to trace the references of God’s love for Jesus through the New Testament. In John 11:42, Jesus was confident in God’s love and that God heard everything He prayed. In Matthew 3:17, the Father shouted from the heavens that Jesus is His beloved son and that He is pleased with Him. In John 15:24, Jesus said that the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world.

Hallelujah! Even in the midst of my darkest days, God still loves me. He sees a forgiven me through Jesus’ blood even when I despair and get discouraged. Because of Jesus, every moment of my life, I am loved, pleasing to my Father, heard by my Father – from the foundation of the world.

No Needs in Hell

The trouble is, they have no Needs. You get everything you want (not very good quality, of course) just by imagining it. That’s why it never costs any trouble to move to another street or build another house. In other words, there’s no proper economic basis for any community life. If the needed real shops, chaps would have to stay near where the real shops were. If they needed real houses they’d have to stay near where builders were. It’s scarcity that enables a society to exist.

I kind of stuttered over that first sentence, even having read, The Great Divorce, twice before. I had never noticed C.S. Lewis’ emphasis on the word Needs. You see, I’ve thought a lot about this before:

I only recently discovered what I believe lay at the root of my eating disorder. Needlessness. Does that sound crazy? Is anyone really needless? Anyway, what do the privilege of pain and needlessness have to do with each other?

When I peel away of my excuses and peer into my motives I discover a determination to be self-sufficient, needless. Chasing this, I fail. I fail. I fall.

Is Lewis implying that this isn’t just my personal problem? Is an agenda of Needlessness the very wormy foundation that is cracking beneath families, governments, and marriages…in fact society in general? I think so.

I learned though anorexia, that I could not be needless of food, of familial love, of rest, and stay alive. Humans were never, ever created to be needless. In fact, even in the Garden of Eden before The Fall, God gave man relationship (a spouse) because man needs companionship. God gave man food to eat in the garden, because man needs nourishment. He gave man work, to tend the garden, because man longs to have purpose.

Without the limitless space to print Lewis’ entire book here, it’s impossible to give you appropriate context for this quote. (That’s a hint, hint to read the book!) The best I can do is explain to you that the speaker is referring to Hell or a life on earth without the presence of God: “The trouble is they have [in Hell] no Needs.”

So, I pray with the Psalmist, that God would teach me my fragility, make me keenly aware of all my needs and that He is sufficient to meet them, that I might gain a heart of wisdom, and fear the Lord.

Ps. 90:12, Ps. 111:10

Crazy has an Itchy Trigger Finger

You’ve already gotten the true Naked confession that returning to Columbus, GA, the scene of my relapse into anorexia 6 years ago, has huge potential to be triggering for me.

Now the second Naked truth: I was kinda hoping that walking in recovery meant I wouldn’t have anymore triggers. An excerpt from my journal this morning:

My heart is bowed low in humility or embarrassment, pain or fear, I’m really not sure which of these it is or might be. In spite of all my words and plans for preparedness, Crazy is trying to kick in. Almost quite literally, Crazy (the compulsions I obeyed and my behavior while under the influence of an eating disorder) is trying to kick down the door and all of my defenses, the things I propped against the door are shaking, quaking, threatening to collapse around me, crush me and all my valiant efforts to “stay well”.

I admit (Naked truth here) that I have wondered if it might require less energy to drop my resistance. To just slip back into the habits, routines and culture of my “former Columbus”. Just let it take me under. But what of the next move, what then? Would I ever, ever be able to resurface again? I fear that if I let anorexia take me under one more time, I’d never breathe again.

So, as I am leaning into my One Word 2013, Naked, and bearing my soul to you here, I wonder:

How does Crazy kick in?

Few people actually think they’re Crazy, how does it sneak into my life and habits?

How do I slam the door since I already know what Crazy looks like?

How do I get away?

I’m in a position right now to be staring Crazy in the face, let me tell you how he got here, what he looks like and how I will banish him.

