Knowing the ROCK: Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 2

David Mackey

Just as false intimacy was part of what fed our addiction, True intimacy will strengthen our recovery. So this series will look at 4 of the many facets of intimacy which can be found in an intimate relationship with God AND with others.

This is our design: to have intimacy with both God and Others.

Last month we looked at the Psalms and discovered that David used the word pictures Rock, Refuge, and Fortress interchangeably. For David, God, as his Rock, Refuge or Fortress is intimacy. Most often when David uses these descriptions they are associated with terms and phrases that are actually part of intimate relationships. In other words, David equated knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress with knowing God intimately.

Perhaps one of the more common and basic counseling issues I come across in my practice has to do with shame. Is it any surprise? We are a people based in shame. It can manifest itself in so many different ways. It is first seen in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned and we have carried the shame mantle ever since.

Check out our primary text: Psalms 31:1, In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame’‘.

David begins by equating taking refuge in God with never being put to shame. Again, in Psalm 25:20 David says ‘let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.’ Yet again in Psalms 71:1, David repeats Psalm 31:1 saying In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.’

Is there any greater source of shame then the misuse of our God-given sexuality? That’s why it was such a well hidden secret. We wouldn’t have dreamed to actually share this with anyone. Certainly we carry shame in our sin.

What a wonderful invitation God gives us through David! God invites us to know Him as our Rock, Refuge, and Fortress and in so doing never be put to shame! This is what He wants in our relationships with others as well.

One of the more profound observations at the EMB (Every Man’s Battle) Workshops is to see men arrive Wednesday night with shame (along with fear) written all over their very countenance.

Then a remarkable thing happens. The men tell their stories in all their shame to other men and strangers in a small group. And perhaps for the first time they know they are being listened to, heard and understood and NOT put to shame. In understanding they are accepted. In the listening is heard repentance and sorrow. They are tasting of an aspect of intimacy. They have shared their shameful secret with another and they have been understood and accepted. They have allowed ‘In-To-Me-See’ and have been accepted; not judged, not condemned, not belittled.

These men also find themselves on the giving end of intimacy. They listen to another’s story; they see into another and find themselves listening and understanding and accepting that man.

Everyone connects, perhaps in a way never experienced previously. False Intimacy had hindered and destroyed any possibility of True Intimacy in the past. Now they are experiencing it for perhaps the first time. This needs to be a piece of recovery.

God, of course, offers us a far greater acceptance. He will not put us to shame as we let Him be our Rock, Refuge and Fortress.

Certainly He throws our sin as far as the east is from the west’ because of the work of Christ on the cross. But that is not the emphasis David focuses on. He focuses on the picture of a man sitting in the safety of the cleft of a Rock or within a Fortress or Refuge. God is that Rock and so surrounded by, held by, and protected by God we share our sin, our struggle, our failure and He only holds us tighter, listens more deeply, protects use more. He does NOT put us to shame. He just accepts. He just loves us deeply.

Intimacy: Knowing God as your Rock.

What will recovery be like knowing God in a way in which we are no longer put to shame? We can sit and look Jesus in the eye and share our deepest struggles.

What will recovery be like knowing others in a way in which we are no longer put to shame? We can sit and look another in the eye and share our deepest struggles.

One final thought: Intimacy is a two-way thing. It is not just being able to share with God but him, through His Word and Spirit shares with us. He lets us look into His heart and mind. How wonderful is that?!! And how powerful is that in recovery?

In our recovery, we need to develop intimacy with God and others. We also need to invite others to find shame-free safety in finding intimacy with us.

In Psalm 31, David starts with one of the deepest aspects of intimacy perhaps because we all long so deeply to be free of our shame. We long for someone to look ‘In-To Me and See’ past our ‘ugliness’ and find value and wonderment. Remember, God told Samuel that David was a ”man after my own heart.’ Perhaps this is because David, as seen in the Psalms speaks to God, full of emotion, with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

In your recovery pursue the path of true intimacy with all you being. This is not a command from God but it is an invitation. Terrifying, in our sin to be sure, but it is what we were created for and it will bring real fulfillment and a strong recovery.

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Celebrating God’s Attributes: His Grace

Mark Verkler

Grace defined:

1. The free unmerited love and favor of God; the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. (Romans 11)

2. The application of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner. (Romans 5)

3. A state of reconciliation to God. (Romans 5:2)

Perhaps grace is the ultimate expression of God’s love to us and for us. …for God is love (1 John 4:8b). It is hard to describe and hard to grasp, partly because it’s so unnatural and so much against the flesh. I have such a tendency to either compare myself favorably to someone I suppose is a worse sinner than I am and unfavorably to someone I suppose is a better saint. Pride would keep me out of each group–humility would put me in.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9: ‘The Lord said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at it’s best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me.’

One of the most amazing parts of God’s grace is that He promises that it is enough. No matter the sin, no matter the failure, no matter the weakness, His grace is enough. I have learned that I AM NOT to ask for God’s grace. That is like asking for rain that is already falling, or asking for sunshine on a cloudless day. I am to accept by faith that God’s grace is extended to me and receive it moment by moment with thanksgiving. Of course it makes sense to give thanks for a gift as great as Grace. But I am afraid I all too often ignore it, or ask for it, instead of opening the gift of grace that is right in front of me and giving thanks and rejoicing.

