Posts Tagged ‘Character Defects’

The past week has been all about the men in my life. By the men in my life, I mean the two men who have been in my life since the beginning. My father and my older brother (much, much older! Sorry, bro!). It’s taken me almost fifty years to come to a true understanding of the value of these two relationships. This weekend crystallized their importance to me. I know, I am a slow learner.

When I began working with a therapist, exploring the why of how I gradually slid into such a destructive lifestyle, I was forced to look deeply at my own faults and flaws and how they got there. I had to examine my formative years, growing up primarily as the middle of four kids, and what led to my own isolation and hurt. As I did so, I recognized how the relationships with the two men in my life influenced who I was to become.

My father worked. Hard. He owned his own business in a very small town. As a local pharmacist, he was available to people day and night not just as a healthcare worker but as a counselor, friend and confident. I don’t remember a Sunday lunch after church where he wasn’t interrupted at home by a call from someone needing medicine urgently. I don’t recall him ever getting home at night until late. My mother was our primary disciplinarian because of that. And I resented her for it. And him. I wanted his attention, his approval, and his blessing. I ached to be seen. I wanted that relationship with him that my older brother had. The shared interests, time together hunting, eventually the shared military service. I just had a hole where I hoped my father would be and I built a story of not needing him or that relationship.

My brother is five years older than me. Our personalities have always seemed so different. He seemed disciplined and structured. A definite military focus. He pursued a degree in engineering and had a very close relationship with our older sister and her husband. My brother and brother in law were friends and college roommates even before my brother in law and sister married. At the end of my fourth grade year, my brother switched schools from the public to smaller private high school. I switched as well. Unknown to my parents and my brother, the change was traumatic. I went from a larger school with a focus on academics to a much smaller school with a focus on athletics. I was definitely not athletic, which was very obvious to my classmates. The next eight years were difficult and overwhelming. And I retreated into isolation. And unknown to me at the time, I looked toward my brother and father to rescue me. That didn’t happen.

My father is in bad health. He and my mother are now in an assisted living facility. My brother and I have had to work together with my younger sister to intervene for their best interests. Thankfully, this has been a healthy move for them. However, his health is deteriorating. And his memory is slipping away. I can’t reclaim those years of a lack of a relationship with him. But I recognize him for what he is. My father, a good man who loved his family and did all he could to take care of them. He loves my mother. He tells me he loves me and hugs and kisses me every time I see him. And I am thankful for this time we have left.

My brother and I now live about five miles apart. We are friends. He is actually a mentor to me. He has taken the lead in caring for my mother and father. And he and his wife and me and my wife are close. My sons look to him for guidance and as family. Last week he sent me a picture of my dad and his brother. He said he knew of two other guys who had the same kind of relationship that they did. So do I.


Keith B

by Humble servant

26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.  Ephesians 4:26-27

Anger can be a dangerous thing.  We are all human so therefore we are all broken.  We are imperfect people who on a daily basis is following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  But from time to time we may fall into the pitfall of allowing our flesh to lead us instead of the Holy Spirit.  One manifestation of this is anger.

We are surrounded by people who are broken and who also make mistakes.  A person may cut us off in traffic, a person may say something or do something that offends us, a person may do something that either injures us or injures someone we love and as a result we may become angry.  What we do in response to this anger is the key.  The anger we have will either control us or we will control it.  We must guard our hearts from being led by our flesh or our emotions.

One of the greatest ways that we can be led by the Holy Spirit is abiding in the Lord each day.  By spending time in God’s word and prayer it will prepare our heart for everything we will face and it will make us more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The more time we spend with the Lord the more we will be transformed into His image.  This is key when dealing with anger.  The Lord will empower and strengthen us to be led by the Holy Spirit instead of being led by our flesh and our emotions.

… are a lot like this.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

How many times have I heard this…”God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I call bullshit. I even repeated that axiom over and over. I said it to other people. I prayed it. I thanked Him for not giving me more than I could handle, all the while not being able to handle all I experienced. Burying the pain and heartache and loneliness as deep as I could drive it. I couldn’t handle it. Well, I couldn’t handle it in a healthy and honest way.

I can point to so many instances in my life that were more than I could handle. The death of my best friend. The complete isolation and abandonment of being passed off to my aunt and uncle. The shame of being sexually abused. The unending self loathing that came with hiding my violations of our marriage vows. The impact on my wife of my disclosing my lifetime of manipulation and lying. I couldn’t handle or bear any of those. Not in any way that was honoring to God or myself or my marriage or my family.

I didn’t trust God. If he truly wasn’t going to give me more than I could handle, then why did He give me more than I could handle? What happened to that loving caring Savior that was supposed to take those things away from me? Why did I continually experience overwhelming hardships under which I would crumble over and over? I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why…I claimed to be a Christian. Wasn’t He supposed to provide us special protection? The sin and shame and self loathing was supposed to be for those who didn’t believe.

