Knowing Your Addiction (3 of 5)

There are some topics we are confronted with that require us to have a bare knuckled vulnerability, a naked honesty – that sets aside the polite social protocols that hedge our self-perception, insulating us from the layers of dysfunction we dare not look directly at . . . it is that thread we dare not pull. So we broach such things in the abstractions of theoretical analysis, as things that other poor souls fall prey – instead of taking the humble path of confessing our brokenness. In this way, any honest discussion about addiction can be like rolling a hand grenade into the room . . .

I’m removing all of the substance abusing addictions and sexual addictions from the table – but only for those who have already freely chosen to confess their brokenness in these areas, as they likely already know, in vivid detail, why knowing your addiction is so vitally important. But for the rest of us who think we have these areas under manageable control, or think addiction is only confined to these specific areas – I ask you to join me in inviting God to remove from us the vanity and lies (Proverbs 30:8) that beset our thinking . . . so that we might break the chains we are incessantly forging.

Since our exile from Eden, and the intimacy with God it afforded – we have been compensating for that vacuum. Because the break in our relationship to God also created a tear in our understanding of ourselves. By design, we don’t know who we are apart from God. So our reality apart from him feels like a demented carnival, our perspective distorted like a funhouse mirror, as we ride the jerking, plunging rollercoaster of our emotions – so we go into the survival mode of self-medication.

imagesAll of us are in survival mode. All of us are trying to compensate our brokenness. All of us are self-medicating against the pain . . . this side of the fall, none are immune. You may be thinking that you don’t have an addiction, because you don’t have a socially unacceptable addiction – but that’s not the same thing, is it? Remember, addiction is whatever we do to compensate against the soul crushing disappointments, disillusionments, and despair in our life – all of our insecurity, loneliness, and emptiness . . . it’s whatever we do to fill that void. Because addiction is everything we do on our own, apart from God, to solve our deep and abiding longing . . . that lingering vestige of the fall.

To confess your addiction is to confess that there are insidious layers just beneath the surface that need healing . . . and that you are not satisfied with the illusion you create for others – you want to be truly healed. But if you hold your addiction in abstraction, treating it as if it were nothing more than a minor character flaw, or insignificant peccadillo – not only will you be living in self-deluded denial, but you’ll be missing out on how God wants to heal you. Because what was broken in the garden can be healed, and the reconciliation of God already knows how broken you are – even those hidden places you’re afraid to go . . . allow him to go there with you, so he can heal that too.

Here’s a song I wrote years ago about addiction . . .

Knowing Your Limitations (2 of 5)

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate the finely tuned wisdom of knowing my limitations. This is not merely because the bravado and naiveté of my bullet proof days of youth are now far behind me – but I think there is a focusing clarity that accompanies the realization that there are fewer days ahead than behind. Now, I know this might seem like it flies in the face of the popular zeitgeist of the self-help positive confession mantras of positive thinking – but I’m not really juxtaposing optimism with pessimism here . . . it might be more helpful for you to understand my point as offering a little bit of ballast, for keeping your feet when the tempest blows.

Just as sure as being paralyzed by our limitations is undoubtedly a ditch on one side of the road — when we speciously evaluate our life as having no limitation, we run the risk of swerving into the ditch on the other. Even so, a proportional assessment of our limitations, for some reason seems elusive. Some limitations will appear to us as insurmountable, only to discover they can easily be dispatched – while others will go completely undetected as we barrel head long into the same wall, repeatedly. But by their very nature, it would seem, we conduct a sort of fight or flight relationship with our limitations, likely because we rather not look at them too closely . . . probably because on some level, our limitations are such an unflinching truth telling about who we are — we’d rather leave them in abstraction.

public-domain-images-free-stock-photos-brick-wall-rustic-old-metal-doors-private-parkingHowever, truly knowing our limitations allows us to see a clear path, to focus our energies on where our gifts and passions lie – while allowing the things we can’t control to drop from our hand. Because all too often we live under the misconception that we can control things far beyond our control. I can’t ultimately keep myself, or my loved ones, safe from all harm– life is just too dangerous a place. I can’t have everything I want, in the way I want it . . . and this is likely a good thing. I can’t make myself significant to someone else – no matter how hard I try. So the sooner I confess such limitations, disarming my fear of them, the sooner I can get about the business of doing what I was meant to do. Because ultimately, I must surrender all that I can do, as well as all that’s beyond me, into God’s hands.

But no doubt there are some reading this thinking “What about Philippians 4:13 ~ ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ – doesn’t that say I can do all things?” But with a careful reading of this passage we discover that it is actually declaring that our natural state is very limited, and that it is God, who is limitless. Therefore, the strength to do all things can only be experienced through God – so we must confess our limitations, before we can embrace the strength found in Christ . . . these two are inextricably bound. It is in beginning to know our limitations where we begin to learn the limitless value of our faith. So yes, in faith we are to take it to the very limit . . . and then be amazed by all that God is accomplishing through us.

This Peter Himmelman song off of his latest recording project, is a haunting interior stroll through the garden of our self-imposed limitations . . . as time indifferently bears witness.