Crazy always walks in with a trigger. From a place of recovery, that looks like something you did or someone you knew before when you were still acting Crazy. And while you are chatting with this person, or considering this behavior, a flood of optimism comes over you. Crazy tells you, “We had good times. You don’t want to lose this relationship. You can keep it under control this time. You can find balance even while flirting with this behavior.

On a personal level, my trigger is all the familiar streets in Columbus, the sweet friends who are still running and competing in triathlons. The friends who somehow are able to contain Crazy without letting him take them over. I’d like to think I could do that, too. But I recognize this trigger, if I start extreme exercising again, I’ll flip the switch for Crazy.

But perhaps what Crazy looks like and even how he got here aren’t all that important relative to how to get away from him. Praise the Lord, who through Jesus, has finished all the work for me.

“LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Is. 26:12

As I prayed and continued writing in my journal, the Lord spoke to me.

Beloved, all your defenses, the plans you stacked against the door of possible relapse, are pointless without me. No good intention will ever succeed without me. It is not only someday in Heaven that you are safe from fears, secure and protected from your enemies. Darling, you have me, The One True God, now, and forever. And it is not only eternity or only your spirit that I love and care for. I am intimately invested in you. Trust me with your recovery.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure…You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Ps. 16:9, 11

A Welcome Guest, Amy Dardis

I hate feeling disconnected from God.  And yet, there are seasons in my life, where I just allow myself to get distracted. Sometimes it’s because of sickness, sometimes it’s that I get so busy and burnt out, other times its exhaustion, and sometimes it’s just hormones. It’s something that happens gradually. I will be walking closely with God, seeking Him in everything, and then slowly after a few weeks or months, I notice the change. I become more irritable, easily frustrated, distracted, and feel lost. I get that feeling like my life isn’t moving forward and I just don’t know how to get out of my rut.

To read more from Amy, visit Haven Journal, here.

 

Closing Lewis

Did you see the movie Thor? Remember that great, impassable chasm that in the end seemed to forever separate him from his love? The movie portrays two distinct realms, the world of the gods and the world of men.

Now, truthfully, the gods of Thor, were more like men, even in the fantasy. They could do evil and good. They had rivals and equivalents, relatives and love relationships. They lied and were deceived. But Praise the Lord, our God is not such!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Is. 55:8

Though it’s admittedly fiction, allow me to blow some holes in movie’s premises about gods and men.

At the close of the book, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis’ main character and narrator is blasting his nephew and protege for allowing a young man to slip through his demon fingers. The human died with full knowledge and acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary death which purchased his pardon and eternal life.

It’s interesting to consider that first moment of real life. It’s murky, a muddy puddle, to peer into the mystery that we’re told we cannot even imagine.
“However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ — the things God has prepared for those who love him–“. 1 Cor. 2:9

But as expected, Lewis does a masterful job of imagining what that might be like. You see, though God is utterly unlike us, we were created in His image. And then, Jesus came to earth clothed in human flesh so that a perfect man could ransom the lives of wretched men.

God has allowed our worlds to overlap. In fact, from the beginning, His desire was to walk with us daily, visibly, physically. Only sin has carved this chasm between us.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Is. 59:2

But that chasm is most certainly crossable. In fact, it has been crossed already, by Jesus, so that we can be reunited with our Creator. For those of us who have humbly accepted Christ’s payment for our sins, we have the promise that we will see Him!
(1 Cor. 2:9) 19
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,”. Hebrews 10:19-20

So listen to Lewis’ description of a Christian meeting his maker:

he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you[Wormwood, the failed demon], is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man.

and

-that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower.

Think of it, Friends! Think and be thrilled that it cannot be contained! Your great future, the glory of beholding His face and being able to stand before Him loved and unashamed! What magnificence! And it is not far away!
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

In fact, except for the physical vision of Jesus, it all ready is.
“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2:6

P.S. Lewis was such fun. I think I might go very slowing through his book, The Great Divorce, with you next. What do you think?

