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Archive for June, 2013


Father,

You came and shook me,

Knowing my vulnerabilities like no other.

In an instant—in a flash,

I was undone.

I was not where I thought I was.

I was not who I claimed to be.

When you revealed me to myself,

I stood naked—laid bare to Your eyes

And I cannot hide from Your face,

From Your truth, or from Your scrutiny.

Journal: Have you ever had your life become unsettled like this? If so, take a few minutes to write about that experience.

When a person casts his or her vision of God aside, personal restraint is usually cast aside as well. That’s why wounded people abuse alcohol, prescriptions, excessive eating, promiscuity, and pornography so frequently. It helps them ease their pain, but it also numbs their conscience and their higher calling. As the downward spiral accelerates, they become self-fulfilling prophecies, which allows their abuser’s to smile with delight, knowing that “no good would come” from them anyway.

Journal: Becoming very specific, write about your acting out behavior. What was it and, more importantly, is it still a part of your life? If so, also write about its hold on you.

In the aftermath of abuse, many suffer from perpetual low self-esteem, which diminishes their value to themselves and to others. In their hearts, they are convinced they are broken beyond repair; and they are certain they will never be emotionally healthy, happy, or normal again.

Question: How badly has your self-esteem suffered as a result of your abuse? With one being the lowest, on a scale of 1-to-10, where would you put yourself?

It’s in the deep valleys where you learn to trust Him. It’s where you develop a richer, more confidant faith, which is definitely His will. Successful perseverance makes you a useful person in God’s Kingdom. When you finally realize this, you will also learn to “glory in your tribulation.” Until you reach this understanding, however, much of your travail will seem unintelligible.

Question: How often has it occurred to you that God might have a higher purpose for you than you are now living? If so, do you have an inkling of what that might be?

If your walk with God is shallow, if your beliefs are simplistic, and if you are unwilling to have your faith challenged or questioned, your recovery will be weak, fruitless, and easily derailed. To become everything you want to be and are capable of being, you must develop a strong relationship with the Lord. There’s simply no other way. You have to own it yourself. There’s no way to recover without it.

 

Question: With one being the lowest, on a scale of 1-to-10, where would you put your relationship with the Lord? Be honest about this. If it’s below eight, there’s a lot of work for you to do. You realize this is true, right?

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Refer to Step 10: I choose to believe God still has a purpose for my life—a purpose for good and not evil.

 

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

—Victor Frankl

How can you tell someone is “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk?” In recovery, as well as in every aspect of life, it’s an important question—one that requires answering every day. What you say is important, but what you do is far more important.

If you care for your fellow man; if you have compassion for those caught in addiction, despair, or any acting-out behavior; if you routinely display love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness; you are walking the walk every day of your life—whether you say anything or not. You just don’t realize it most of the time.

If your walk with God is shallow, if your beliefs are simplistic, and if you are unwilling to have your faith challenged or questioned, your recovery will be weak, fruitless, and easily derailed. To become everything you want to be and are capable of being, you must develop a strong relationship with the Lord. There’s simply no other way. You have to own it yourself. There’s no way to recover without it.

Therefore, instead of proclaiming that which is not strong in your life with bumper stickers, tee shirts, and canned answers, wouldn’t it be wise to strengthen your faith, rather than just drift along aimlessly, nursing a grudge and being a victim?

Intellectually and philosophically, Christianity is time-weathered, profound, and enduring. At the same time, most Christians in America are unable to handle legitimate questions—questions your recovery demands.

Most of Christ’s disciples were ignorant men, but they changed the world. You can also change your world but, before that can happen, you must strengthen the inner man by spending quality time with God. Without it, you’re destined to have thoughts no deeper than a bumper sticker slogan or more profound than a tee-shirt platitude.

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. (Philippians 1:27)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Refer to STEP 1: My life is not where I want it to be. It is shipwrecked.

 

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seamed with scars.

