Finding Courage now that I can See

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“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.” – C.S. Lewis

A teacher in Sunday school today shared this quote. It reminded me of the moments when I sense temptation growing and I know it’s time to do battle with my weakness. I faced those moments numerous times this past week. By the grace of the Lord I was victorious despite my frailty.

Recently while meeting with my therapist he taught me a principle I had not considered before. I had always believed if I wanted recovery badly enough and worked hard enough then the Lord would remove my weakness through His Atonement. With this belief in my heart I’ve often felt frustrated when I felt I was doing my best and the Lord wasn’t delivering me—not fully—from my addiction.

In those moments of frustration I felt tempted to think I was being cheated, or that I wasn’t good enough. Recurring clinical depression reinforced those thoughts and eventually I came to believe that for some reason the Lord in His wisdom was going to let me struggle with depression and addiction for the rest of my life. I thought I was destined for an endless cycle of sincere repentance and relapses with periodic sobriety and respite from depression. I had accepted it and decided I wouldn’t give up, that I would keep trying because that’s what the Lord wanted me to do. Maybe some folks receive healing from addiction but that blessing wouldn’t be mine till the next life so long as I was faithful and didn’t stop trying.

A series of alarming choices recently awoke me to the subtle destructiveness of these beliefs.

I now find myself continuously pondering what my therapist taught me, which is this: the Lord doesn’t remove weaknesses, rather He strengthens and teaches us to live righteously despite them. He does this because as He has said, He “gives [us] weaknesses that [we] may be humble.” One of the reasons I came to this earth is to learn to rely on Him in all things. What better way to accomplish this than by learning to rely on Him for the rest of my life because I cannot handle my weaknesses on my own? And instead of asking Him to remove my weakness, what if I were to ask Him to show me how to live with my weakness without giving in to temptation?

“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

As I sought to apply that principle this week, I found new meaning in the Savior’s promise that “[His] grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before [Him].” He has always been there for me and given me grace in times of need. But there was something different about it this week. This week I stopped looking for healing from addiction and instead started looking for strength to abstain from my addiction. In so doing, it felt as though I was no longer attaching a condition to my relationship with Him, but instead was enjoying a relationship of trust with Him wherein I knew that He and I were working together and that with Him I could do all things. It was like I no longer looked to him as a doctor I would visit when feeling sick, but as a personal trainer with whom I was constantly working to progress and move forward to avoid sickness in the first place.

I feel my words don’t adequately describe the shift in thinking God is giving me, so I pray His Spirit shares it with you and that I let it sink deep into my heart so that I understand it well enough to explain clearly. In just one week it has changed the way I view my relationship with my Savior and my Father in Heaven. I feel a new kind of faith in Him that I haven’t felt before, or perhaps haven’t felt in a very long time; and for that I am grateful.

A scripture comes to mind: “… one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9).

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Journey before Destination

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“Life before death. Journey before destination,” Sil whispered. … “I like that.”

“Why?” Caladin asked.

“… Because,” she replied, as if that were explanation¬†enough. “I know you want to give up, but you can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because you can’t.”

“I can’t do it again,” he thought, squeezing his eyes shut.

What was hope, except another opportunity for failure? How many times could a man fall before he no longer stood back up?

“I can’t save them, Sil,” Caladin whispered, anguished.

“Are you certain?”

“I’ve failed every time before.”

“And so you’ll fail this time, too?”

“Yes.”

She fell silent. “Well then,” she eventually said. “Let’s say that you’re right.”

“So why fight? I told myself that I would try one last time, but I failed before I began! There’s no saving them!”

“Doesn’t the fight itself mean anything?”

“Not if you’re destined to die.” He hung his head.

He realized what was happening to him—this melancholy, this sense of despair. He’d become the wretch, not caring; but also not despairing. It seemed better not to feel at all, rather than feel pain.

“I’m going to fail them,” Caladin thought, squeezing his eyes shut. “Why try?”

Wasn’t he a fool to keep grasping as he did?

The Wretch seemed to be standing before him. He meant release. Apathy.

Did he really want to go back to that? It was a false refuge. Being that man hadn’t protected him. It had only led him deeper and deeper until taking his own life had seemed the better way.

Life before death. Journey before destination.

Doesn’t the fight itself mean anything?

– Excerpts from Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings”

I get to choose my Ice Cream

image source: joaquinfsousapoza.com

image source: joaquinfsousapoza.com

 

I’ll be surprised if a theme or message comes out of this post. I have plenty of thoughts and I’m not sure what to do with them.

I think I’ve been trying to do recovery on my own again.

I recently took on a new role at work and the stress has begun mounting along with mixed emotions of fear, excitement, and “Holy moley I have to figure out this role and no one here knows how to fulfill it or even define it and I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.” Make it up as I go? I dunno. I ordered four books yesterday. I hope I find some guidance from them.

New thought: I can surrender my fears to my Father in Heaven and ask Him to guide my efforts at work. That sounds good.

