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05/06/16

Permalink 08:34:10 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 353 words   English (US)

The Illumination of Introspection

A friend of mine tells the story of a farmer who has just spent the entire day working his fields on his tractor. It was a long, hot, day for the farmer, and since his tractor had no cab, he was covered with dirt. He had worked well past dusk, and parked his tractor out in the barn. So now, he has only the faint light from the farmhouse windows to lead him home. He begins to notice that he is dirty and so dusts himself off. But, as he gets closer and closer to the light, he sees more and more just how dirty he has become, all along, continuing to dust himself off, as best he can.

So it is with life. For years and years, as many of us have acted in foolishness, we have accumulated more and more "dirt". As we moved deeper and deeper into our destructive behaviors, darkness came in to hide from us the reality of just how "dirty" we really were. Then, as we engage in the process of sanctification by admitting powerlessness (John 5:19,30 ) and His all-powerfulness (John 15:5 ) and start to surrender our will and our life to Him (Acts 9:1-6 ), we begin to walk toward the light of Heaven. In so doing, we now begin to see more and more just how "dirty" we have become (the illumination of introspection). More and more, we come out of denial about our true condition. More and more, God gives us the grace and strength (1 Corinthians 10:13 ) to, not only understand, but to also deal with (dust off), the deep, dark, issues in our lives.

Even though it has been painful for me to go through this process (since I've been very 'dirty'), I praise God for introspection because the grace of God is much more abundant than ALL of our sins (Romans 5:20 ). As I have been learning to cooperate with Him, He continues to "dust me off" and to bring me closer and closer to the light of Heaven, through Jesus Christ my Savior. My prayer is that it may be so for you too.

"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established." (Proverbs 16:2-3 )

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)

01/29/16

Permalink 08:45:21 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 275 words   English (US)

Am I On Trial?

As I seek to take a moral inventory of my life, one of the things I must deal with is guilt. Knowing that I am a sinner (1 John 1:8-10 ), I need to ask myself some questions:

  • Is my guilt authentic? Do I have this guilt because I have sinned against God and/or another person? Or, have I taken on a false guilt over people or situations over which I have no control? This is a good time to pray the prayer of serenity: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference..." (Reinhold Niebuhr)
  • Are there unconfessed sins in my life right now? If so, I need to remember that God has promised to forgive me if I will just confess (1 John 1:9 ). If I have sinned against another person, am I willing to make reconciliation? (Matthew 5:24 ) If someone has sinned against me, am I willing to forgive them? (Luke 6:37 )
  • What is my character really like? Wherein do my thoughts and/or actions not agree with my belief system? If I want my character to grow positively, I must be honest with myself and earnestly pray that God would show me (as much as I'm able to bear) just where I am failing.

I fearlessly make this inventory of my life because I know that His "grace is sufficient" and His "strength is made perfect" (2 Cor 12:9 ) in my weakness. He is able to turn my weaknesses into strengths. "I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 ). And, He "will never leave" me, "nor forsake" me (Heb 13:5 ).

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)

11/06/15

Permalink 08:20:26 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 362 words   English (US)

Cutting The Onion

When cutting an onion, certain enzymes are released which tend to bring tears to our eyes. Generally speaking, people look for all kinds of ways to avoid this pain. I've heard of people wearing goggles or cutting the onions under water, as well as many other ways to avoid the unpleasant effects of onion cutting. Some claim that cutting onions may actually have medicinal benefits. Proponents of natural healing have long taken advantage of these benefits.

Quoting Eva Wilson, "When looking at the symptoms of [a] cold, it is ironic that we would treat this ailment with an almost like-with-like therapy." In a similar way, it may seem ironic that we would treat our sin-sick condition by making "a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves". Generally speaking, we'd rather ignore our problems so we don't feel the pain. This therapy (moral inventory) has been likened to the pealing of an onion, in that as we peal back each layer (issue) of our lives, we discover another "layer" that we need to deal with. And, I've found that to be true in my own recovery process. But today, I'm thinking of another way to look at this process.

As we become more and more surrendered to God, resulting from the recognition of our need and our trust in a loving God, it seems like He "cuts" through those "layers" of our "onion" of dysfunction . This process is painful. It exposes hidden layers of stuff we have been in denial (or forgotten) about and it stings the eyes of our understanding, bringing many tears. But ironically, through all of this cutting pain, we find restoration of our souls to God through the release of the healing "enzymes" of acknowledgment of our sins which so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1 ).

When we embrace this healing process, rather than putting on the "goggles" of denial, we are divinely propelled into the more advanced steps of healing and recovery, such as confession, amends and witnessing, which all lead to a more fulfilling life, with greater peace, joy and love. IMHO, I think that the pain of introspection (or cutting onions) is well worth the gain. Praise God!