In Luke 17: 3-4 we see another picture of grace. Jesus tells us that if our brother trespasses against us seven times in the same day, repents and seeks forgiveness, we are to give it to him. Would God ask us to do something he wasn’t willing to do? No. That is God’s grace’a well that is so deep it will never run out of water no matter how much we need or use. Though we are warned to not use grace as a license to sin (Romans 6), we are exhorted to embrace our weakness and need of it.

To truly know grace, it must go far beyond understanding and into experience. That means embracing my need for God. I am a Saint by God’s grace, and a Saint who sins and needs His grace every day. Dietrich Bonhoffer noted,

‘He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding in corporate worship, common prayer , and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.

The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!’

This is evidence of God’s grace working in me: I can admit my weakness and need for God’s grace to myself, my God and my brother’s in Christ. I don’t have to cover up so that I appear to have no need of His grace. On the contrary, I can ‘uncover’ and embrace my need of the gift of grace.

Someone said that God doesn’t clean his fish until AFTER He catches them. God is in the business of justifying the ungodly.

 Romans 4:5 says: ‘But to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ That is grace. I must not think that I have to justify myself. That is his job. Mine is to admit my need.

In closing, I am inspired by Henri Nouwen’s vision of grace in the story of the Prodigal. He writes:

‘In my minds eye, I see Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. The dim eyed old father holds his returned son close to his chest with an unconditional love. Both of his hands, one strong and masculine, the other gentle and feminine, rest on his son’s shoulders. He does not look at his son but feels his young, tired body and lets him rest in his embrace. His immense red cape is like the wings of a mother bird covering her fragile nestling. He seems to think only one thing: he is back home and I am so glad to have him with me again.’

May we all go ‘back home’ into the arms of grace.

Celebrating His Attributes: The Message of Love from the Manger

Pastor Ed Grant

It was the day after Christmas. The pastor of St. John Lutheran Church approached the sanctuary from the parking lot and noticed that the beautiful, life-size nativity scene on the front lawn had an empty cr’che. He shook his head in disbelief and looked up and down the deserted road. About a block away he saw a young boy pulling a shiny red wagon with a passenger in the back: it was the baby Jesus. The pastor ran towards the boy and called out to him. When he reached the boy he asked him what he was doing with baby Jesus. The boy answered, ‘The week before Christmas I came to the manger and had a talk with baby Jesus. I promised Him that, if I got a red wagon, I’d come back and give Him a ride in it. I was just keeping my promise.’

There is a beautiful innocence about the boy’s attitude toward Jesus: He considered Jesus very approachable. As I prepared my Christmas sermon this year and considered the timeless accounts of the nativity I was profoundly touched by the message of love from the manger. I hope God refreshes your heart with a renewed sense of His love for you.

The first truth I grasped is that God comes to us whether we think we are ready or not. There is an old saying that goes ‘time and tides wait for no one.’ Surely a baby’s entrance into the world can be added to that list. No matter what we are doing when junior decides to enter the world, we stop what we’re doing and make for the hospital right away (Romans 5:8). When God reveals Himself to someone He doesn’t wait until the person feels worthy or until he has achieved some victory over the sinful aspects of his life. In fact, I have observed that He usually comes to us when life seems broken beyond repair or when we become painfully aware of our sins against Him. When we’ve exhausted every attempt to blame others for our failures and mistakes and finally accept personal responsibility, God is there to meet us.

St. Paul, who regarded himself as the ‘chief of sinners’, wrote, ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ His amazing love encourages us to turn from our sins and our self-directed life and gives us hope that He is willing to forgive us, fill us, heal us, and receive us as His beloved children.

Secondly, I realized how vulnerable God made Himself when He sent His Son as a babe in the manger. More than any other creature God fashioned, babies are the most helpless creatures for the longest period of time. Feeding, dressing, cleaning – the parental responsibility list seems endless. Isn’t it amazing that God made His Son to need the care of His earthly parents? His vulnerability also means that He was susceptible to the full range of emotions and hurts we experience: rejection, betrayal, anger, surprise, laughter, joy and grief. He is still susceptible to these emotions. That’s the paradox of love: You cannot love imperfect people and open yourself to receive their love without the potential for pain. God is willing to take that risk with you!

Finally, I was deeply moved as I considered how much love a baby requires. Most babies enjoy being held, cooed at, watching adults make funny faces at them, playing peek-a-boo, hearing music, being carried around, danced with and bounced on the knee. Babies always seem to stir up the funniest reactions in people, even during Sunday worship. More than once I’ve watch a baby steal the show when a parent puts him on their shoulder during the sermon. Adults for two full rows back can’t resist waving to the baby or making faces at him!

When I think about the baby Jesus in a manger I observe a profound invitation from God to love Him back. Read that again and let it soak into your heart.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.’(1 John 5:1) God wants us to love Him by loving His most precious Son. All the love God has for you is bound up in that precious child Who would one day give His life in your place. He left the splendor and glory of heaven and came to us in a way that everyone can receive Him – even a boy with a red wagon.