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Abundant Life after Divorce
Stan Moody P.O. Box 240 Manchester, ME 04351 207/626-0594
Table of Contents
Introduction Chapter 1: Residual Sin
Relief – a Relationship Away Divorce and the Church Relationships as a Form of Idolatry The Positive Side of Divorce Healing Through Touching Your Pain
Chapter 2: Welcome to the Leper Colony
The Subtle Deception of Helping Others Segregating the Helped Brokenness as a Common Ground The “Scarlet Letter” Which Leper Colony? Working Through Pain
Chapter 3: Marriage and the Addictive System
Where Was God? What’s Wrong with the American Marriage? God a Bit-Player in Our Lives The Danger of Consensus Thinking Dragging Our Baggage Along
Chapter 4: Who Blinked First?
Expectations of Others Playing the Game Role Playing Dying Inside God Calling
Chapter 5: The Pain/Pleasure Principle
Addictions are Profoundly Spiritual The Pursuit of Pleasure The Needs Chain God’s Expectations Mid-Life Crisis Threshold of Pain The Church and Pain Characteristics of Kingdom Citizens
Chapter 6: The Joy of Victimhood
Room to Wiggle Around A Society Run Amok Little Help for Broken Sinners Who’s the Victim? Turning Our Backs on the Cross The Wayward Spouse Is There Joy in Victimhood?
Chapter 7: Love and “Luv”
Relationship Junkies within the Church Christians Going Underground No Place to Turn No Place for Condemnation of Self “Luv” as Escape God as a Concept Instead of Partner Life After Divorce
INTRODUCTION We came together on the 21st of July, l989, to pay our last respects to my friend Craig. It was the usual scene--a room full of strangers wondering what role each played in Craig's life; everyone looking for clues to the real Craig. I had my own memories of the long bull sessions and the Saturday morning breakfasts, but I suspect they were a lot like everyone else's. I was all too aware that Craig had come close, but apparently not close enough, to sharing the pain that wracked his life. There was small comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my failure to disarm Craig so that he could begin to heal. Small comfort now. Craig lay there with that boyish grin on his face and a stuffed Garfield beside him. That was Craig all right. It's like he alone knew what the joke was about and had gotten the last laugh. There were a few who were out of control, but most of us were just stoic working folk, remembering the little things about Craig that had touched us so deeply, each with a story probably similar to the others. It was affirming of Craig's life and of our reaction to him that the funeral hall was packed to the doors. For all of us, it meant that Craig had more friends than he ever realized. That much we had in common. I miss him greatly. I think he would have known that anyway. Probably he didn't intend to leave without saying goodbye, but there was something more pressing going on inside him and controlling his life than his responsibility to the rest of us. After he had been lowered into the ground, I came home to my desk and wrote down a few thoughts that I wanted to preserve. I started out with the words, "Around five O'clock on the morning of July 17, 1989, a time when insomniacs become terrorized by thoughts of a carelessly slumbering world, my friend Craig slipped a noose around his neck and lost his battle with relationship addiction." The words were true enough, but only in the ensuing months has the significance of that event come into focus for me. I can only guess that suicide is the ultimate relief from pain, and God knew
that Craig had more pain than most of us. But knowing him as I did, something didn't add up. There were too many signs that said this was no suicide, including the shovel and masonry materials he had left at the job site on my property in Fairfield, Maine. Then it came out that his death had been caused by something called "auto-erotic asphyxia," a way of intensifying sexual pleasure by lowering the pulse rate. It helped, I suppose, to know that Craig hadn't been making a statement or issuing a cry for help that we had somehow failed to heed, but it raised so many other questions that I needed time to think through the significance of his act. If suicide is the ultimate self-imposed relief from pain, isn't death by addiction really the same thing? I mean, Craig was reaching for the ultimate sexual high as a relief from the pain in his life, and it killed him. What can we learn from the untimely death of this 50 year old man? I knew Craig almost as well as anyone knew him, and there was much about his life that reflected Christ. I know that's difficult for most of us to accept, but it sets the stage for what I intend to deal with in these pages. Craig was one of the most sensitive, loving persons I had ever met. He desperately wanted to live for Christ but kept spiraling out of control. He confused living for Christ with keeping the rules, and as he compulsively broke the rules, he would be swamped by his unworthiness. He had wrestled with his own sin and lost so many times that he had become defensive and very tender. Worse yet, he had been reminded by Christian friends of the failure he felt in the depths of his gut. I didn't engage in that activity only because I had experienced much of the same pain in much the same manner. Strangely, though, Craig touched my life in a way that gave me hope and courage. I guess that's the way it is sometimes; God ministers to lepers through other lepers. Or maybe that's just the way it should be. I invited Craig to our first R2 (Relationship Recovery) Group meeting. I did it because I felt that in his brokenness he had something to offer to the rest of us and also that he might find refuge with us for a time. It was something of a risk because Craig knew his Bible better than I did, and he was always in search of a forum in which real, honest communication was required. That's risky stuff. I knew all too well that Craig wasn't welcome in most evangelical churches.
