See Part 1 here.
See Part 2 here.
See Part 3 here.
See Part 4 here.
See Part 5 here.
See Part 6 here.
See Part 7 here.
See Part 8 here.
See Part 9 here.
The Dangers of Complacency and Regression
Last week I was a tad embarrassed to admit a slip. This week, I’m ashamed to admit a complete collapse of all that I’ve built through this journey. If that statement isn’t literally true, it feels so emotionally.
I felt blindsided by the amount of temptation just launched at me. The shame is how readily I succumbed to it. It started with a slip, developed into a slide and evolved in to a full out collapse of everything I was trying to do to be a better christian. If I’m being honest, I still don’t have the slightest clue where it all started other than a few moments of pride and one particular night of stubborn refusal to go to sleep (over a video game of all things).
I’m of the opinion that taking my mind off pleasing God exposed me to this, and I can’t put into words how hard it is (even now) to get back on the right track.
One thing started when I spoke to my boss about a book he’d mentioned. I reminded him he’d mentioned it, and the next day, he gave me a copy. The book was Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur. I’ll review that in time, and I don’t want to pull away from those lessons in this post. However, it’s important to note.
I was in a freefall. All I knew was I clearly needed to do more to get back closer to God. So I resolved to grab the Audible edition of the book and listen to it on the way home. Thursday is date night, and that’s when I came to the edge.
I wanted nothing more than to give in completely. I wanted to take my girlfriend to my home so we could have our way with each other.
“What’s wrong with a boyfriend and girlfriend being together?” (NOTE: Being together is a euphemism for having sex.) It’s a sin. Do people do it? Have christians done it? Doesn’t it happen all the time?
I was quite aware of every single one of those rationalizations as she and I approached that cliff, and I admit I was the aggressor in that situation. I wasn’t approaching this metaphorical cliff. I was sprinting headlong at it with every intention to jump and enjoy the satisfaction of the moment it would have brought.
Problem (or blessing depending on your perspective) was I knew it was wrong. Everybody does it!
Doesn’t make it right.
No one will blame you!
Doesn’t make it right.
“Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn!” I said. It startled her. I was enjoying the moment. The curses weren’t from anything she did, but from my realization that I knew this was wrong, and I was going to stop.
What I did first was pull out my Bible and read the next chapter. I’m still making my way across the Old Testament (2 Chronicles at the moment). I read it out loud, and she listened.
Then I talked about MacArthur’s book. At that particular moment, I was angry. To tease the upcoming review. This book made me very angry. The anger was cog. I wasn’t in a mind-space to understand the content of the book (I finished it that night). Here I was struggling with temptation, and what bothered me most is I see two sets of people.
First: There are those who live in sin and, by my observation, feel no remorse or guilt. This observation doesn’t change how I feel about them, but it’s such pressure. I feel this whenever someone’s dieting and I’m not. But let’s hold on to that metaphor. You ever see someone on a diet, even if they look fine to you, but you know they’re on that diet. Imagine sitting in front of them and eating your favorite dessert. That’s how I feel right now. It honestly seems like everyone is getting what they want, “boo-hoo!” “Whoa is me!” “Insert selfish whining.” As I type this, I realize how pathetic that all sounds, but darn it, it doesn’t take away the feeling does it? It doesn’t remove the incredible pressure created by seeing those who have and realizing you don’t. The reason why doesn’t matter. Fact is, some have, and I don’t have, and I want. This is some pretty powerful temptation for me.
Second: There are those who I respect and believe are saved. I was particularly angry at MacArthur, a man I’d never met. The fact is though, he’s a respected leader in christianity. My Boss. One particular coworker. My chaplain at work. The fact is though, they’re all married, which means they get to do the thing I wanted to do. What really bothered me was they seem perfect. “You’re not tempted!” “You’re not facing this extreme desire and pressure from every angle!” Here they are talking about how free they are from sin, and I honestly felt like shouting at each and every one of them, “It must be nice to live a life without temptation!”
