Our host church, The Fellowship will be closed in observance of Independence Day Holiday on Monday, July 3rd so we are canceling the Castimonia Monday night meeting at this church. Also, due to VBS, the Monday, July 10th meeting will be canceled as well. The meeting will resume the following Monday night, July 17th, at its regular time and location.
Ps 103:11-12 – For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. ESV
Today. That’s my timeline. It used to be much more long term. How do I plan for and control what happens tomorrow or a week from now or next year. How do I make sure what I want to happen happens in the future. I don’t. Not really anymore. The realization for me is to focus on today. And follow the serenity prayer. To accept the things I can’t change. The courage to act and to change the things I can. Hopefully, also the wisdom to know the difference. So that’s how I focus on each day. God, let me accept that you are in control of today, tomorrow, next week and next year. Allow me to focus on what I can change. That is my actions today.
This led me to something else. Something that I recently wrote about. I wrote that I was wrong. Also that I am wrong. I am realizing and understanding that isn’t exactly true. I wasn’t wrong. I did wrong. I am not wrong. I do wrong. Sounds like a technicality but hear me out.
This goes back to a previous discussion about shame. In my life before recovery, I had incorporated into my life that I was wrong. That I was bad. That I was sin. Through reading, through counseling, through groups I have come to understand the difference. I am not wrong or bad or sin. I did wrong, I did bad, I acted in sin. Incorporating that I am bad or wrong into my identity is against what God intends and is what kept me in that cycle of sin. You know it as shame. And its so pervasive that I have slipped back into that way of thinking subtly.
I didn’t see it. I didn’t see that I had shifted in my thinking in how I was thinking about and classifying my past. Understandably, my wife struggles seeing the good in our marriage before I entered this time I call recovery. Without recognizing it, I started doing the same. Not seeing that it wasn’t black and white: before and after recovery. I had started thinking of my life as what came before recovery and where I am now. I realize now the danger in that.
The time before I entered recovery was just that; it was the time before I entered recovery. It wasn’t that I all of a sudden transformed from “bad” to “good.” Without realizing it, that is how I started classifying my life. Only…that isn’t right. I wasn’t “bad” and I am not all of a sudden “good.” I am broken. Then and now. Only, now I fully realize that I am broken.
I was talking with a friend recently who is also in recovery. I guess the better way to say it is my friend also realizes his own brokenness. I like the way he put it. He said that he used to be able to compartmentalize his life. He would put away the parts he didn’t want to think about or deal with in their separate boxes and he would just not think about them or address them. But they were still there. Now, all those compartments are broken. All the parts of his life are there. That resonates with me. The awareness. I am aware of my flaws, my faults, the damage I have caused. I no longer hide that away in boxes. All my boxes are open.
Am I bad? Am I good? I am broken. Do I do bad things? Do I do good things? I do. Thankfully I am aware of all of them. They are part of in my brokenness who I am. So I address them. I don’t compartmentalize them or box them up. I deal with them…a day at a time.
I am struggling with a particular feeling. Wrongness. Not just when I am to blame. Just that I am ALWAYS the one to blame. That because of who I am and what I have done that I don’t have the right to be…well…right. Ever. Even when I am. That I am supposed to always carry my guilt and even my shame. I have written on this before. I know that shame is selfish and deflects. See, I am falling back into before. Before recovery. Was I always wrong then? When it comes down to it, did I ever do any good?
This generalization is easy to make. That because of my deception, my lies, the continual violations of my wedding vows that I couldn’t have done any good during that time. That’s what I am talking about. In a round-about way, because of what I did, did I ever08 do any good before recovery? Are the positive parts of my life limited to the time after I hit bottom? Or did I have any positive influence in my marriage, on my kids, in my job, in my church. In the difficult times, the answer is always no. No I didn’t have any positive impact anywhere. I am defined throughout most of my life by what I was doing and who I was. The only problem with that belief is…it isn’t true.
I have started making a list. I like lists. They help me put things in perspective and see reality. I have been an expert at avoiding reality and truth for so long. So I figured I would face the truth. This is kind of new for me, actually searching for and facing reality. So that is what I have done. I have made a list. A list of the things I did right. Surprisingly enough, the list has items on it. Believe me, I was more surprised than anyone. This isn’t a list I have shown anyone or made for anyone. It is for me. As a reminder.
In Romans 8:28, Paul states that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. Yeah, I know that part. I haven’t always loved God but maybe He has used me. See, I passed over verse 26 in the past, but I see it now. Even before letting us know that God works in all things, Paul also reminds me that the Spirit helps me in my weakness. Even when I don’t know what to pray for or what to say, the Spirit is helping me in my weakness. Paul doesn’t say the Spirit only helps me in my strength. Or in my recovery or when I know I need help. He says that the Spirit helps me in my weakness.