—E. H. Chapin

Do you remember the movie, As Good as It Gets? It was powerful and poignant, showing that life can be tolerable, rewarding, and even pleasant in spite of substantial limitations. The main character was so flawed he had to take medication to normalize his compulsions; but he was charming nonetheless.

Such limitations are how most people view themselves when it comes to recovery—any kind of recovery, including from religious abuse. They see their lives as fundamentally flawed—broken beyond repair. Their spirit is like a dog that has been beaten—easily cowed and intimidated. Uncertainty replaces confidence, with an underlying defeatist mentality. In the aftermath of abuse, many suffer from perpetual low self-esteem, which diminishes their value to themselves and to others. In their hearts, they are convinced they are close to worthless; and they are certain they will never be emotionally healthy, happy, or normal again.

For most, this is what life is like after physical, emotional or spiritual abuse. Even worse, many come to believe God doesn’t care about them either—not really. My questions are these:

  • Does it really have to be this way?
  • Is partial healing as good as it gets?
  • Can an abused person become whole again?
  • Does a person’s life have to be irreparably altered?
  • Does timidity and fear have to rule an abused person’s life?
  • Is God really capable of raising a person up and planting his or her feet firmly on the ground again?
  • Can God renew ones spirit so that a person can be a confident and emotionally healthy once more—a person who can smile at the future, rather than cringe from fear foreboding?
  • Is there hope, or is it all just sweet, syrupy platitudes that have little relevance to reality?
  • Is making it through the day as good as it gets, or can there be more to life?

For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Refer to STEP 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He desires, and I ask Him to heal my pain.

 

God’s answers are wiser than our prayers.

—Croft M. Pentz

When you pray to be spared from the natural consequences of your actions, don’t be surprised when it seems like you’re praying to a wall. Also, when you pray to be rescued, such requests are rarely answered in the way you desire. It’s because the prayer is usually at cross-purposes with God’s will.

God wants you to be strong and resourceful. He knows that a “Divine bailout” will keep you living your life like a perpetual child, which is never His desire. If He answered a prayer like this in the way you desire, you would never attain the full stature of a competent man or woman. He loves you too much to allow you to behave like a petulant, indulgent child, when you have the capacity to be capable and resilient.

His desire is for you to be an adult—to attain your full stature in Christ, which is your birthright. That can only be accomplished by persevering through troubles, heartaches, disappointments, and suffering. While you are going through these difficulties, however, He never leaves you, and He never forsakes you. You can count on this and you should.

It’s in the deep valleys where you learn to trust Him. It’s where you develop a richer, more confident faith. This is what He wants; it’s definitely His will. Successful perseverance makes you a useful person in God’s Kingdom. When you finally realize this, you will also learn to “glory in your tribulation.” Until you reach this understanding, however, much of your travail will seem unintelligible.

We exult in the hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations; knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint; because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  (Romans 5:2b-5)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Refer to Step 2: I commit to stop living my life in pursuit of self-defeating behavior.

 

When once we lose sight of God, we begin to be reckless. We cast off certain restraints. We cast off praying. We cast off the vision of God and begin to act on our own initiative.

—Oswald Chambers

In the aftermath of religious abuse, nearly every abused person casts off restraint and pursues self-defeating behavior. Once a person’s vision has been shattered, they blame God for what has happened to them, which makes it nearly impossible to not pursue a life of fool hearty pleasure. It’s predictable—almost inevitable.

For a while, it feels good to cast restraint to the wind and rebel against the religious system that caused so much trouble. After a while, however, rebelliousness ceases to be fun, leaving the victim stuck in a dead-end, fruitless life that has no future. Slowly but surely, the person loses his or her way and drifts further from his or her Source of Life. When the process is complete, it becomes nearly impossible for them to find their way back.

When a person casts his or her vision of God aside, personal restraint is usually cast aside as well. That’s why wounded people abuse alcohol, prescription drugs, excessive eating, promiscuity, and pornography so frequently. It helps them ease their pain, but it also numbs their conscience and their higher calling. As the downward spiral accelerates, they become self-fulfilling prophecies, which allows their abuser’s to smile with delight, knowing that “no good would come” from them anyway.

