The Importance of Grace in Recovery

Jonathan Daugherty

My daughter just started kindergarten this week. What an exciting time of new beginnings and endless possibilities. These first few steps of her educational journey are memorable and mark the start of a truly adventurous quest for increased knowledge. The buzz created in our home because of my daughter’s first days of school caused me to reflect on the process of recovery and the essential ingredient to lasting purity: grace.

One thing I can assure my daughter (as well as you who are hiking the trail toward purity) is that the journey has obstacles. Just as my daughter will encounter barriers to her educational growth, so too will you encounter seemingly insurmountable challenges in your pursuit of sexual purity. You may hit a wall of frustration, boredom, or temptation in your recovery. The fact that recovery requires resistance is sometimes discouraging to the point of wanting to give up. But rather than take the path of least resistance (which only leads to more pain and disappointment), press forward on the path to personal purity.

The challenges we face in our pursuit of purity are no secret. Laziness, pride, temptation, even relapse. These obstacles attempt to impede our progress and reignite the deadly flames of shame in our minds and hearts. If we allow them to stunt our growth in recovery, we lose momentum and soon find ourselves contemplating old acting out behaviors. From there it is a short trip to deeper bondage in sexual sin.

What then allows a man to break through these barriers and enjoy ongoing, long-term freedom in sexual purity? A proper understanding and application of grace is a great starting point. Grace is God’s favor poured out on undeserving, sin-stained men just like you and me. It is God’s continual “stamp” of approval and acceptance on His children. As God’s child, you are forever engaged by him within the loving boundaries of grace – even when discipline is necessary. To understand such grace begins to put into perspective the many obstacles along the road to purity.

How do you apply this grace in a practical sense when faced with a very real obstacle such as temptation or laziness? First, you must recognize that something has gone awry in your recovery plan. The ship is taking on water, so-to-speak, and something needs to be done to correct it. Let’s say you realize that you have begun to drift toward certain sexual temptations, maybe lingering on seductive websites or TV shows. You haven’t “crossed the line” to porn, but you are drifting. Applying grace to such a situation would include first recognizing that a drift is occurring, and then reminding yourself that whatever you choose to do from that point on, God still loves you. That’s right. Grace is given, not because it is deserved, but because of Christ’s sacrifice for you. Most often, such a reminder will cause you to see that any more movement toward sin would only bring pain, shame, and disappointment. Grace, therefore, leads us to repentance and purity.

I once knew a counselor who used a very unconventional practice to help smokers overcome their habit (and I am not necessarily recommending it here). After several months in counseling and support group therapy, the counselor would instruct his clients to spend one week carrying a pack of cigarettes in their pockets. Not so they would smoke them, but rather so they knew that at any moment they could pull one out if they chose to. This counselor wanted to teach his clients that they had a choice – they did not need to be controlled by the cigarettes, they could choose what to do with their lives. Grace often reminds us of this scary truth – we have a choice. We can choose to walk humbly before God and others and receive the blessings of God’s grace, or we can choose to live in pride, calling the shots and suffer the consequences of isolation, shame, and broken relationships.

Seeing my daughter’s excitement at beginning school also reminded me that the road to recovery is worth it. There is a benefit to pressing through the obstacles and discomfort to reap the reward of peace and true contentment. Although there may be moments (even seasons) of difficulty and disappointment, the long-term results of a lifestyle of purity are worth it. And for every moment, or season, of obstacles and challenges, we are assured that God’s grace is sufficient.

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.

More Tools In The Battle: Part 1 of 4: Love Each Other

David S. Mackey

In my previous articles, I have written about what I believe is ultimately the key to all healing, the key to becoming all God created us to be. Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and others with your whole being, with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. My premise was and is that a large part of the Battle is to leave the false intimacy of sexual acting out and pursue the true intimacy of loving God and others with our whole being.

In the pursuit of True Intimacy, there are many tools God has given us which are useful in this Battle. Most of the ‘tools’ found in Scripture are tools which can help us in all facets of our life, with many different struggles in our life.

In the New Testament, there are found a series of ‘Each Other’ messages which, when practiced move us in the direction of intimacy. These ‘Each Other’ messages can help us build True Intimacy, with God and others.

Remember, 1 John says that we cannot love God without also loving others. Naturally, it is also true, that when we love others we are also loving God. The ‘love’ we are ultimately talking about is that Agape (Greek) love, unconditional love, which includes our whole being.

In this series of four articles we will look briefly at many of these ‘Each Other’ messages. I believe if we put these into practice it will help build toward Truly Intimate relationships. They will enhance our relationship with God and others. In so doing, we will find more victory in the Battle.

In this series of 4 articles we will identify and look at several of the ‘Each Other’ passages with the goal of moving away from false intimacy and moving towards true intimacy with God and each other.

LOVE EACH OTHER

The very first ‘Each Other’ statement covers them all. ‘Love Each Other’ or in some translations, ‘Love One Another’ is found 17 times in the New Testament. Jesus stressed love in many ways throughout his teachings and, of course, even more so in His actions. Peter, John and Paul reinforced this message in their letters to the church. Loving others will be a powerful tool, maybe THE powerful tool, towards fighting this Battle by building True Intimacy.

Love is many faceted. Love is huge. Love is a noun. Love is a verb. Love is an adverb. Love is a feeling. Love is an action. Love is God. Love can’t be exhausted. If God truly is Love then it has the attributes of God. That’s big, Love is huge.

