All posts by Chad

Rescue from Relapse

Relapse is without a doubt the most difficult part of recovery.    The pain it causes not only to yourself, but to those who love you, is torturous.   It’s like ripping a scab off of a wound which seemed to be healing nicely.   The shame, guilt and self-hatred which accompany a relapse is suffocating and nearly impossible to silence.

I know this feeling well, and regrettably, all too recently.   If you are anything like me, after a relapse you want to just crawl into a hole and die.   The sense of profound failure is crippling.  It’s impossible to look anyone in the eye.   Edgar Allen Poe’s infamous, incessant, beating heart beneath the floor boards gets louder and louder in my ears and I’m convinced everyone sees me as not just a failure, but a murderer of all that is good and holy.   It’s how I see myself in days and weeks following a relapse.  It’s how I all too easily assume God sees me, too.

That last bit is the worse, and potentially the most debilitating.   In my experience, how we understand God’s relation to ourselves in our highs and our lows, our recovery and our relapses, makes all the difference in how quickly or how slowly (or if ever) we get back on the horse and the road to sanity.

Understanding God as One who is for you, not against you; who is immovable and unconditional in his love towards you, is essential, in my opinion, to rebound from any relapse.   Holding on to this fundamental understanding of God is difficult to do, however, when the accuser of our souls is working overtime to bury us in shame and despair.   Sometimes this accuser’s voice comes through people we’d least expect, those who hold trusted positions in our lives such as family members, pastors, counselors, and friends.    It might sound something like this text I received from a family member just weeks after she learned of my relapse:

My thoughts today are that you should just be done with God.  Obviously he cannot help you.  He is powerless to set you free so why bother with him?  You cannot serve flesh and God simultaneously and you always choose the flesh! So denounce God and then you can continue your life without guilt. Without the struggle.  Seriously.  Your life is a testimony that God is unable to set the captive free so stop the struggle and just give in.

Yuck.  Even typing that out makes me feel like I need a bath.   The accuser, scripture tells us, will often masquerade as an angel of light.   Sometimes we will hear these lies from people we think should know better.   It’s bad enough that these lies are replaying themselves in our heads like a tape on repeat when we relapse.  It’s almost unbearable when they come at us from people we love and who claim to love God and us.

The best way I know how to defeat the enemy is expose it to light.   If you are hearing the voice of the accuser in the midst of relapse – or any struggle – talk about it.   Share your thoughts with trusted friends in recovery.   I am so grateful for my brothers in recovery who heard these words and graciously spoke truth and love over me.   They helped me start the process of letting go of resentment towards those who know no better and speak from their own places of pain and humanity (still working on this!).  They also reminded me that my higher power is not in those words and to seek out what it is he has to say about me.   Words such as these:

Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light (Micah 7:8).

for though a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again (Prov 24:16).

The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand (Psalm 37:23-24)

The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing (Psalm 145:14-16).

“Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: “‘When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return? (Jer. 8:4)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

There are countless more truths found in Scripture which reveal a God who does not abandon us in our weakness but who, paradoxically, is made strong through them (2 Cor. 12:9-11).

A relapse is never the result of God’s weakness or inability to save us.  It is always a result of our own frailty and powerlessness, revealing wounds we’ve yet to allow the Healer to touch.  It’s an opportunity for us to learn and grow in our walk not just in recovery but in Christ, and an opportunity for saints around us to practice the art of gentle restoration (Gal. 6:1).

I hope someone reading this finds hope in the midst of relapse.  Know that any voice that sounds like condemnation is not from your Father in heaven.   Run to the One who while we were yet sinners – enemies of God – laid down his life for us that we might walk out of our pit and into the light.  He is always ready and willing to help the downtrodden and the poor in spirit.   He does not grow weary in doing good towards us and his thoughts towards you and I today and always are bountiful, infinitely rooted in love, peace, and hope.

