One Day at a Time

It’s that time again: New Year’s resolutions. For many men, this is the time when they decide (yet again) to stop their sexual acting out. Quit porn. End the affairs. Stop going to strip clubs. Finally, no more personal ads.  These are all good and noble causes that we should aim for.  Much like eating right, hitting the gym or abiding by a budget the streak usually ends within a few weeks.  Then the same guilt, shame and (sometimes) excuses set in. When this happens with regards to sexual integrity issues, it can feel so defeating. That’s why I’d like to suggest a better way.

The Bible tells us it’s not about the streak. It’s not about how many consecutive days we can string together without committing a particular sin. In fact, that can easily slip into idolatry. Instead of grace-based faith, it becomes performance-oriented self-salvation.  That takes the Savior out of the equation. Instead, our focus should be on His continual provision.

When the Israelites were wandering the desert they had God’s provision. He was committed to their sustenance every day. To that end, His commission to the people was to only take enough for that particular day. To stockpile manna was to hijack God’s glory.  Think about the morning prayer of the average Israelite wanderer when he woke up in the middle of nowhere: “God… I’d like to eat today. I don’t know where that food is going to come from. There isn’t much to hunt out here, and I’m short on ammo anyway. Would you mind showing up today?” The stage is set for God to come through, to provide and prove Himself faithful.

It robs God of the opportunity to prove His faithfulness when we begin counting the days of sobriety.  We run the risk of shortchanging God of the glory He deserves.

What if a better way is to focus on daily sanctification and a deeper relationship with God rather than not breaking the rules?

That would mean we begin asking ourselves different questions and measuring movement by a different ruler.

Instead of asking ourselves if we did or didn’t commit some sin today, let’s ask if we were faithful to God’s call on our lives today. Instead of asking if we lusted, perhaps we should ask if we dwelt on things lovely, pure, excellent, praiseworthy and noble. Rather than aim to end the day without having a “slip”, let’s aim to end the day having triple-jumped towards what we know God is calling us to.  Wouldn’t you rather hit the sack tonight knowing you were faithful to what God is trying to teach you as opposed to just being glad you didn’t act out? How sweet to be in a deeper relationship with God, to be more in awe of Him, after experiencing Him consistently sustaining you.

And suppose you did act out. Suppose you did look at porn again. Could there peace in knowing you are a step closer to who God is developing you to be, rather than on the chaotic hamster wheel of simply resetting the clock? Could there be hope to rest in God’s faithfulness tomorrow rather than gritting your teeth and psyching yourself up to white-knuckle your way through another day?

I’m not saying we should toss our resolutions out the window. Nor should we engage the struggle for sexual integrity in a casual, passive or lackadaisical way. I’m simply suggesting that perhaps God desires to teach us more about ourselves and Himself, rather than just helping us stop some bad behavior. Maybe God wants to show us His faithfulness, providence and sovereignty and our sexual struggles are the stage on which He’ll be glorified.

Recovery Manifesto

What do you want your recovery to look like in a year? What do you want your marriage to look like in a year?

If you can’t answer that question, then where do you expect either of them to end up? Not sure about your life, but in mine the best things don’t happen by accident. Good outcomes and growth aren’t my default. Quite the opposite! I frequently say that my life is like going up the down escalator; if I’m not actively pursuing who God is calling me to be, then I’m passively slipping back into who I’ve always been. That holds true personally, professionally, spiritually and maritally.

Recently, a client has been working on a recovery/marriage manifesto. His task has been to write a declaration answering the question: What do I want our lives and relationship to look like in 1 year, and how will we get there?

I just want to share an excerpt from that manifesto:

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how we’ll get there…

I don’t know all the things that will happen between now and 365 days from now. But what I do know is how we’ll accomplish the goals set out above. This manifesto will ring true if…

  • humility is the focus of approaching our marriage and our relationship
  • communication is open, honest and humble
  • we trust in God, at the deepest level we’ve ever trusted him, by praying like it all depends on him and working like it all depends on us
  • we connect in true intimacy
We’ll look back at 2013 and say with confidence that it was a hell of a year because of the hopelessness, despair, helplessness, fear, betrayal, deceit, rejection, guilt, and shame felt by us both. But it was worth it because true transformation came out of the deepest, darkest pit we were in. I want us to say that 2013 was the year that everything changed for the better.
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This fires me up! Frankly, I think that fires God up too. I think he sees this, jumps out of his seat, yells “OH YEAH!” and high-fives the closest angel. In effect, this manifesto sets the stage on which God can orchestrate radical redemption and gives the curtain call for Him to get the glory for it. 2013 is the year it all changed. It’s the year God showed up. It’s the year redemption began to be real.

Will 2013 be the year everything changed for you?

There’s still time. The year’s not over.

(not so) Happy Holidays

turkey1

The holidays are upon us and for many people, they aren’t so happy. The reason is that the holidays usually mean engagement with family, which can be incredibly triggering. This can be true for both a man struggling with sexual integrity issues and also for his wife.

For men, often family-of-origin issues are at play. It can be an interaction with dad that taps a nerve. Or it could be a comment from mom that just sits awkwardly.  It could be the house or a particular room in the house that brings back old memories. Whatever the event, it can be a trigger that catches people off-guard. Without realizing it, some of the old emotions can surface and subtly lure a man back towards medicating and acting out.

Likewise for wives, family and often (especially) the in-laws can be triggering. I hear stories of wives returning from Christmas with the husband’s family bearing resentment, anger, and also insight! They sometimes see relational dynamics that shed light on their husband’s mannerisms, attitudes and behavioral patterns. In fact, I frequently hear wives say they see the kid come out. In other words, they see the origin of some of the childish behavior they witness in their adult husbands.

All that said, here’s the good news: the holidays can be an incredible time of growth! Personally, we can grow by handling family triggers better than ever before. We can do intimacy (speaking non-sexually) with our spouses unlike ever before.  We can connect with the folks walking our journey with us. We can also let the difficulties drive us deeper towards Jesus.

So, a few of suggestions for this holiday season:

  1. Practice self-awareness through journaling. For both husband and wife, it is imperative to be dialed-in to what’s happening in your heart. Finishing your day with a quick download in your journal can be enough to process some of the emotions that could lead to acting out.
  2. If you know your family situation causes strife and is potentially toxic, prep your accountability partners/support people for daily phone calls to check in. It may be a 10-minute conversation with someone in your corner that can talk you off a ledge.  It can also be a conversation like this that helps you see your family with a new level of grace.
  3. Try to remember that everyone comes to the Thanksgiving table with a story. People show up with that story playing out, and sometimes it’s messy.
  4. Remember that no matter where you are in your story, you are not disqualified from helping someone bump into Jesus.