 

I’ll Tell You What I Want

Here is a naked truth that I did not even know about myself. As I sort old journals, cull memories and query friends and family, I am realizing how little I actually knew about my own battle with an eating disorder. It’s kind of like taking a shower, an effort to cleanse away the day’s dust, and discovering a birthmark you had never seen before. images

Obviously, it’s been a part of me forever. Since opening the womb, my “me-ness” has been as God sketched it. My soul has born the same imprint. Surely, culture and family and circumstances ebb and flow across each life and erode some things faster than others while sifting silt and revealing precious stones. But I had hardly seen it.

I was told that in writing my book, I must “bleed on the page and be saved in the process.”

Well, sometimes bleeding hurts. And when you’re naked, even the smallest prick can make you bleed.

I WANT.
You see, I grew up the oldest of four girls. One of the anthems that I remember echoing through the halls of our home was, “Abby, you’re the oldest, can you please just give in this time?”  – – or – –
“Be the mature one.” – – or – –
“I expect more out of you.”

And I did, and I was. But denying want does not erase it. In fact, denying want on the surface dug a deep, subversive pit in my heart where I stuffed want and greedily demanded all my desires while on the surface, others observed a starving little girl denying even her need to eat.

Now, I can clearly hear the melody of my heart all those years, the percussion to which I kept time:
I want you to want me. I want you to think I am the smartest, the thinnest, the most beautiful. I want you to want to be me. I want to be enviable. I want to be impervious. I want to need nothing. I want you to know that I am strong. I want to think I am better than everyone else. I want others to think I am self-disicplined. I want, I want, I want. I want all of my parents’ attention. I want to be your favorite. I want you to notice me. I want you to think I am spiritual. I want your sympathy. I want your touch. I want to be able to have everything I want. I want you to tell me I can eat anything I want. I want to be safe. I want to be independent. I want, I want, I want. 

It was so sneaky that even I did not recognize my greed. An anorexic appears to be in need. The life of an anorexic is an exercise is asceticism, self denial, ultimate self control. But for me, it was ultimately a ploy to get everyone else to condescend to all my demands.
That’s a pretty ugly naked. 

Now, lest you think I am unnecessarily berating myself, or attempting to beg pardon, let me tell you the TRUTH.
I was needy. I do want things.
There are a couple differences now, this is not selfishness. I have learned to ask for things – both my  needs and wants. Secondly, I am learning to be attentive to the needs and desires of those around me. And lastly, I have stopped looking for others to notice and fulfill my emptiness.

I have found the bottomless source of gifts. I have found the unquenchable fulfillment of all my desires. I have found the solitary source for the satisfaction of all my needs. And He loves for me to come to Him HUNGRY. 

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. Ps. 145:15-19

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

 

First comes love, then comes marriage?

Last weekend Patrick and I participated in a marriage retreat called Strong Bonds. True confession, as this blog is entirely about, it was emotionally difficult for me. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m mulit-lingual in the languages of love and that my hubby hasn’t even learned to sound out words. [That’s my pride talking, a subject I’m am constantly re-submitting to the Lord.]

We are learning, or I should say, I am learning, how to communicate. Wouldn’t you think that the girl who can’t shut-up would have this communication thing figured out?

As you all know from reading here, Patrick and I have been through some major mud, over towering hurdles and through the lowest of valleys. And actually, our sustenance has been, the trick to all of this is, learning to believe in God’s LOVE for us, both corporately and individually. Because when God’s love become progressively more real, we cannot help but see His reflection in each other and personally glow with His radiance.

Wrapping up this month of LOVE, I’ve still hardly scratched the surface of C.S. Lewis’ wisdom in The Screwtape Letters. So, we will carry on in March, looking for modern application of this book and alternately peering into the depths of the One Word: Naked.

After this past weekend, it really comes as no surprise that God brought us to Lewis’ chapter on love, sex and marriage. Consider this nugget:

The humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-colored and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result.

Do you see that? Kinda makes you think for a second, doesn’t it? In a generation that wants legal marriage for all and at the same time argues for no-fault divorce, it’s pretty obvious that humans believe love is the foundation for marriage. But what if that’s not as God intended?

Perhaps, and it seems evident in the Garden of Eden, marriage, oneness – is the foundation, the fertile ground for love.

Thoughts?