Grace and peace,

Chad

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Tired of being a slave to porn? Take your first step towards freedom

Being enslaved to pornography is hell on earth. I know because I’ve been there. If you are there now, or don’t wish to go back to that life, I would love to talk with you.

I will be forming a support group for men who want to be free from the hell that is sex addiction. God created us for so much more than that. If you are interested, please send me a private message by email me at recoveringchad@yahoo.com. Your anonymity and confidentiality are important to me.

I will be beginning a local group for those who can meet weekly and if the interest is there, an online group for those who are far from me.  I’ll have more to say about the format soon.  Please share this with anyone you think might need some hope.

Grace and peace.

Just Do It!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything here so I thought I’d share an update and hopefully some inspiration.

Today marks my 30th day doing Whole30.   I made it!   I can’t believe it, to be honest.   For those of you who don’t know what Whole30 is, it’s a diet where you eliminate all sugar, dairy, grains and processed foods for 30 days.   That means no ice cream, no Oreos (my favorite), no cheesecake (my other favorite), no rice, noodles, bread, butter…you get the idea.

In order to convey the enormity of my finishing 30 days on this diet without a single cheat I need to tell you that I’m that guy that up until 30 days ago NEVER said no to a snack.   I’m that guy who stopped a couple times a week at Dollar General for a box of Milk Duds, or who routinely sat down at night to watch TV with a big glass of milk and 5 or 10 Oreo Double Stuffed cookies.   All day at work I snacked on anything from fudge to brownies to candy my co-workers brought in.

All that to say this:  It seemed like an impossibility to give all that up cold turkey for THIRTY DAYS.

But I did it!   And I feel better than I’ve felt in YEARS!   Let me share with you some of the benefits I’ve discovered…

  • I lost 18 lbs!   My clothes fit better and I’m no longer huffing after tying my shoes 🙂
  • I have more energy.  In addition to eating better, I also started training to run a half marathon in July.   I’ve been following an 8 week training plan and over the past four weeks I’ve gone from running 2 miles after my first full week to running 6.5 miles just this past Sunday!
  • I discovered a new hobby – cooking!  Having to prepare fresh food every day meant I had to organize my time in such a way that I had time to cook and prepare meals.  I found that I really enjoy trying new recipes and preparing food not only for myself but for those I love.   It’s a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to have others eat what I’ve prepared and see they enjoy it (check out some pics below!)

Those are some of the more obvious benefits – things others can see (or taste).   One of the less obvious benefits but no less important was how I discovered this really bolstered my recovery health.    There really is no secret to fighting addiction.  At some point when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired (hit bottom) you have to just do something else.   Replacing old, bad, destructive habits with something new, good, and life-giving is one of the best things you can do for yourself for long term recovery.    It gives your mind, body and spirit something new to pursue, creating joy that you didn’t know you were missing and giving you even more reasons to pursue sobriety.    You really are worth it!

The other advantage this brings to recovery that I have found, and I talk about this on other posts here related to fasting, is how being disciplined in this area flows out and over into other areas.   Discovering that I am able to say no to the urge to have an Oreo (and not die because I’ve deprived my body of something it wants) helps strengthen my spirit to respond positively when tempted with other ungodly desires.    If you can discipline your body to say no to food it wants, you can do the same when lust comes knocking at your door, or any other drug of choice to which you’ve been enslaved.

I think Jesus knew what he was doing when he fasted himself and taught his disciples to do the same.    He knew the spiritual secret behind saying no to the desires of the flesh, (even to something neutral, even good, like food)  – that such a practice can prepare one’s body and soul to say no to Satan’s other means of temptation and attack.

I want to encourage you if you are struggling today (or this month or for the past years).   If you have never considered how food or other areas you keep saying “yes” might be contributing to your unwanted compulsive behaviors elsewhere, maybe do so now.   Consider putting yourself to a 30 day challenge and say no to something other than (in addition to) your drug of choice.   If it’s porn, but you also love donuts, give up donuts for 30 days and just see if that doesn’t make you stronger in your fight against porn.   In my experience, it will.

