Addiction

If the Son Has Set You Free… Are You Really Free?

We all have probably felt prisoner to something at one time or another in our lives.  It is inevitable.  We live in a fallen world.

My prison:  An addiction that began at age 11, grew deep roots through teenage years of dumb choices and a dysfunctional home, and became disgustingly stealthy after I got married in 1995.  In late 2001, God led me to full repentance before Him and a full disclosure with my wife, thus beginning the road to recovery from this lifelong battle.  And as they say, the rest is history…

At least that’s what I want to say.  However, the last 14 years have been among the most joyful, triumphant, discouraging, and at times utterly hopeless moments of my life and that of my family life.  I would like to say that once God showed me the path, I never looked back.  Unfortunately, like Lot’s wife leaving Sodom, I looked back again and again at the addiction, the object of my affection.  Only, my “pillar of salt” was a wall of shame and self-serving destructive behaviors that continued to keep me in bondage to the very thing I most despised.

About 5 years ago, God set me on a different path, one which was less about performance (how sober can I be) and more about affection, desire, pursuit of the beautiful Jesus Christ as the object of my greatest affection.  It is why I write what I write.  And it is not a quick-fix road.  One of the major themes that has come out of this has been the theme of “Freedom”, freedom from the bondage of sin and self.  I wear a “Freedom” band on my left wrist day and night reminding me of the beautiful truths taught me 5 years ago by 180 Degrees Ministries.  It is a sweet truth to me.

Some of the sweetest words spoken by Jesus to my heart are:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)

Though the last 5 years have been filled with their share of struggles, God has shown me that He HAS and IS setting me free from and for something:

From:  The bondage (oppression) of shame and guilt; the bondage of “doing what I don’t want to do, and not doing what I want to do.”  The bondage of destructive behaviors that leave those who love me asking “Why”.  Bondage.

To:  Live and Love… the entire point of my blog and now, my life.  Freedom to live life for God, loving Him, loving others, accepting my humanity and all of it’s imperfections.  Freedom to pursue Christ as the object of my greatest affection.  Freedom to enjoy life without having to be “religious.”  Freedom… To Live and Love.  Jesus said “if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.”  John 8:36 (ESV)  Am I free?  I have no doubt.  Do I struggle sometimes in this life?  Absolutely.  The answer?  Jesus.  When I’m hungry, the answer is to eat.  When I’m thirsty, drink.  When my soul is thirsty for anything in this world that will fill me up and help me escape the pain I’m in, the answer is… Jesus.  May we treasure Him today!

What is God setting you free from?  What HAS He set you free from?  Share!  Tell others.  This is a dark and painful world, and the hope of Christ needs to be shared.

Kicking Habits and Taking Names

I love turning chaos into organization.  There is something very satisfying about walking into a room of people who are looking down at their pile of issues, and they look to me and ask “what do you think?”  One of my favorite movies of ALL TIME is Apollo 13.  There is a scene in the movie where they engineers have to figure out how to create a CO2 filter from one size that fits in the hole for another size.

http://youtu.be/C2YZnTL596Q

The reward is SO great when these obstacles are overcome.  You look around and just want to high-five anyone standing there.

group-high-five-12001063

However, I am a creature of habit.  Well, a creature of many habits to be precise.  Some of these are good habits.  I eat right (mostly).  I exercise some.  I read a lot.  You get the picture.  Then, some of these habits are not so good.  In fact, some of these addictive behaviors can become quite harmful and destructive if gone unchecked.  One such habit that I’ve fought on and off through most of my life has been especially challenging.  And until last month, I thought I’d never kick it.  However, God has been working on my heart over the past few months to slowly (on my part, not God’s) help me understand just how great the truth is that Jesus not only died for my sins, but came to “set the captives free.”  This freedom extends into areas of habits and addictions, where the pull is so strong, and the feeling is you’ll never get out.  When I fully understand how beautiful and treasured Christ is, that joy and satisfaction in Him will expel the sinful habits from my life.  Sometimes this is slow, sometimes much more quickly.

So, last month, I began experiencing a measure of freedom in this area.  It was nothing spectacular at first.  No visions or bright lights or crazy dreams.  Just a growing realization that I’m not craving that which I had craved before.  It was wonderful.  For about 6 weeks, I experienced complete freedom.  My awareness and presence in life was sharpened, my relationships with my wife, children, and friends grew stronger.  It was incredible.  While it lasted.

The other day, I found myself thinking about this habit and how nice it would be to experience it again.  So… I did.  And, of course, it wasn’t as exciting and enjoyable as my brain tells me it will be.  In fact, it was quite miserable.  Though that did not stop me from partaking, God definitely used it to remind me once again that He is the ultimate answer.

So, it left me wondering today:  Now what?  Have I suddenly lost all that ground I had gained?  Am I suddenly “back to square one”?  I used to count the days, weeks, and months.  But that led to widely oscillating cycles of despair and pride.  No good for me.  Now, I just focus on each day and enjoy the freedom Christ has given me.   So, today, I look upward to God for the strength He gives, and I give that habit the equivalent of an MMA-style knockout kick.

Knockout Kick

Is this easy?  NO, NO, NO!  In fact, I suspect the guy delivering this knockout blow had probably been hurt pretty badly during this fight.  No, kicking these habits is never easy.  But the process is very simply defined.  I cling to truth.  Winston Churchhill once said “The Truth is the most valuable thing in the world. Indeed, it is so valuable that it is often protected by a bodyguard of lies.”  My habits and addictions tell me lies about who I am.  My only solution?  I take names like

Child of the One True King

Chosen One

New Creation

Co-Heir with Christ

Mighty Warrior in Christ

Yep… Kicking Habits and Taking Names…  So, go look at those nasty habits in the face, and rather than rely on our own strength, give them over to the one who has given your very meaning in life.  And kick those habits right out of your life!  Join me!