Recognizing how far they have fallen, the abused person internalizes their shame and feelings of low self-esteem, accepting their condemnation as the truth. They come to believe they have nothing worthwhile to add to life.

Extricating themselves from this oft-traveled road—returning to the path God has set for their lives—becomes a daunting task. Few can accomplish it, especially by themselves. That’s why working the 11 Steps is so important for abused people. It allows them to reconnect with God in a real and meaningful way—in a way that can heal their pain and allow them to become the worthwhile men and women God created them to be.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. God is to us a God of deliverances; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death. (Psalm 68:19-20)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Father,

Unlike many, I’m in control of my life.

I am a man of substance and value.

People listen when I speak,

As words of wisdom roll out effortlessly

From the essence of my being.

Indeed, I have it all together.

___________________

At least, I thought that I did.

Then, You shook my foundations,

Because You know my vulnerabilities

And understand my weaknesses intimately.

In an instant—in a flash, I was undone.

I was not where I thought I was.

I was not who I claimed to be.

When you revealed me to myself,

I stood naked before You—

Laid bare to Your eyes.

I cannot hide from Your face,

From Your truth, or from Your scrutiny.

___________________

Those who claimed their love abandoned me,

And my enemies delighted in my misfortune,

As Your blessings vanished, leaving a wasteland.

When will it end, Lord? When will it be enough?

When will You remove Your heavy hand of discipline,

Restoring my strength, my joy, and my purpose?

Is my discipline for a season or for a lifetime?

You know, and I do not.

Be merciful to me, Father.

Do not allow this be my portion forever.

I have learned my lesson;

I regret my arrogance and self-deception.

Hasten the day of my restoration,

Lest my sorrows overwhelm me

And my despair be irreparable.

Jack Watts   Resources

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Father,

My loss is so great that

I’m certain I’ll never be whole again.

At night, I awaken, knowing something is amiss,

And then grim reality floods my consciousness,

Fully awakening me,

As despair shrinks my countenance.

Question: Have you ever experienced grief at this level? Was your abusive experience this hard on you? Take some time to reflect upon your experiences.

When you’ve experienced abuse—any abuse—it impacts how you perceive reality. You see things differently—more apprehensively and with less confidence. And to be honest, most who have been abused wonder if God is literally in charge. They might believe it as a doctrinal statement, but not actively—not from their own experience. They just don’t see it. Abused people routinely think, “If God was in charge, He wouldn’t have allowed . . . (fill in the blanks).”

Journal: Have you blamed God for your abuse? Or, have you blamed Hime for not intervening? Take some time to write about exactly how you have felt about it. Be honest.

Before you went through the life-altering experience of being crushed by some self-righteous religious leader, you were probably happy, carefree, positive, and joyous—at least, most of the time. Your experience changed all that, didn’t it? Since then, have you become bitter, angry, cautious, and estranged from many people who were once close to you?

Journal: Continuing with your candor, answer the questions asked forthrightly.

 

If you want to heal, here is what you have to do. You have to listen for God’s voice, trust it, and become open to His healing. You also have to be open and candid with another human being—one that has enough strength of character to tell you when you’re wrong. You can’t do one or the other; both are essential—just like two wheels on a bicycle.

Question: Think about some of the people you know and ask yourself, Who is trustworthy enough to be my confidant as I continue my journey is recovery?

Once a person has experienced religious abuse, his or her life is never the same, and neither is their relationship with the Lord. After having suffered such a wound, it rarely heals well, and most victims never reach their full potential. It just doesn’t happen. Being the champion for people like these, I say to myself, What would happen if they had a program to help them heal—to help them get back on track with the Lord?

Journal: If you were to reach your full potential, what would that look like? Write about it, and don’t be modest.

Jack Watts   Resources

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