What are you waiting for? Today is as good a day as any to start.  Just do it!

Grace and peace,
Chad

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Blackened Salmon with Sweet Potato and Green beans..YUM
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Chicken on cauliflower rice topped with dairy free mushroom cream sauce
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Finished up a 6.5 mile run!

The Christian dissonance of the “pro-life” movement

I opened my previous post stating that I try to avoid political topics on this blog.   This post is going to make a liar of me as I step into it once more.   I promise (I think) this is the last for quite some time.

My last post was about the Christian dissonance in the phrase, “It’s my body.”   That is to say, for those of us who follow Christ, the Lamb of God who laid down his own life to save ours, it makes little sense for any Christian to claim “It’s MY body.”   Our bodies are gifts from God, temples of the Holy Spirit, and exist to bring glory and honor to our Creator.

The push back I received from my pro-choice friends over that post and others is this: They rightfully point out the dissonance (or hypocrisy) in most of us who are pro-life when they insist we care only about the baby in the womb but fall short in our compassion for humanity beyond that.

If we are honest, we have to admit they are right.   When I have these discussions with people I discover that I am often in the minority among pro-life people.   By this I mean I fully support and desire to see universal health care for all people.  I want to see free maternal care for mothers and mandatory maternal (and paternal!) leave granted by employers.   I want to be part of a nation that cares more about showing empathy and compassion towards the strangers and minorities among us  – refugees, immigrants, etc – than they do about it’s flag.  I want to see the death penalty done away with and real rehabilitation programs for convicted criminals and everyone suffering from addiction.    I want to see real gun reform laws passed and a concerted effort to end mass shootings, particularly in our schools where our children are at greater risk than in any other country on earth.

I guess you could say I am truly pro-life from womb to tomb.

Pro-choice people are right to point out the hypocrisy in many of us when we scream as loud to keep children from crossing our borders as we do to ensure children our born within our borders.

When we argue “I have a right to own a gun,” we sound alarmingly like pro-choice people arguing “I have a right to my own body.”

When we support policies or demonstrations which demean or take lightly the plight of black Americans (who proportionally speaking, are most susceptible to feeling they have a need to have an abortion) we demonstrate to a watching world that we are not really pro-life.

When we argue against health care for every person in our country and continuously vote for leaders who strategically position corporations and the wealthy to get ahead while removing safety nets for the most vulnerable among us, we shoot our cause in the foot and appear to a watching world as white-washed tombs.

When we discourage sex education or free birth control for all, we guarantee a rise in the number of those distressed and hopeless and feeling as though abortion is their only option.

Many of the positions taken against these life affirming policies are rooted in the same beast that gives birth to a pro-choice movement:  Fear of losing what’s rightfully mine.   In essence, it’s a lack of faith in God.   Both the woman who fears she cannot adjust her future life to that of a newborn and the person who thinks allowing in more refugees will water down their culture are committing the same sin:  They lack faith in a God who promises to provide for our needs if we will humble ourselves before him and honor him in all that we do.

I wonder what would happen if we who are pro-life would actually be pro-life in every area of our lives?   Maybe, just maybe, it would bear witness to a watching, confused and hurting world that God truly is the God of all nations, all tribes, all tongues – born and unborn – and loves them dearly.   After all, they will know us by our love.

 

 

 

The Christian dissonance of “It’s My Body”

I try to avoid political topics on my blog but the latest news regarding “heartbeat” bills and discussion around women’s right to have an abortion has been occupying much of my head space.

Which is interesting to me because I wasn’t this occupied with it in the past.   The reason I felt it worth writing about here is because I think my views about abortion have changed some, aligning more with my views on sexual integrity in general and the rights I believe we have over our bodies in particular.

It’s this latter portion that is most concerning to me, especially as it relates to those of us who are Christians.   For the record, I don’t believe it’s the job of the Church to legislate morality (in most cases), but I do believe it’s the job of the Church to serve as a conscience to the State.   We may not get to make the laws, but we certainly should be witnesses to the light.  What we support (or don’t support) while bearing the name of Christ makes an indelible impression upon a watching, confused, disbelieving world.