After I entered into what I call recovery, I started working through a 12 step program through a men’s support and recovery group called Castimonia. I got a sponsor, someone I knew. I disclosed my sexual sin to my wife and somehow was still married. I wrote and read what’s called a first step to my recovery group. This was my entire history of isolation, shame, sexual sin, lying and manipulation. And yet, men told me that they could identify with my story. They had similar experiences and were thankful of the reminders and were there for support. I was thankful for the support, but I can honestly say I didn’t see God in my recovery. I saw the support of other people, I saw the community and relationships with other men through my recovery group. I just didn’t understand why God had allowed all this to continue. He was supposed to not let me experience more than I could bear.

I read step three, “We turned our life and will over to the care of God as we understood God.” And that’s when my real recovery began. That realization. I had not turned my will over to Him. Ever. I had given Him my salvation as I understood it. I figured I had the rest. I didn’t trust God. Not with anything more than after this life. This life was mine. And what I had always thought was true. I couldn’t bear all this myself. See, I missed that last part of 1 Corinthians. He will provide a way out of temptation. For me, I had to first trust that. Trust that He would provide a way. And depend on Him. How many times had I missed that way out?

You will never go where God is not. Envision the next few hours of your life. Where will you find yourself? In a school? God indwells the classroom. On the highways? His presence lingers among the traffic. In the hospital operating room, the executive boardroom, the in-laws’ living room, the funeral home? God will be there. “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).

Each of us. God does not play favorites. From the masses on the city avenues to the isolated villagers in valleys and jungles, all people can enjoy God’s presence. But many don’t. They plod through life as if there were no God to love them. As if their only strength was their own. As if the only solution comes from within, not above. They live Godless lives.

But there are Josephs among us: people who sense, see, and hear the presence of God. People who pursue God as Moses did. When suddenly tasked with the care of two million ex-slaves, the liberator began to wonder, How am I going to provide for these people? How will we defend ourselves against enemies? How can we survive? Moses needed supplies, managers, equipment, and experience. But when Moses prayed for help, he declared, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Ex. 33:15).

Moses preferred to go nowhere with God than anywhere without him.

Do likewise. Make God’s presence your passion. How? Be more sponge and less rock. Place a rock in the ocean, and what happens? Its surface gets wet. The exterior may change color, but the interior remains untouched. Yet place a sponge in the ocean, and notice the change. It absorbs the water. The ocean penetrates every pore and alters the essence of the sponge.

God surrounds us in the same way the Pacific surrounds an ocean floor pebble. He is everywhere – above, below, on all sides. We choose our response – rock or sponge? Resist or receive? Everything within you says harden the heart. Run from God; resist God; blame God. But be careful. Hard hearts never heal. Spongy ones do. Open every pore of your soul to God’s presence.

Today’s devotional is drawn from Max Lucado’s Second Chances.

One year. Twelve steps. A spiritual awakening.

My timing is terrible or perfect. Depends on your perspective. My journey through recovery landed at step 12 at the end of one year. Step 12, regardless of your flavor of recovery, is the culmination of a harrowing adventure of self discovery for most. For me, it has been truly as described. A spiritual awakening. And having experienced that awakening, it is now my charge to revisit these steps and to carry this message to others. To show the path that was shown to me.

My year hasn’t been smooth or simple or straight or calm or soothing or any other serene type words. Quite the opposite. It has looked like one of my earlier titles for a post – a rollercoaster. Lots of ups and downs. I remember clearly my step one, where I had to read my litany of sexual sins to a room full of people I didn’t know that well, while I sobbed under the weight of my shame. I can’t understate the importance of working step three, where I finally realized that I had turned my life and salvation over to God but never my will. I hadn’t ever truly believed that I could trust my secrets to Him and that He wouldn’t abandon me too. Ups and downs.

Completing a searching and fearless moral inventory in step four was way more suffocating than I imagined. But foundational. I review that list as my list. My flaws. The ones He imparted to me. Some are gone. Some are ingrained. All are there because of how He made me. And I am aware of them all. I know they are there and can only be endured by His strength, not mine. This realization gave me the courage to complete step five, to share my flaws with someone else. Someone not in recovery, who didn’t know my stains. Scary and valuable.

Through these flaws I see into the struggles of others. I can carry this message to others because my flaws are still here. Reviewing these flaws in light of step six, being entirely ready for God to remove them, for me meant truly being ready for God to bear them, for Him to have dominion over all of me. And using them for the difficult work to come. Amends.

Having a clear understanding of my defects of character has made it clear to me how I have hurt and damaged others. This awareness allowed me to identify those I had harmed, shaped my heart to become willing to make amends, and then actually following through. Seeking out a daily living amends to my wife. Constantly staying close to the pain and the brokenness my years of betrayal have caused her and building some stability with her, one moment by one moment. Spelling out in detail the years of absence and abandonment I caused to my boys and listening as they poured out their hurt from my lack of connection. And seeing the gift of time…the opportunity God has given me to make amends to them.

Today having an actual relationship with God. One where I listen and talk. Give and take. Understand and seek understanding. This year has been a true spiritual awakening. Gradual. Time consuming. Unending. And ready for the next step.

Doug discusses the awkwardness of relationship when someone is going through a difficult time, and he gives some tips on how to live in the awkward parts of people’s storms of life.

Being aware of emotions and finding relationship and connection is vital in recovery, so we are looking for ways to break the cycle of addiction to find meaning and peace.

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