What would our lives look like if they were all about love? How much more would we win the Battle? If we could live a life characterized by love, we could remain in Victory always even in the smallest of Battles.

So loving others and loving God needs to be our goal. The goal of having our life characterized by love. A pretty big undertaking for the biggest of attributes and if it wasn’t for God in our lives it would be impossible. God, however, does desire to be in our lives and he has given us a whole list of actions and attitudes that together will characterize our life in love.

WWJD? Easy answer- ‘love’. It is pretty silly (maybe futile is a better word) to try and figure out what Jesus would do in every specific situation. Especially in this culture, in this post industrialized nation, in this information society which is so different from that of the New Testament times.

We DO know, that in whatever ‘He would do’, it would be done in love. Maybe the bracelet we should wear is not WWJD? but HWJL?. ‘How would Jesus love?’ is probably the question we should be asking. Because loving each other is what we should be about.

I ask again; In your days of acting out, what would have been different if loving each other had been on your mind? What choices would be different if you had been in the habit of thinking ‘How Would Jesus Love?’

How would your relationships be different if right now, this very day you set out to love unconditionally the people God has put in your life? God has put your wife, your children, your mother, your father, your siblings, your work peers, your church friends and many more in your life. How would today be different if you set out to love them?

Imagine how much victory you would have in your battle if loving others were the main goal of your day! LOVE will bring us victory in our battle…guaranteed!

The ‘Each Other’ passages are actions and attitudes of love–and actions of love build true intimacy. When True intimacy destroys false intimacy the Battle is WON!!!

For help with the battle for sexual purity, please see Every Man’s Battle.

Full Disclosure

Larry Colclasure, M.S., LPC

Disclosure, as I’m sure we all know, is one of the toughest processes to go through. There is no good way to disclose, it is not a natural process, it is the result of the enemy and sin.

The first step to making a good disclosure is to go from defense to offense. We have been defensive for a long time, trying to hide what we have been doing, trying to cover our tracks, trying to find time to get away, to act out, and even lying to the most important people in our lives. It is time to stop defending these behaviors, admit the truth and get on the offense for our recovery (which includes our connection with God), marriage, and relationships. We choose to attack our sickness and our sin for these reasons and the front line of the battle is honesty.

There are a couple of big mistakes that many of us make at this time.

The first one is to hold back some things, to only do a partial disclosure. This takes some real balance. It is not good just to go to your spouse and vomit all your guilt. You might feel better, but your spouse will not feel good at all after being vomited on. At the same time, if you just admit to a portion of your behaviors, when the rest becomes known, it is much harder and more painful to deal with. And the rest always seems to become known. So it is best to disclose all the behaviors, types of behaviors, places we have acted out, and if we have acted out with someone our spouse knows, they need to know that name. Our spouse does not need to know any gory details or specifics. It is very common for a spouse to start asking a lot of questions. I recommend that we agree to answer any questions she has if she will take a month to pray about her need to know and get counsel about this first.

The second mistake is to start justifying what we have done and why we have done it. Our spouse is not interested in the why right now. It is time to admit the truth, take ownership of our decisions and our sickness. Trying to justify will usually just stir up more anger from our spouse.

The third mistake is to blame others for our behavior. Other people have impacted us and the reasons for our sickness are many, but now is not the time to discuss this. It is time to own my stuff, stay present, and take what I have coming to me.

That brings up the next issue which is, what I have coming to me. Most of the time, the addict has been escalating in behavior, hiding more and more, taking more and more time and getting farther away from relationships. It is often a real release to get this all out and still be alive. For the spouse, it is usually just the opposite. She has been going along thinking things are okay, or not sure about things, and then this bomb is dropped. She is reeling from this and trying to deal with emotions, thoughts, and consequences. She needs time and space to have her reactions. This timing is different for each person.

This is why it is so important to get some support and guidance. If I am not a home builder, it would not be too smart to tear my house apart and rebuild it without some guidance and help. If I am not an electronics specialist, it would not be too smart to tear my TV apart and try to repair it. I believe, and my experience has shown, that our marriages and relationships are much more complicated than any building or TV set. Therefore I believe it is very important to get some guidance and support.

This will come in three areas, first for the disclosure, then for the addict after disclosure to continue his journey in recovery, and for the spouse to deal with the damage and to rebuild.

Like I said, there is no perfect way to do disclosure, but I would like to share a model that can give some guidance. First is to list what you have done. Write this out and give it some time to make sure you have all that needs to be said and only what needs to be said. You will need some help with this. Second, list why you are stopping the behavior, why you are wanting to change. Third is to list what you are doing right now to stop the behavior and to attack your sickness and sin. Fourth is what you are going to do in the future to make sure you do not return to this behavior. I know that we can relapse any day, but we can have actions and plans in place to help us make the right choices each day too. And last is to list what your hopes, dreams, and wishes are for this relationship in the future. Where do you want to be in two years, five years, and ten years with this person?

Sometimes a spouse is not willing to hear any more than the first step. That is okay, that’s where she is right now. I need the other steps to understand that I am on the offense and know where I am headed. My ability to stay focused in this direction and continue in my recovery is the best tool I have to win her back.

For help, please see Every Man’s Battle.
There is also great help for your spouse. Please encourage her to join us at our next New Life Weekend.