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)

08/21/15

Permalink 09:17:58 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 05 Confession, 06 Repentance, 949 words   English (US)

The Root Canal

Over a period of several weeks, I began to feel more and more pain in one my teeth. Eventually, the pain spread to one whole side of my head. All of this pain, I found out later, was caused by some damaged tissue in one of the three roots of one of my molars. It was such a small part of my body, but it caused me a great deal of pain.

Now, what do you think would have happened if I had chosen to only medicate the pain, using stronger and stronger pain reliever so I wouldn't feel the pain, but never getting the cause of the problem fixed? I suspect that infection would spread and I would lose that tooth. Eventually it may even become systemic, leading to my death.

For many years, I medicated my emotional pain with addictions, stuffing my feelings deeper and deeper, never fixing the cause of the problem. It was a dreadful downward spiral with the addictive acting-out, due to the pain, leading to temporary relief, leading to even greater pain because I acted out. The infection was becoming systemic and I was dying.

But shortly after I began to learn to cooperate with God, surrendering to His will, He brought me to a place of looking inward, beyond the pain to the root causes of my pain. With my permission, it was like He opened a peep hole in the top of my "tooth" so that I could begin to see the damage inside. As I recognized my issues, I confessed my sins (1 John 1:9 ), became willing to have God dig that mess out of my "tooth", and asked Him to perform a root canal on my life. What a relief it was to get that damaged "tissue" out of that "tooth".

The Heavenly surgeon gives us this promise: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26 )

The surgery brought its own pain. It was hard to let go of a piece of my body, in the case of the physical root canal. And, it was hard to let go of a piece of who I am, in the case of the spiritual root canal. But I can tell you, without hesitation, that in both cases, the pain was definitely worth the gain!

Now, let's look a little deeper into that feeling of pain. Was the pain of my toothache bad, or evil? No. Without that pain, I would have never known I had a problem, until it led to even more serious problems, right? That pain was really a blessing to me, in that it told me that there was a problem that I needed to deal with -- kind of like a fire alarm.

What about emotional pain? Is it really any different? Can there be something evil about the way I feel? Or, are my feelings also like a fire alarm, signaling me that there are some deeper issues that I need Divine help in rooting out. I've heard that when we "stuff" our feelings over a long period of time, we are likely to contract one or more of quite a long list of physical ailments, including Alzheimer's disease (of course there are other causes too). I wouldn't be surprised if it were true.

I've been thinking a lot about the connection between feelings and temptation. I once had a pastor friend who told me that, when I am tempted, it's because I have already sinned. Of course, the Bible is pretty clear that this is not true: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15 ). But, I'm wondering if we might be saying the same thing as this pastor when we think that of our feelings are sometimes evil.

Let me try to explain what I'm thinking, by example. Let's say that I'm feeling attracted to someone other than my wife. Is that feeling evil? Would it be a sin for me to be attracted to another woman? Or, does it just lead to temptation? It seems to me, that when temptation comes, I have a choice to make as to what I am going to do with that feeling/temptation. If I choose to lust after her, certainly it is a sin, because Jesus said, "... anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28 ). Another choice I could make is to deny that feeling -- pretend it doesn't exist -- stuff it. But wait... that would be like ignoring the pain in my tooth. That can't be good! A third choice I could make would be to admit to myself, to God, and possibly to a trusted friend (James 5:16 ) that I'm having this feeling. Then, as I surrender my will to God's, asking Him, "... Lord, what would you have me to do?" (Acts 9:6 ), He gives me the victory over my temptation -- without sin.

Keeping in mind that anger is a feeling, I wonder if the apostle Paul had this principle in mind when he said, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:" (Ephesians 4:26 )? Maybe...

I believe that my feelings are the result of my past experiences and choices (both good and bad). I can't change my current feelings, because I can't change my past. However, as I deal appropriately with those feelings, surrendering my thoughts, feelings, and actions to God, I can change (by the grace and power of God) my future feelings. I praise God for that! He is Awesome!

Some may ask, "Why is this important?" It is my belief that the forces of evil will use everything they can to shame us for what we've been tempted by, even though it was them who tempted us! Understanding the difference between feelings, temptation, and sin will give satan one less foot-hold into our lives.

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)

05/22/15

Permalink 07:50:39 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 200 words   English (US)

Search me...

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24 )

Even though the results are often painful, I need to search my own heart regularly, asking my Creator to show me where I am failing. Without His assistance, It would be easy for me to say, "I'm OK. It's everyone else that's the problem." But, I have to keep reminding myself that it's not my job to take other people's inventory. I need God to search my heart -- to take MY inventory. I need to listen to His evaluation of my life and I need to honestly own my weaknesses and my mistakes.

Yeah, it can be hard, but the alternative is a lot harder. It may seem easier to just stuff my garbage -- pretend it doesn't exist. But, when I do, sooner or later it comes out in destructive ways that damages myself and others. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to take responsibility for my mistakes, deal with them, and move on to a better life.

"Humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." (1 Peter 5:6-7 )

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)

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