I have a lot of weakness. A lot. And the Spirit helps me in that. He knows what I need even though I don’t. So, no. I wasn’t always wrong or bad. I didn’t spend most of my life without any good. Not because of me. But because the Spirit helped me in my weakness and still does. Then and now.
We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. – Step 10
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being wrong. I don’t like admitting I am wrong. I don’t even like recognizing I am wrong. That is one of the sucky parts of recovery. I am much more aware of my wrongness. It’s painful. And humbling. Which plays right into my major character flaw of pride. In recovery, through my wrongness, my pride takes a beating. Which leads me to…Step 10.
My sponsor thinks this is a great opportunity for me to explore the depths of my wrongness. To really get in touch with it. I truly do think he is enjoying his job a little too much. Every time I come up with something to whine about, he says something like “Isn’t recovery awesome?’ or “Yeah, baby!” I worry about him. So back to my wrongness. I am to journal on how I am wrong each day and what I do about it. Basically, do I promptly admit it or not. Fun stuff.
So today I got the mail when I got home. My wife had just gotten home before me. I like walking out to the mail box because I take my dog with me. She likes walking out without a leash so she can go in the field across from our house and hunt for rabbits and deer and elk and other wild animals that she imagines are running free in that field. So she runs free and I get to add to my collection of junk mail, coupons for terrible restaurants that won’t last more than a few weeks, and bills. Yeah, me. Oh, and catalogs. Lots and lots of catalogs.
Today was no different. Flyers, coupons, bills, and a catalog. Only this was a dangerous catalog. A James Avery Jewelers catalog. How is that dangerous? Well, when I disclosed my history of infidelity to my wife, part of the requirement was to admit to any gifts I had given to affair partner. Yep, I gave someone earrings from James Avery. Classy, huh? So that store is ruined for my wife. James Avery didn’t do anything wrong. I did.
I took the mail inside. It seemed like there was a giant spotlight on that catalog as I walked into the house. I was trying to hide it under all the other mail. I gathered up the flyers and junkmail and tried to keep that catalog out of sight as I started pushing it towards the garbage can. I would like to take this moment and say I stopped, promptly showed her the catalog, and admitted to my wish to try and hide it but that my new self wouldn’t allow me to deceive her. Only I would be lying. Again.
So the next morning, as I journaled, I had to write down that I hid it. I threw it in the garbage can. And I had to do Step 10. I took personal inventory, I realized how wrong I truly was, and I promptly admitted it to my wife. Which sucked. She got mad, she was hurt, and I caused even more damage. Only this was a little different. I realized I was wrong. That’s new. I even did something about it. Which is definitely not normal for me. Yep, Step 10. More wrongness to come.
The empty chair in the middle of our circle awaits the return of those members who are currently suffering the consequences of their addiction …
Part of the script the facilitator reads for each of our 12 step meetings discusses the empty chair in the center of the circle we set up in the middle of the room. I am sure many of us have been in groups, Bible studies, discussions and meetings that are in a circle. Our circle in our groups is different. We put a chair in the middle. As a reminder.
Its a reminder to me. To where I was just a few months ago. Or more accurately where I wasn’t. I wasn’t in recovery. I wasn’t in a place where I gave God my life and my will. I wasn’t rigorously honest. I wasn’t in community or anywhere else but deep in shame. I was seeking to fill my abandonment and need for fulfillment in any way I could find. Just not in the one way that could stand a chance of meeting my needs.
The empty chair awaits the return of those in prison. I could have been that person. I don’t know how I wasn’t. The times I lied, stole, sought out fulfillment illegally. The near misses. The multiple times I could have been that member.
The empty chair awaits the return of those who are still in search of their rock bottom. I came to these meetings after thinking I was at my rock bottom. Only I wasn’t willing to be completely honest. I hadn’t gotten to that place of desperation where I was willing to turn all of my life and will over to God. Where I knew that death was the only other option. So I was the one. I was still searching for my bottom.
I didn’t know that there were people (specifically my brother and his wife) who were praying for me to be exposed. They knew I wasn’t being honest. They knew I hadn’t bottomed out. My brother is in recovery. He knows what bottom is. He knew I hadn’t gotten there yet. So he continued to do what he knew would work. He prayed for God to expose my lies and my secrets. And that is what happened.
The empty chair is there to remind all present the loss of those whose disease drove them to take their own lives. I could have been that person. And honestly I know that is what awaits me outside of recovery. Whether it is through the overt act of taking my own life or that I separate myself from God, my wife, my kids, and community. Separation and isolation for me leads to death.
Being on the other side of the circle, not being the empty chair, is much different than I thought. I don’t think I know more than people outside of recovery. I don’t think I am a Pharisee and they are a tax collector or thief or adulterer. I just know they are still seeking their bottom. I have found mine. I pray for the people I know that aren’t in recovery that are struggling with all forms of addiction and brokenness and compulsions. I pray they find their bottom. And that when they do, they find what I found. Grace and mercy.