Submission

It’s been years since I set foot in a gym, much less lifted a weight. I run fairly often, but the gym has seemed like a daunting task. I want to be in better shape but I have a million excuses why hitting the gym won’t work. I’m too busy, not enough time, my wife needs me home to help with the kids, it costs money (and I’m cheap), it’s intimidating…..and the list goes on. Well, I finally made the decision to get back after it. Just one catch: I don’t even know where to begin. If I go to the gym, I have no clue where to start with lifting weights. I need guidance. I need counsel. I need…dare I say it……help. That means I have to willingly submit myself to someone else’s authority.

Submission isn’t a word we like to use very often. Especially not us men. The truth is, I’m not the best CEO of my life. If left to my own devices, I’ll get into the gym and waste time, energy, money and probably hurt myself and ultimately not get the results I want. So I need someone to guide me; on their terms, not mine. Think about it: what good would it do for me to go to a personal trainer and tell him what workouts I think I should be doing? The whole point of going to him is to submit to his authority, wisdom, structure and direction. You’d be surprised how many people do this with counseling. They come to me after decades of sexual integrity issues and tell me what I should do to help them. It’s almost comical. Folks like that usually aren’t ready for help; because they aren’t ready to submit. It’s obvious when someone walks in the door and is serious about help. They say something like this, ” I’ve tried everything I know to do and its not working. So, I don’t know what its going to take, but I’ll do whatever I have to do – just tell me what that is”.

My path to physical health requires submission to a trainer. My journey towards sexual integrity has required submission to God first and foremost, then my accountability partners, my wife, pastors, the church and my counselor. This journey has forced me to acknowledge that I don’t have all the answers and I’m wise to submit myself to those that have nuggets of truth I can borrow. Here’s a snapshot of what the bible says about submission:

Proverbs 12:15 Fools are headstrong and do what they like;
   wise people take advice

Proverbs 11:14 Without good direction, people lose their way;
   the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances

James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you

Hebrews 13:17 Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?

I urge you to consider who you may need to submit to. Perhaps your pastor? Or counselor? Or to your wife? To God? If you find yourself reluctant to do so it could point to the next step in your journey. Press in, and see what your hesitance is about. Submission is not easy and is sometimes unpleasant, but remaining our own authority is foolish at best and outright dangerous at worst.

 

Exits & Off-Ramps

“Is there something you need to tell me?”

On at least two different occasions during the first few years of our marriage Shelley would ask me that question. I’ll never forget one night as we were lying in bed about to doze off, probably 10:30pm, she asked me completely out of the blue. No prompting, no warning, no preface or qualifiers; just the most cutting question I’d ever been asked to that point. Panic ensued internally. My answer?

“Nope. Nothing. Good night.”

In hindsight, I can see what it was all about. It was God’s grace. It was his Spirit stirring in her soul to give me an opportunity to end my addiction. I simply wasn’t willing to take it. Freedom was a confession away and I was too reluctant to grab hold of it. God tells us clearly in His word that he’ll show up to offer us a way through and out of temptation:

1 Corinthians 10:13 – 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.

Once we’ve taken the on-ramp to the highway of lies and acting out it is easy to fly past all the possible exits. Unfortunately, when we’ve got the cruise-control set and we’re headed towards wrecking things again, exits don’t really look like exits; they look like road blocks. It can feel like there is no way off the turnpike and we’re paying tolls with our sanity. At first  glance it appears like we would be crazy to crash ourselves into them.

Full disclosure is one such exit. It seems ludicrous to think that telling someone every dark detail of our story would help end our addiction to sin. It feels like things would only get worse, not better, to tell our spouse the truth. But it may just be the way God has planned for you. It was for me. He gave me multiple opportunities to end my addiction by coming clean and telling Shelley the truth. I was unwilling to take the off-ramp. That is, until the day came that I realized I would die if I didn’t stop. Literally, I almost drove my truck off a north Dallas highway early one morning after acting out again. Perhaps God has already shown you some possible exits in your life? Confiding in a friend or pastor, joining a support group, or attending an EMB workshop to name a few.

Sometimes the way out of temptation looks nothing like we thought it would. God, in his loving wisdom, knows exactly what we need and when we need it. Often His offering of hope comes when we least expect it in a way we wouldn’t expect it. If you’re struggling with sexual temptation and sin keep your eyes wide open for exits and off-ramps. God is faithful to show them to you.

Old Running Shoes

This week during one of my groups we were privileged to share a profound moment with one of the members who is an EMB alumni. It was his last day of being 49 years old. He was on the verge of 50 and had been reflecting on what that meant to him. The last year for him has been one of turmoil, chaos, change, miracles and a lot of symbolism. After getting busted in one affair and admitting to several more, he began allowing God to change him from the inside out. The change has been profound. He is being restored personally and his marriage is flourishing!

In his reflection he realized that for the last 30+ years he has been running. Running from his family dysfunction, from his true feelings, from his wife and kids, from the darkest most depraved parts of himself and ultimately from God. He has been running from.

Then he threw an old, ragged pair of running shoes down on the floor.  In tears and with deep conviction in his voice he exclaimed, “I’m tired of running from my life. I’m sick of running away. Tomorrow, 50, starts a new life. Tomorrow I begin running to what God has for me. I don’t know how many years I have left after this, but I’m going to make every single one count!”

The weight of his words and the reality of that moment was stark. He is moving from wreckage to redemption. And the people being hit by his wake are better for it. He is becoming a beacon of hope and inspiration to other men.

Maybe you’re tired of running from? Perhaps it is time for a new pair of shoes to start running to what God has next for you?