Bookending

Bookending

This morning a member of an online support group I lead for men seeking sexual integrity reached out to the group for prayer as he was about to be alone for several hours at home.   I commended him for reaching out in such a way (it’s a real sign of a desire to change) and suggested that he call back when he was no longer alone and let us know how he did – whether he remained sober or not.

This technique is called “bookending.”  It’s when you alert an accountability partner that you are entering into a potential situation where you could be tempted and “bookend” your time by promising to call back when the situation resolves to check-in.   Examples might be when your spouse leaving town for a day, so you bookend from the time he or she leaves to the time he or she returns.  Or when you know you will  be driving through a part of town that used to trigger you, you bookend the start and end of the trip with someone.  Or it could be that you are just having a bad day and you know that under stressful situations you are more liable to act out in your addiction, so you bookend the day with a friend.

A simple phone call or text or message to an online group can make the difference between a day that gets the best of you or a day where you go to bed victorious.  I know that for me, when I was desperately trying to get sober, knowing I promised my mentor that I would call once my wife got home and let him know how I did provided just enough added motivation to fight the good fight.

Of course, bookending can work to help control any compulsion or instill any good habit.  Imagine how different your life might be if you had someone to call and bookend those days where you might be alone with donuts, or that you might be traveling to Vegas, or you are trying to get into the habit of working out, or you are trying to develop the discipline of bible study and prayer?  Having a person to call and check in with will pay huge dividends for you as you are trying to develop new, healthy, sober patters of living.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed (Ecc. 4:9). 

Feeling Tempted? Rejoice! It means you’re alive.

Feeling Tempted?  Rejoice! It means you’re alive.

A common theme I hear when counseling men struggling with pornography addiction is that they feel ashamed over being tempted.   The shame sounds something like this,

Yeah, I thought I was doing pretty good, but, yesterday I woke up and I was just plagued with thoughts and couldn’t seem to get away from it.  I thought by now I would be past that…

temptation

But this is nothing of which to be ashamed.   Being tempted does not mean you have failed.  Being tempted does not mean that you are not making strides in your sobriety or towards holiness.   Being tempted does not mean you are far from God.

Rather, being tempted means you are alive.

How do I know this?  Because Jesus, God in flesh, was tempted.  At the beginning of his ministry, just after his mountain top experience of baptism, he was tempted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness.   And at the end of his ministry, just prior to his crucifixion, he was tempted to let the cup of God’s wrath pass from him.  In both cases he chose the will of God over what his flesh wanted.   In both cases he chose to obey God rather than his emotions.

Because Jesus experienced temptation I know that I will, and you will, too.   In fact, the bible tells us to expect it.  Paul writes to Christians in Corinth,

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Cor. 10:13).

From this we can learn a couple of things.   First, my temptations and your temptations are not unique.  You aren’t the only one going through what you are going through.  You may feel like you are, but countless others have battled the same thing…and won.   Nothing has overtaken you which isn’t common to all mankind.  Second, you can overcome it.  Not on your own, of course, and not by your own power, but you can resist whatever is raging a war within you.   Yes, it will feel like hell.  Yes, it will be the fight of your life.  Yes, it will feel like you are going against every impulse and desire you have.   But you will endure.  God will make sure of it.

When you are tempted, you are being given an opportunity to obey God rather than the enemy who is pursuing your soul so long as you are breathing this side of heaven (1 Peter 5:8).   Your success of failure is not to be found in the temptation itself – we are all tempted – but in your response to it.   And the longer you walk in obedience to God the stronger you will become at warding off not only this present temptation nipping at your heels, but future ones as well.

Some practical helps with tempted:

  • Keep focused on good thoughts.  It’s imperative that you be rooted in God’s word and preach the gospel to yourself at all times.   You must be renewed- and continue being renewed- in your mind (Rom. 12:1-2) or you won’t make it out the gate.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Phil. 4:8).

  • Get a spiritual partner.   Find someone you can confide in and who will hold you accountable.   Rigorous honest with another human being (and with God) is a must.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.(Eccl. 4:9-10)

  • Pray the Mercy Prayer.  When I was tempted and battling a war in my head I prayed this prayer sometimes a thousand times a day.  I went to bed exhausted from the battle, but victorious.  This prayer will change your heart if you take it seriously.   Learn more about it HERE.

God wants us to become like His Son, Jesus Christ.   That means you and I will experience all that Jesus experienced, which includes temptation.   But you need not be a victim. With Christ, you can be more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37).