Friday, November 27, 2015

The Redeemed

In recent months, I've become conscious and deeply appreciative of my life's small victories.  I'm no longer concerned with widespread and total deliverance, though I still seek that as an ultimate goal. While I struggle against the tide of addiction to nicotine, for instance, I'm learning to relish in the seemingly insignificant decision to leave my cigarettes behind when I go somewhere. Or, when I know I've smoked less today than I did yesterday, I recognize that as a baby step towards quitting completely.  Today, I went to exercise instead of sitting on my patio with a good book and smoke. Although I enjoyed one upon my return, I'm cognizant of the very decision to initially delay it and I celebrate that. I've spent ample time beating myself up for having started again after quitting five years ago, but I'm discovering that this internal berating serves me not. It leaves me feeling defeated, condemned, guilty, and lacking in motivation to keep trying at all.  In response to such feelings, I've found that it's easy to settle into the idea that our circumstances are hopeless, but what this does more than anything else is let us off the hook.  We don't really want to change our behavior, and we haven't yet entered the stage of ambivalence, so we sink into a despondency that creates a disengagement to the battle. Why try? I'll never quit anyway. It's too hard.  I'm not strong enough. Sound familiar?  I've spoken these self-defeating words countless times in weeks passed as I've stood on the front lines of the war against my own temptations and addictions.  Interestingly, in my work, I often find myself guiding clients out of this dark pit and onto paths of self acceptance, onward movement, and ultimately positive inner growth.  Many of their experiences and struggles mirror my own, yet I find that the same compassion and generosity with which I counsel them, I frequently withhold from myself.  I'm working on that, and as I do, I'm discovering that our stories of heartache and pain and bad decisions are not stories of those things at all.  They are stories of redemption and we are the redeemed. 

Where is your focus? Is it on the poor choice to pick up a bad habit? Relapsing into drugs or alcohol? Cheating on your spouse? Stealing from that bank? Killing that man? Lying to your best friend? Keep meditating on these failures and you'll inevitably fall into depression, despair, and the hopelessness I described above.  I could easily fall into that black hole if I sat recounting all of my own mistakes this year. They've been substantial. Shocking even.  I didn't fully realize the depths of wrongdoing that I was capable until I put the shoes of rebellion on both feet and marched ahead.  Fortunately, I have since been stripped of my pride and I now see others more clearly through eyes of mercy and grace, but what a painful road it has been.  I could stop there and mentally set up camp, but what do you suppose would be the outcome? The alternative is to keep moving forward, led by the voice of God in Isaiah 43:1 that whispers "do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." In other words, I don't belong to the temptation that lures me or the sin that threatens to ensnare me and neither do you.  Our stories don't end in the failure of our transgressions; they begin at the Cross of His redemption.  I have faced many uphill battles in recent months as my life has taken a number of unplanned and unexpected turns, but I rest confidently, knowing that He has bought back my life from the abyss of sin and addiction and temptation (Psalm 103:4).  It's an ongoing story of redemption. And we are the redeemed.

Next step...

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