Join Thomas and Doug as they discuss the hope and freedom possible in recovery. Listen to his testimony of what worked for him to establish sobriety as well as the patterns he puts into practice now. If you have questions or want to reach out, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and remember that on this path of recovery, you are not walking alone.
The Christmas season is my favorite and most difficult time of the year. I am overwhelmed by the grace and love that God has shown me through the birth of Jesus as a human being, a “living sacrifice” to repair what my sin has broken. That he desires a relationship with me that much is humbling and life changing. I am also reminded of the damage I have done to my loved ones as I see the remembrances of seasons past where I was the cause of so many hurts and disappointments. This year has been no different. I have been fortunate to spend time with my wife and kids during this season and celebrate our family together. I have also had the opportunity to share in the pain they have expressed from the memories this time of year brings.
Most people refer to Luke’s Gospel when seeking out the true meaning of Christmas and how to celebrate Jesus’s birth. I like going to Matthew. His level of detail just speaks to me. This year, I found something else that God had for me through Matthew’s writings. Specifically, Matthew 1:18-19:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
We all know how Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Luke’s Gospel focuses on Mary and her experience of being told she was to give birth to the Messiah. Matthew reminds us of what it must have been like for Joseph. This person he was to marry, to spend his life with, suddenly seemingly had betrayed him. Before knowing what Mary had been told by the angel, Joseph was identified as a “just” man, unwilling to shame Mary. Amazing!
I didn’t used to be a “just” man. I was the opposite. I was a “judgmental” man, happy to point to and take advantage of the failings of others. I wasn’t very interested in examining my own. Joseph’s motivation, despite being wronged, was to not “shame” Mary. I experienced the same type of response from my spouse. I had admitted to an affair and told her I wanted to leave her. She didn’t seek to “shame” me. She saw that I was damaged and broken, despite her own hurt. She gave me another option: get help and come home. There will be consequences, but if I got help, we would deal with them together. My wife was a “just” wife, even when I didn’t deserve that type of consideration.
How are you dealing with the wounds you receive? That instance by my wife was transformational for me. Ok, to be fair, it was transformational for my attitude towards others. I wish I could say that I immediately became a “just” man. I didn’t. I did start to become one, though. It’s a lifelong journey for me. I noticed it recently in some resentments I have been carrying for several years. I reached out to a family member who had hurt me, one I swore I wouldn’t reach out to again. I don’t recommend you break boundaries, but for me this was a safe one as the boundary I set with him was too stringent. My attitude towards him had changed because I could start to see why he reacted the way he did when I experienced that hurt. He was broken as well.
Are you a “just” person? Do you want to be? For me, it started with someone else modeling what a “just” person looked like. Do you have someone like that in your life? If not, look to Joseph. He is a great reminder that a “just” man is a “just” man because God says so.
It’s December. For many people December means Christmas. Family. Buying presents. Stressing out that the kids will be home from school with not enough to do. Anxiety about travel, money, year end reviews at work.
December can also mean reminders, memories good and bad. I miss my Dad at Christmas. He loved making our house look like the Griswolds from Christmas Vacation. You probably could see our house lit up from space. I also remember the Christmas after my wife discovered the depth of my acting out and addiction. Not a great holiday.
For a lot of us, though, December also means Step 12. I love how the Steps align perfectly with the months of the year, giving me the opportunity to focus on each one each month. Step 12, the penultimate part of recovery:
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our lives.
Prior to having that spiritual awakening spoken of in Step 12, I took pride in being a realist, searching for the practical application. When I got to the final Step, that practicality was still there. How do I carry this message to others and practice all these principles as part of my daily life? I came up with four musts that allowed me to wrap my brain around this Step and to enact it in the 5 plus years since I first got to Step 12. Take what you like and leave the rest.
One: It’s not about me. The message I am carrying to others isn’t about me. It’s about what Jesus has done for me and through me. Prior to the spiritual awakening that only he can provide, I was stuck. Stuck in my shame, acting out, deception. Powerless. Just like Step 1 says, I was powerless to my addiction and compulsive behavior until I wasn’t. What changed was Jesus, not me.
Two: I am not in charge. If it’s not about me then it isn’t my message. It’s his. So if it’s his message, then I need to take it where he wants me to. When I was working Step 5, my sponsor gave me some excellent advice (thanks, Sean!). He told me to share my story in three situations: when it benefits me, when it benefits someone else, and when the Holy Spirit urges me to share. I had a good friend tell me this week that God wants us to be “interruptable,” to listen for his change in direction. I have to be willing to go in another direction if it’s his will. After all, it’s his message.
Three: I need to lean on his words. My good friend Lee taught me that communication with God starts with grounding myself in his word. I should always start and end there. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul reminds us that all scripture is “God breathed,” written by man but breathed by God. To hear his voice and to validate his will, I have to start and end in his word.
Four: My faith will overcome my fear. Following his direction is scary. My focus throughout most of my life was on what I could control. Allowing God to be in charge means letting go of control, direction, and decisions. That lack of control can cause me fear. What if I go the wrong way or do the wrong thing? Am I sure that is what God had in mind for me? My pastor shared a message this Sunday in which he highlighted a very cool truth: the more you cultivate faith in God, the more he shows up to validate his will. I have found peace and comfort in that simple truth. Oh, and I have also found it to be true. God validates some of the decisions about which I have the most fear. Just because he can and because he loves me.
I pray that your December is a reminder that its not about you, its about what Jesus is doing in you and through you. I pray that you remember that you aren’t in charge, he is. You gave him that right when you finished Step 3 (really when you realized you were powerless alone). I pray you start and end in his word, finding his voice and validating the truths he places in your heart. I pray you take steps of faith to overcome your fear. Test that he will validate your faith. He will. He said he would. Carry his message in whatever way he designed you to do so. Have a great 12th month and 12th Step.
If you need a meeting, join the Zoom meeting for Monday.
Change is traumatic, chaotic. It fed my addict. Its something prior to recovery that I depended on. A function of my self reliance and self-will. I needed change. I used it as a crutch to defer judgment, to hide lies, betrayals, my own sins.