Hey, y’all! Hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend! Hopefully you were able to relax and don’t need to come back to work today (Tuesday) to recover from it! Grab your tea and get comfy and I’ll talk about something I mentioned in the last post. I called it the ‘backside of the spiritual desert’.
I told you about my failed marriage, gave you a short thumbnail into my addictions and excruciating court experiences. Then I said that once I repented and finally came back to God’s way of doing things, He tested me to see if I was serious. Let me explain that a bit.
I come from a tradition that believes we can hear the voice of God speaking to our hearts. This is not an audible voice or anything of the sort. John 10 tells us we will know His voice, and I believe that. The ‘thoughts’ that come from Him have a distinct ‘voice’ to them; they are recognizable. I heard that voice quite often. My pastor called it a ‘divine romance’.
Then, I turned away from all that to the addictions and bad life choices. Finally, I did repent – which is just a religious term for seeing things God’s way and turning around to go His direction. I expected to have my ‘old’ life back immediately. But God said, ‘Not so fast. You need to learn a thing or two.’ So began my 8 year trek through the spiritual desert.
I finally got over being so angry at God that I stopped telling Him to drop dead. (Imagine a tiny ant trying to tell off an elephant and you sort of get the idea.) I finally got down on my knees with a friend after an AA meeting, and gave my life back to the One who owned it to begin with. And the pain continued. Coming back to God doesn’t stop the earthly (temporal) consequences we’ve set into motion. Just like repenting of immorality doesn’t magically make a baby disappear, neither do consequences of other choices we make. I still had to deal with the pull of addictions, legal issues and the ex husband. At least now I wasn’t fighting God Himself. He was on my side to help me get through it all.
Let me tell you that the first year of sobriety is HARD. I never want to go through that again. You might ask why it’s so hard? I think there are three reasons: we no longer have our ‘medicine’ to numb the feelings; those feelings have become greatly disordered; and we can finally see, accept and deal with the real wreckage we’ve created- emotionally, relationally, legally, financially. It all takes time. I have seen the Lord miraculously deliver folks from addictions; but those are the exception, not the norm.
So, I spent 8 years in the spiritual desert of mostly silence from God. It was painful. But looking back from here, I learned so much! First, I learned who is God and who is not. I’d manipulated even the professionals around me, but God would not be manipulated. I was confronted with my reasons for being angry with Him. I truly learned that the feelings don’t determine the spirituality. I was stripped of my feel-good theology and religious practice. I was thoroughly schooled in forgiveness. Above all, I learned humility and discipline. Discipline in this context is NOT punishment. Discipline is the ability to continue to do the right thing without any of the ‘right feelings’.
I went on a couple of private retreats, to little avail. I’d get an hour, maybe, of the former sense of His presence, but then He would withdraw that again. He never left me, I was always right in the palm of His hand. His fingerprints were everywhere in my life; I just couldn’t feel Him. In church, maybe a half a verse would speak to me, or maybe I’d sense His closeness in one song over the course of a month. Just enough to keep me holding on. John 6:67-69 became my sustaining verses, where Jesus asks the disciples if they want to leave and Peter says, basically, “Where are we gonna go? You alone have words of eternal life”.
I’ll talk about His ‘fingerprints’ in the next post. Until then, please, if you have addiction issues, seek help. He is there and will use the resources you have available to set you free and help you rebuild your life. Find a priest or a pastor, and an AA group or some other 12-step group. If you’re in emotional pain, that’s your spirit crying out to let God restore you to His plan. But you can’t do it alone. So, ask for help. The resources I listed are free, so there’s no excuse. You don’t have to struggle and suffer alone. I promise!