Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Testimony Tuesday

Today we hear from Bill. A believer who struggles with addictive behaviors and codependency

"Can't you do anything right?" "What's wrong with you?" "I wish you'd never been born." The seeds of shame were sown and repeatedly fertilized throughout my youth. My dad was an abusive alcoholic, a man in pain. In his confused evaluation, I was bad, unworthy of his love and utterly displeasing to him. When he died I didn't cry-not because I didn't care, but because I'd been taught that a man doesn't cry. I became the man of the house, a surrogate husband for my mom and a surrogate dad for my brother. I began to resent this emotional connection with my mom, and this carried over into my relationships with all other women.

At about this time a confusing thing happened to me: I was sexually abused by a woman in her 30's. My feelings were conflicted, though, because it felt good but I also felt damaged and ashamed. I had no one to turn to, not even God. Growing up, I'd been taught to be afraid of God, knowing that I could never achieve his impossible standards of perfection. Since I'd been made to believe from the outset that I was a mistake, my self-image became performance-based: whatever value I may have had come from what I did, not from who I was. At times, even today, I still fight that all-too-familiar battle.

I excelled as a student in academics and as an adult in work, all the while seeking drugs, sex, and self-made pornographic movies as an escape. One morning I found a note from my wife. She stated simply that she couldn't "do this" anymore and proceeded to leave both me and my son behind. The ordeal crushed my heart. I resented my mom for the emotional abuse and now my wife for abandoning me. I became a man trapped in a catch -22: I hated women  but couldn't live without them.

I wandered for many years in an emotional wasteland before finally hitting the wall. I lost my career, my financial well-being and my perceived ability to control my own life. It was then that my story shifted. God allowed Leslie, my wife now of 15 years, to lead me to the Lord. Through her loving and patient intervention I became a new creation in Christ. But that was only the start of the process, not the end. I was still struggling with the poisonous influence of all the junk I had accumulated in my life. I grappled endlessly with the pervasive question why. I wept and cursed at God-and He responded by allowing me to see precisely what I needed, right there in the midst of all my pain. I needed to reduce the size of my rear view mirror. I needed to heal. I needed to understand why I was perpetually abusing the woman I loved more than life itself. I needed to get in touch with my feelings, to deal with the abuse I had endured in an appropriate manner-not in a way that continued to hurt my wife and others, I needed to forgive and let God take control. I submitted myself to the process of recovery thorough the celebrate recovery program. It was hard, painful work, and at times it still is. But the results over time tell the story. Nothing is beyond repair-NOTHING.

My life has been one of struggle, much like Esau's. I had made foolish decisions and allowed my pain to turn into anger that was directed at others. In Genesis 33 Esau, who had been so wronged, demonstrated without words that he had found forgiveness in his heart and recovery from his hatred. Like him, I have truly learned to forgive, neither expecting nor wanting anything in return. There's no doubt that I had every "reason" to retaliate, but instead, through the intervention of Christ, I've asked God to forgive my deceitful heart. I've managed with the Holy spirit's help to let go of my past. I thank God daily for the gift of forgiveness because nothing less could have brought reconciliation into my life and healing to my heart.

Pretty powerful stuff is an understatement. Reading Bill's testimony really made me curious about the Biblical person he compared himself to, Esau. I, before reading this, knew very little about this guy. Read Genesis 33 to learn more about this fella. Here's a character study on Esau:

Esau's life was marred by family struggle, beginning already when his "younger" twin brother and rival-to-be was born grasping his heel. Esau is often presented as a fool. He certainly made a snap decision in trading his inheritance for a bowl of stew, and later grieved both his parents by marrying two pagan Hittite women. But Esau was also robbed of the firstborns blessing by his devious brother, who conspired with his own mother. This tragic account reflects a home with a fatal flaw. Each parent had a favorite son, and in both cases their selection was based on personal preferences. The lack of mutual love and respect between the parents is especially glaring in Rebekah's deception of her own husband. The theft of his blessing led Esau to swear, "The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob." Jacob, at mom's direction, fled for his life to his uncle in faraway Haran.
As Jacob at long last traveled back home from the north, he both plotted and prayed, fearful of facing Esau. But to Jacob's relief he found a brother who had recovered from his hatred and had set aside his drive to retaliate. Esau hugged and kissed Jacob and wept with him over their separation and reunion. Esau had learned to forgive and, in doing, he recovered a brother and a friend. Although Esau wanted noting in payment from Jacob, this formerly rash young man now had the grace to accept a gift anyway. He was reconciled to Jacob and respected by his brother's family.

Hanging on to bitterness, refusing to forgive what is past, can prevent us from enjoying God's provision in the present. Esau had made foolish decisions. But he had also been grievously wronged. Yet somewhere along the way he had found the wisdom and grace to let go of his past. We need to do the same in our recovery. What's done is done. We may have been wronged by members of our own family. But bitterness only prolongs our suffering. And unforgiving spirit builds barriers that isolate us from the love we could otherwise be enjoying. As God's children, each of us is commanded to "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32) God's pardon to us was unconditional, and we too are to forgive without reservation. Setting aside our right to assign blame can bring reconciliation with others and healing to our own hearts.

Esau was willing to take his eyes off Jacob, look around at what God had given him, and announce that he already had plenty. We need to take a cue from Esau: We need to lay aside bitterness and take an unobstructed look at our own blessings.

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