For the record, that’s the most ridiculous thing I could ever say. But the trick is, I don’t talk to them about their temptations, and they don’t talk to me about it. Now, my boss and I probably shouldn’t talk on this level. An unduly familiar relationship is flat out wrong in any company, so it’s just not appropriate to have confessionals with your boss. But even if that weren’t the case, I felt this extreme anger at living with temptation and not feeling like I could talk to anyone about it.
So I talked to my girlfriend. We talked about it, but we didn’t just confess what we wanted (and by that time it was pretty obvious). We spoke about those temptations under the knowledge that these temptations were wrong. Maybe not how you’d want to spend date night, but we felt a ton of relief.
So what does this have to do with my mom? Good question. I’m still aware that my sin has consequences. God and his sovereignty reigns absolute. We didn’t cross “the line,” but I gave in to pretty much every other desire you could think of. All the while, as afraid as I was that my sin would legitimately motivate God to alter my mother’s condition was there. Look, it’s not right to say we had a deal. God doesn’t work with a bartering system. But when this began, I felt (and still feel) that this was a calling to action for me. I’m supposed to be testifying about God’s grace and wonders. I’m supposed to be telling everyone about how this trial is bringing me closer, and here I am, hypocritically sliding away from God.
Where do I get off? What right do I have? What I realize is that my anger and flat-out jealousy of the people mentioned above is a lesson. Oh that’s a sin for those of you keeping score at home, but I learned from it. I feel ashamed by it. But I saw this world that I currently have broken into two people and want to create or find a third.
I want to live in a world where those struggling with temptation can speak honestly and frankly with others who are tempted. I want this to be a place where those people aren’t judged for their temptations either because they’re sins or because they’re sins that “everybody does.” I want to live in a world where a man saying, “I’m really struggling here,” is met by, “OK, let’s talk about it.”
Again, that world might exist. I might have excluded myself. I’m still very isolated at church. Look, I’m scared. That church has done nothing to make me feel afraid or trapped, but my past has made me afraid of churches. Especially when I hear people talk about “right” churches and “wrong” churches. Even synonyms that still imply that, “Oh, our church has it figured out. We’re the saved ones. Pity those who don’t see God the way we do.” This church does not do that either.
It’ll take time for me to trust, and it’s a process I have to work thought. I know the church has a men’s group and other things that are designed to help people remain spirit-filled and sanctified.
However, my fear and personal issues leave me open to temptation and cut off from a resource that could help me avoid it. So I bring this up for those who read this.
Be the one willing to listen and encourage, even if you don’t agree. In the interest of understanding anyone can read this, please don’t encourage a person who want’s to do something wrong. Refer them to a psychiatrist or professional. Do not encourage someone who wants to do something illegal or something that will harm the person or others. This disclaimer brought to you by those who honestly fear some parts of the world today.
What I mean is wherever you are in life, faith or religion, don’t be the one who adds to the pressure for someone. Don’t be the guy eating a bowl of ice cream in front of the person who’s trying to lose 10 pounds. Don’t be the guy who fits in size 28 jeans telling the guy in size 30 or 50 jeans, “it’s not that hard!” Yes it is hard! Even if it’s only hard for that person! Be encouraging. You may even have to be a bit harsh in some degrees.
When I called my mom this week, she was about to eat dinner. I only had a few minutes to tell her I love her and check on things. We’re days away from the end of the treatment phase, and I wanted to be encouraging. Treat everyone like someone struggling with cancer. Encourage everyone like you’d want to encourage someone with cancer. Treat people like people always. You don’t know the state of mind of the guy you pass on the street or the coworker who makes a random statement.