Knowing Yourself (1 of 5)

Back in high school, if memory serves, I had a teacher who devoted a couple of days to a discussion about the self-assessing question of “Who am I?” As I recall, it was a meandering stroll through an existential waste land. And as you’ve likely already deduced, given that we were a room full of hormonally charged, largely bemused, malcontent teenagers, we were grudgingly participating – because after all, we knew exactly who we were . . . we were bored. Well mostly, except for that one guy who kept challenging the premise of how the teacher was addressing the question . . . and he will remain unnamed.

Know thyself” — this was already a known maxim of Plato’s day, as the need for being self-aware is timeless. So at the risk of chasing this rabbit too far down the psychobabble rabbit hole, I want to ruminate this concept. But given that it is a direct subset concept to the mother of all philosophical questions “Why do we exist?” – It invites a measure of philosophical consideration. But I’ll be foregoing the panoramic view of the forest, in favor of pondering what it might feel like to be a tree . . . how you and I might seek humble honesty when approaching the question of who, and why, we are.

So where do we begin? We are such a mixed bag of emotionally disparate ideas about who we might be. We are ever being pulled between pride and shame, ever comparatively referencing ourselves against the moving target of our perception of who we think others might be and how they might view us. So whatever we might glean from this wild menagerie of random thoughts will likely not yield much in the way of discernment — like a mirage, it can only tempt us into thinking we can simply take a peek inside and know with some degree of certainty what any of it might mean.

unexamined-life-6-9It’s really no surprise that we’re incapable of objectivity when it comes to ourselves – but perhaps, through the eyes of another, we can uncover some clue, some insight into the truth. But then again, everyone else is mired in their own mixed bag of self-informed misconceptions as well – so the idea that they might offer an authoritative opinion about who we might be, would be like looking through an opaque glass filled with misshaped shadows — hardly definitive or discernible. So whether it’s our own self-referencing musings, or the existential opinions of others, the best we can do is to tease around the edges of the question.

I know for those of you who regularly read my blog, this is a common theme – but I just can’t help it. There’s simply something therapeutically confessional about owning my inadequacy, to end the pretense that my perspective could ever be anything other than self-serving. As such a confession forces me to realize that it is only because of the mercies of God that I could ever hope to even begin to know who I am . . . to be set free of myself enough to accept his appraisal of me.

Because here’s the thing – there is no longing more primal than wanting to be truly known for who you are . . . and to be loved anyway. And we are so woefully inadequate at giving that to one another, let alone ourselves, with any level of consistency or significance. But in the love of God, we can not only have the courage to unflinchingly know ourselves, but we can learn to love ourselves and others as God loves us – to love extravagantly and without hesitation. Because this is exactly how God’s self-sacrificing love works — empowering us to let go of the self long enough to authentically love and be loved.

Here’s a David Wilcox song for those times when you look inside
. . . and discover those empty lonely rooms

Exegeting Your Life

You don’t have to spend much time on life’s cause and effect treadmill, to realize that making it up as you go along is like a Vegas weekend – the odds are going to catch up with you sooner or later. So either you can choose to learn to read the road signs of your life, or you can just pretend that the current road your on will eventually lead you to where you want it to end up. But whether it’s about reading the road signs or reading the tea leaves, it’s all a matter of interpretation – so maybe it’s about time we all begin to take more seriously our role as interpreters.

Linguists will tell you that it is seldom, when translating from one language into another, to arrive at a simple one for one translation – that in fact an accurate translation requires contextualizing the intent. Given that every language is embedded with subtle shades of cultural idiom, a faithful translation must take into account the prevailing customs and ethos, in order to even begin to convey intent. Then add to that, the multiple layers of the immediate context of the topic being discussed – the translator must have a good working knowledge of the particulars of the topic in question. For those exegeting scripture, they have the added complication of trying to divine the ancient cultural mindset . . . without imposing their own modern thought process.

So now let’s imagine for a moment that I applied the forensics of exegesis to your life, attempting to inductively contextualize your intent – using nothing more than your words and deeds set against the backdrop of our current culture . . . would you be able to recognize yourself at the conclusion of my interpretation? Is it easily apparent to others what you intend your life to be? It is rare for a person living with the disconnect of cognitive dissonance to ever realize their conflicted condition . . . without a crisis tipping point forcing their hand. This is why it’s so important that you exegete your life as you go – in order to discover whether or not your living intentionally.

3fcd8f90952a19354e6b0c4b58be99e3_lThere are many hard humbling questions we must be willing to face, questions pregnant with expectation of what God might be calling us to within the context we’ve been given. Culturally, we find ourselves at a unique point in history, where our anthropological moorings are not only being re-defined, but are being re-invented out of whole cloth. So in this flux of context, there grows an acute need to anchor what you believe, and to intentionally live out your calling . . . to strip down your confession to the essentials.

It is our spiritual discipline as sojourners to soul-search. Along with St. Augustine, we must freely confess that there are rooms in our heart we have not allowed God into, and that the key to those rooms has long been lost, so we must invite God to break down those doors, and make of our lives an outpost of his presence. In this way our discipline of faith isn’t merely a vague imagining of what might happen – but an intentional longing after God . . . a longing that we might be changed.

This is a song from a Mo Leverett project that I recently finished producing.
I love the vulnerability of it – the honesty of it’s self-evaluation.