Having said that, allow me to state my premise clearly, and then I’ll unpack it.   Whether you agree or disagree with this statement, I hope you’ll continue reading and even comment.

The deeper we pursue Christ and his holiness, the more incoherent and dissonant is the world’s message declaring, “It’s your body, it’s your choice.”

This should come as no surprise to Christians, but it’s amazing how much we muddy the waters with the things we support.   The dissonance between the messages “Come, pick up your cross and follow me,” and “It’s your body, it’s your choice,”   which are often proclaimed from the same pulpit and pew can only further confuse a world in such dire need of Christ’s liberating, healing, saving word.

Our primary task as Christians is to make disciples.  How can we expect the disciples we are making to understand what it means to lay down one’s life for the sake of the gospel when we tell pregnant women, “It’s your body, your choice”?

Scripture teaches us that when we become Christians we recognize that we have been bought with a price.   Paul, if writing today, would no doubt ask us the same question:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Cor. 6)

Do we not know that our bodies are not our own?   Why, as Christ followers, are we telling people the exact opposite?

Paul writes in Philippians that we who know Christ are to have his mindset:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

He goes on to declare that it’s this mindset – this lowly, humble, it’s-not-MY-body mindset – that God will exalt and this spectacular display of selflessness, one that seems utterly foolish to the ways of this world, will cause every knee to one day bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Friends, this means that the degree to which people are not calling Jesus Lord of their life is in large part the same degree to which we, his Body on earth, are not bearing witness to the sacrificial, self-denying life of Jesus.

Naturally, this has implications in how we live far beyond (and before) thoughts of abortion are even entertained.   Understanding that this body I have is a gift from God and not my own dictates how I use it moment by moment.  It means I can’t just say “yes” to something because I desire it because I understand that my desires are not always holy desires.   Thus, questions about sex outside of marriage, masturbation, pornography use, and of course, abortion, all must be held up to the light of the gospel and it’s demand upon not just my doctrine (what I believe) but upon my body (what I practice).

It’s only when I surrender my body, along with my heart and my will and my thoughts, to God that I can begin to know the sort of freedom and joy and peace Jesus promises to those who seek him and his righteousness first and foremost.

I’ll conclude by stating my premise once again:

The deeper we pursue Christ and his holiness, the more incoherent and dissonant is the world’s message declaring, “It’s your body, it’s your choice.”

Grace and peace,

Chad

Rachel Held Evans: On Origami and Trust

The news concerning the death of Rachel Held Evans this past weekend has been hard to swallow.   She leaves behind a loving husband, 2 young children, and a family innumerable who have been blessed, encouraged, and loved through her speaking and writing ministry.   She will be greatly missed.

I first met Rachel back in 2010 when were were both actively blogging about faith and the church.  She graciously shared some of my writings on her blog (which was far more popular than mine ) and we met at a few conferences.  When I was moving from seminary back to Tennessee in 2011 we kicked the idea around of starting a church that would minister to the outcasts and misfits – those who had lost faith in the church but hoped God hadn’t lost faith in them.   Sadly, that never transpired.

Over the years we drifted apart but I continued to read her work.   While we didn’t always land in the same place, I always admired her gift with words and her ability to articulate the questions of faith that all of us have or have had and she did so humbly and honestly.   Never did I doubt that she was and is deeply in love with Jesus and her neighbors.   Today, I don’t doubt that that love is only magnified and more truly known.

I’ve been moved by the many tributes written these past few days.   But I’ve also been appalled by comments and posts from many of her detractors. I won’t reference them here as I don’t want to give them life, but they reveal the dark underbelly of the Church at which Rachel devoted much of her time aiming her prophetic voice, and the remainder of her time creating places of grace and healing for it’s refugees.   She wanted them, and us, to know that the church imperfectly reflects the goodness of our Father and that we can trust Jesus to make all things new.