Look, I’m not a very sympathetic person. I’m really not! I’m old-school, get up and dust yourself off in most cases. I am, however, empathetic. I try to respect how people feel. For the record, (my sister reads this blog), I’ve eaten so many cookies in front of her while she was trying to diet. Sis, I’m sorry. It was humbling to be battered by my own temptation and realize how hard it is to look for support. Let’s not even compare that to how hard it is to ask for help. It doesn’t matter. Talk to your loved ones. Tell them what you’re trying to do. And if you’re one of those loved ones, don’t make it worse. Don’t tell them why you don’t understand why it’s hard. Don’t be the one to the further humiliate them. Just listen if that’s all you can do. Just encourage them if you’re willing. If you’re a person of faith, a believer, then pull out the Bible and see what God has to say on the matter.
Everything started to even out once I did that. I did, in fact, tell my chaplain how hard it is to listen to him and look at him sometimes. “All I see is a happy, successful man who has it all figured out.” We spoke, and I need to speak to him way more than I currently do. But for those of you struggling with sin. If you feel like I did in that moment, trapped between those who don’t care and those who don’t understand how hard it is, please, reach out. Sin is sin. So if it’s that feeling of jealousy at that guy who got the promotion you wanted, talk about it. If it’s that feeling of wrath about that guy who cut you off, talk about it. The more urgent the temptation, the more urgently you should seek out the opportunity to talk about it.
Going through this made me even more willing to listen to my mom. To be even more understanding and encouraging. For the record, it doesn’t make it right. It humbled me. I hope I’m better for it, but my sins are wrong, and I’m not “permitted” to do them. I do hope that this learning experience allows me to help someone else see it. Don’t be the pressure. Be the encouragement.
Questions and Revelations
Are you afraid your sin might cause God to further inflict your family?
Yes! I’m terrified. God is sovereign. Oh I’m hoping for his mercy and grace, but that doesn’t exclude me from it. I’ll say this though, this temptation for me is suffering in it’s own right. By denying it, and seeing others have what I want, it hurts. My only course of action is to try and be more spirit-filled and sanctified. Reduce my temptations or opportunity for temptation and talk about it when I feel such. No, I’m not going to date my girlfriend less. I have so much more in my life I can do better that will make me stronger when I’m with her. Now that we know we can talk about our temptation together, I think we’re stronger as a couple for it.
Who else do you talk to?
I’m lucky enough to work in a military environment, so I have my chaplain. But there were times I’ve gone to churches just to speak with a pastor or priest. I liked that because I was out of town, so I had a lot of anonymity. I could talk to a guy I was pretty sure I’d never see again about my temptations and not worry I’d see him again. I’ve never walked into a church (however you think of them) and asked to speak with someone about my temptation and been pulled away. All my bad experiences aside, I can even say that not once has one of those pastors or priests (I think I’ve randomly walked into a church about four or five times), made me feel persecuted or judged. Most of them just told me about prayers or referred me to certain verses of the Bible.
Most addictions (if that’s what you’re struggling with) have hotlines. I think AA has it figured out better than most. I’ve been to a few meetings as part of my studies for various positions in the Navy.
Form your own group. I mean, if you start a chess club if you like chess. You start a fantasy football draft if you all like football. There has to be ONE person you hang out with you feel you can talk to without fear of judgment or ridicule. Just tell that person, “Hey, I’m trying to do this thing, and I need some help.”
Which brings me to my final revelation.
You can’t do it alone. You can’t do anything alone. I know you think you get those pants on just fine, but frankly someone taught you how to do that years ago. Humanity isn’t designed for isolation. I am a believer, so that means I’m aware that I can’t do a darn thing (good or bad) without God’s will. That said, here on Earth, we need others to encourage us. Society pressures us (in good or bad ways) into acting. All last week I thought I could climb out of that pit on my own. I couldn’t do it. Worse, I was going to drag my girlfriend down with me. It wasn’t until we decided to orient ourselves on God and what we wanted to do (follow his word) that things got easier. You need someone. Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t pretend you’ve “been fine on your own.” No, you may not need anyone to help you with your pants these days, but you still need someone to help you through the times you already know you’re struggling. Don’t let pride or shame be the reason you don’t seek help from someone.
If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog. I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.
Thanks for reading