I’ve also been feeling a lot of sorrow lately. Many of my friends in recovery have relapsed recently. I know their pain and it hurts to see them go through it. I look up to all of them, and some of them had years of sobriety. I still look up to them. I’d be lying if I said their relapses didn’t frighten me. I’m afraid I’ll make it to a year or more of sobriety by the grace of God and then relapse. I think I feel afraid that such a course is what God has planned for me.

I don’t want to think that that kind of thinking makes sense, but I have my doubts. I guess it could be that God has a relapse planned for me, but that would have to accompany the notion that I don’t have a choice in the matter, or that my life is only a script written by someone else.

I think God knows whether or not I’ll relapse, but I don’t think that His omniscience determines my choices. That would be like saying I can control my mom’s choice of ice cream simply because I know that she’ll choose butter pecan over strawberry.

I think God knows me so well that He knows what choices I’ll make in any situation. No, that doesn’t determine my actions. Actually, I feel some comfort in knowing that my Father in Heaven knows me that well. Given that my eternal progress and happiness is His top priority, I can trust that He will always prepare a way for me to remain sober.

I’m reminded of the words of the prophet Nephi:

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7, Book of Mormon).

That feels right. I feel hope when I consider these words. God will not require me to submit to my addictions when He asks me to submit to Him. His will is not my misery or damnation. His will is my joy and progress. His will for me is my recovery.

I’m grateful to the Lord for revealing my fears to me. I feel much better now. I’ve been feeling afraid without being willing to surrender my fears. I feel relief now. I feel hope again. Thank God for my Savior who provides a way for my salvation, even from myself!

My wife just turned on Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. I gotta go. :)

Also, I have the coolest wife ever.

Patiently running my race

I’m going to start my Step 4 inventory tomorrow (again). I’m feeling mixed levels of excitement and fear. I’m doing my best to trust the Lord in this. I believe He wants me to do it, so I’ve decided that I won’t let my fears stop me from moving forward. Easier said than done, obviously, but I feel good about it.

The 12-step recovery guidebook counsels me to be patient with myself as I work this step. Patient? I want to get this done as quickly as possible! I’m told I also need to be thorough in order for this inventory to be helpful. So, patience… yeah. Until a few weeks ago I still wanted an immediate recovery.

Heavenly Father reminded me recently of one of my high school cross country races. I can’t recall every turn and hill in the course, but I still remember vividly the emotions and adrenaline of that day.

I remember the cold air searing my lungs with every breath. I remember my coach kindly yelling reminders to relax my shoulders. I remember running through muddy stream crossings and charging up slippery grass hills. I remember feeling confident as I passed other runners on the course. I remember feeling discouraged when other runners passed me (I felt discouraged more often than I felt confident :-)¬† ). I also remember thinking to myself, “I should’ve worn an extra layer of clothing.”

Perhaps more clearly than any other memory of that run, I remember two things. Here’s the first one: as a relatively inexperienced runner, I quickly learned that I wasn’t running against everyone else on that course; I was running against myself. My brain was the one telling me to slow down, not the boy running next to me. My body was the one screaming for rest, not the spectators on the sidelines. Running can be a constant battle within myself between what I want now and what I’ll actually want later.

I’m sure you’re picking up on the metaphor.

By the end of the race, everyone’s body was approaching exhaustion. Well, mine was at least. At what turned out to be the final bend in the course, we exited a clump of trees and entered a red- and yellow-flagged straightaway to the finish line. Once the trees and foliage no longer obstructed our view, we saw that the straightaway went nearly straight up a grass-covered hill. Did I mention it was wet? The course was still soaked from the previous night’s rainfall. I didn’t much like the race organizers at that moment.

An interesting thing happened. Some runners continued with their same pace at a slightly quicker cadence (similar to how one might shift to a lower gear while riding a bicycle up a hill). Other runners took off at a full sprint up the hill. Some attempted to follow them. Others began plodding up the hill.

Guess who ended up literally collapsing from utter muscle exhaustion. Nearly without exception, they were runners who sprinted up the hill. Who do you think made it to the finish line without falling over or crawling on their hands and knees (I’m not kidding)? Some of them were the plodders, a select few were the sprinters, and most were those who knew to shift their running gear, so to speak, and pace themselves up the hill. Which one was I? Well, I’m not telling. It has nothing to do with the metaphor. Haha.

I remember people sliding and falling and crawling up that muddy hill. Most of those sprinters who were initially so full of energy and spirit were literally falling over. It was an incredible sight. I think most of us who were running behind them were surprised to feel discouragement instead of motivation to win upon watching them fall.

By the end of that race I thought I was going to pass out. I nearly did. I did manage to learn my second lesson though: I need to learn to run slowly when I want to run fast. Now, as I look back on that race, I describe that lesson using slightly different words: I need to learn to run patiently.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t win (not even close), but my team members congratulated me anyway. I think my peers were proud of me because they could see not only pain but satisfaction on my face. I was pleased that I didn’t give up. I knew I had given it everything I had, and that was a great feeling.

This scripture has always been one of my favorites. I like to think that the Apostle Paul enjoyed running, too.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (The Holy Bible, New Testament, Hebrews 12:1-2).