I fell prey to something these last two days, be it my hero complex or simply boredom, to defend Rachel to some of her detractors.   In the midst of this I realized that this is not something Rachel would have done herself, nor expect any of us to do.  Rather, she would likely pray for them, and instruct me to do the same (or teach me how to turn their hate mail into origami).

But it did get me thinking about trust.  When the judgments of those self-avowed defenders of pure religion are stacked up against the grace-filled, humble words of Rachel and her many friends, a blinding, stark contrast is on full display.  The former is only able to give lip service to trust, whereas the latter embodies it in word and deed.  They do this, I think, because they trust not the frame of their religion but the One who frames them in perfect light to the Father.

This came to me as I was singing this weekend the song, “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less.”   The first stanza goes like this:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

As in life, Rachel’s death is also inviting me to trust Jesus.   To trust less in my understanding of Jesus, or my doctrinal purity, or who I agree or disagree with on certain matters but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Yes, no doubt there are important things worth contending over, but may my hope and yours be first and foremost in Jesus – the one who loves us and died for us in the midst of our ignorance and sin.  This trust in the work of this Person, I believe, is what is most important, and making this our business is what I believe will best honor the legacies of both Rachel and our Lord.

Rest in Peace and Power, RHE.

 

The one thing needed for real, lasting change

In just a few hours I’m leaving for a 3 day Sexual Integrity Leaders Summit in Atlanta.  I’m looking forward to this conference which boasts the following goal:

The Holy Spirit is moving to take back ground in defining holy sexuality. Join with others passionate about intentionally addressing issues, concerns, and questions related to sexual wholeness, sexual integrity, and finding freedom in Christ. Get equipped with the tools and resources you need.

This conference comes on the heels of me and my wife attending the Pure Life Ministries annual conference which proved to be a powerful encounter with the Lord.   Over this past week I have been reading Steve Gallagher’s book, A Biblical Guide to Counseling the Sexual Addictwhich has helped to reaffirm the reality of my own experience in dealing with habitual sexual sin:  The best medicine is Jesus.

I sometimes get this upside down.   Sometimes I will convince myself that there are other solutions to my problem besides Jesus.  For instance, sometimes I get to thinking that the best medicine is the group of men I meet with weekly in SAA.  Or I get to thinking the best medicine is working the 12 steps, or making more phone calls, or reading more recovery literature or going for a run.

The truth is, all of these are good things, but not the best thing.   In my experience, the only times I have known profound, lasting victory is when I submitted to Jesus and his ways of healing my sinful, broken heart.

Gallagher reminds me that the medicine Jesus prescribes is repentance.   Repentance is the precursor for real, lasting change for anyone caught in habitual sin (sexual or otherwise).   This repentance must come from godly sorrow over our sin as opposed to worldly sorrow over having gotten caught (or having hurt someone we love.  See 2 Cor. 7:10).

I want to close this out by sharing what Gallagher’s lists as the four basic components to receiving this medicine which Jesus offers to each and every one of us who will place their trust in him.    You can find these on pages 40-41 in the book referenced above.

  1. Poverty of spirit:  seeing one’s need to change and coming to the realization that he cannot accomplish this change without the power of God.
  2. Mourning over sin: as the person begins to face the ugliness of his behavior, he becomes broken over it.
  3. Submission to God: as the sin in one’s heart is exposed, true repentance occurs. Self-will is replaced by submission to God’s authority.
  4. Fruits of repentance: as God is allowed to conquer the man’s heart, a change occurs which becomes evident in the way he lives his life.

Gallagher concludes,

It is vital that you, as counselor, lead the man out of habitual sin and into this kind of genuine repentance.  He cannot conjure up this experience for himself.  He must seek God for it.  The counselor’s role in helping the counselee see his need for a radical inward transformation and praying that he receives it.

Praying with and for you.  Pray for me as I am at this conference this weekend!

Grace and peace,
Chad