I met a few good people in 2015, but among my favorites is Rebecca Reynolds. With a sharp wit, an uncanny knack for logic, and a voice as unique as any fingerprint, Rebecca is one of the writers I follow with regularity. You can (and should) follow her work at www.thistleandtoad.com. Rebecca has agreed to step into the Recovery Room today to share a bit of her story her. Let's welcome her.
When Seth asked me to write something about addiction recovery I laughed, because I don't have a lot of experience in this area. Don't get me wrong. I understand addiction, it’s just that the word "recovery" makes it sound like all the trouble has passed, and I still mess up quite a bit.
My problem is wanting stuff I don’t have. I want impossible opportunities, second chances at old choices, leisure, margin, travel, and youth. I want room to stretch out and play. I want good stuff from other people's lives.
I don't generally sit around wringing my hands and seething about not having these things. I do tend to daydream though, whipping up imaginary realities that give me a quick adrenaline rush but leave me grumpy and critical about the life I have actually been given. Just like anything we try to use to replace God, this tendency to escape only carves my insecurity and fear out deeper. A false world turns the real world into a vacuum.
My story is that I'm firstborn and determined to be "good," determined to be responsible and to make upright choices, determined to "save the world." Technically I believe in the idea of grace, but I hate myself--really hate myself--when I see how much I need it. I tend to expect better of myself than to run on God's forgiveness.
On top of this, the past ten years have been very hard for our family, and some deep bruises have been left on my heart. I’m afraid sometimes, lonely sometimes, and often hesitant to trust other people. So, it's the perfect storm, really. I’m a combo of self-reliance, pride, perfectionism, messiah complex, fear, pain, and isolation.
Instead of letting this tension drive me to Jesus, I tend to grit my teeth together and focus on being good for as long as I can. And that seems to work sometimes.
But underneath the surface, the trouble builds. Finally a hard day hits, and I don’t have enough sleep, or I’m stressed out, or something painful happens and I just give up. I let my mind wander wherever it wants. I stare straight into what God hasn’t given me. I take emotional risks in the privacy of my heart, imagining how my life could be different. I reject the life God has given me and escape into another one.
[tweetherder]It hurts too much to see the ugly truth sometimes, so there are days when I scramble around for a pretty lie to replace it.[/tweetherder]
Now here’s where this gets tricky. Some people wouldn’t even call what I do a sin, because it’s not the traditional extramarital affair or substance binge. But Jesus was right about the dangers of mental wrongs. This is where it all starts, in the secret places of a person’s thought life. Whatever happens on the outside first happens here.
So it doesn't matter if my body is “obedient” if my mind is doing the work of discontentment: wanting, stealing, escaping, locking God out so that I can rule my own life for a while. And as I continue to wrestle with this weakness, I'm starting to think that coveting is so dangerous because it keeps us focused on impossibilities instead of focused on what we can learn from the hurt, failure, and weakness, and even the monotony we already have.
Do you remember that scene in The Lord of The Rings where Bilbo reaches for Frodo's ring and morphs into a greedy monster in a flash of desire? It's one of the most painful things I've ever watched. Probably because it's too familiar.
Moderns challenge the justice of any sort of hell, but when I get a good look at my worst tendencies, it makes so much sense to me that a soul that refuses to submit to growth, a soul that is adamant about twisting joy into something distorted, would finally be released into what she has already chosen over the call of love a hundred million times.
The trajectory of autonomy is so ugly it makes my throat hurt to see where my escapism leads. I don’t want to be a consumer, a runaway, a liar. And it’s not just that I want to avoid an eternal hell; I also want to avoid the present hell of, "Leave me alone for a while, God, because I'm hurting, and I want to make some of my own answers until the pain stops."
When I make the choice to trust myself instead of the God who loves me, it makes loneliness lonelier. It makes fear more fearful. It makes shame more shameful. It never fixes what's broken and it makes what is broken worse.
Sure, grace is waiting for me when I fail, because God's love is relentless. He doesn't need my firstborn determination to win His love, and when my pride cranks out another failure, He's waiting to pick me up. But I'll be honest, I'm tired of this struggle. I wish I could slam a big red button and make it go away forever.
How I yearn for that time in the future when I see God so clearly that the struggle of wanting anything else will be gone forever. Until then, I am asking God to use this mess somehow despite me. Maybe it is just going to take this sort of battle for me to finally realize that I really am weak, and that He really is strong, and that yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
Rebecca Reynolds teaches rhetoric, literature, and philosophy at a classical school in eastern Tennessee. She also writes for Rabbit Room, Story Warren, and is the lyricist for Ron Block of Alison Krauss and Union Station. You can read her blog at www.thistleandtoad.com
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