His search for peace with his God was so consuming and his life was so devastatingly out of control, most of the Christians he encountered retreated behind their Bibles when confronted with his honest anguish. So, they hurt him. It was easier to have him out of the way than to deal with his reality, or their own, for that matter. Craig had come to the table of God's people too many times, only to be turned away. His idealism led him to believe that a community of believers was a place to bear one another's burdens and confess one another's sins. But confession meant possible rejection, and Craig had been rejected so many times he had given up hope for fellowship and healing. I'll remember Craig for his sensitivity and kindness to everyone but especially to those who had been discarded by the system. I'll remember him for his enthusiasm for God's Word and for the great storehouse of knowledge he had gathered about the power of God in the lives of the Biblical characters. But I shall also remember that he confused loving with possessing and “bearing one another's burdens" with taking away another's pain (and thus his own) for the moment. You see, Craig, while a believing Christian, had been married and divorced three times, and he never did understand what had gone wrong in his life. He was so consumed with self-justifying and looking to relationships for his peace and happiness that he didn't have a clue. Now, for those who feel safer relating on the level of cliché’s such as, "Isn't God wonderful," or "I love Him because He first loved me," it's going to be easy to dismiss Craig as someone who didn't really trust the Lord, and you may well be right. But this is not an arena for armchair ethicists who pick other people's lives apart from the safety of their living rooms and their well-ordered lives. There's too much reality here for any of us to avoid indefinitely. The fact is that Craig's sin is no more or no less significant than our own. Craig's life and his death speak to those of us who have been broken by divorce and who have been unable to rise above our own condemnation, let alone that of others. Craig issues to us a warning to accept our sin, repent and learn to trust God's forgiveness. In Craig's life and death we have object lessons that can help move us toward recovery from the disease that infects all of us--believers and non-believers alike. His life-example is rich with reminders that pain and
suffering are ever with us and that we grow to grace through that pain. His death tells us that the pursuit of happiness is an illusive dream that can kill and that the painful search for and obedience to God's will is the only road to peace. Most of all, Craig leaves us with the sense that it takes more than church attendance and a knowledge of the Bible to keep us from living in our addictive cocoons. . Craig never quite understood that the battle within him was for his allegiance as a child of God. The idols he created were not unlike those the rest of us have created, except that Craig was eventually destroyed by his. In his disappointment with himself, he felt that he had lost the battle and had not only let himself and others down but had let God down as well. But for Craig, as well as for us, the victory was won at Calvary. For the child of God, death is not fatal. In the arms of his Lord, Craig has at last found the assurance that he was forgiven. Addiction is often defined as a progressive, degenerative, fatal disease, also the Biblical definition for sin. In my conversations with numerous divorced Christians, I find the characteristics of addictive behavior so deeply ingrained that I will be devoting much of this book to its exposure. So it is that I keep the vision of my friend Craig alive. The victory of the risen Lord that I witnessed in his life, together with the experience of watching Craig robbed of the joy of his salvation, urges me onward with enthusiasm and the courage to keep reaching out. To that end, I hope to shed some light on how we who have been broken by divorce got to that place and how we can recover.
You’ve heard about “Original Sin,” that condition that is said to have been transmitted from our first parents down through the agonies of human history. It is something with which we are born and learn to perfect while walking through the minefield of life. We can perfect it so well, in fact, that it begins to look like goodness. An example of Original Sin is in the words of some wise person, “All sin goes back to ‘I want to be somebody.’” What we are dealing with here is “Residual Sin,” what is left over to be conquered after our lives come crashing down. Residual Sin is sin in the life of the believer. That's the kind of stuff that's makes us very uncomfortable. It suggests that there is yet an incomplete work in our lives that requires a continual state of repentance. An understanding of our propensity to keep on sinning even after we know better does not allow much room for pride. That God has to keep reminding us of our sinful ways can be rather disconcerting. But we do sin, and freedom from our darkest rebellion requires honesty that most of us are reluctant to practice with each other or before God. We are still infected with the sin disease, and we are at war with the agents of sin and rebellion. As a result, we often build for ourselves a fantasy world that becomes our reality, when in fact, we are doing everything we can to avoid reality. Rather than a life of sacrifice, we prefer service. Our reality then equates service with sacrifice. Rather than a life of obedience, we prefer busyness, and our reality equates busyness with obedience. Life becomes confusing in our fantasy world because the fantasy happy endings fail to happen. We often groan for relief as we sift round in our failed strategies. Relief – a Relationship Away: There are those experienced in th e dynamics of human behavior who suggest that search for relief from boredom and pain is an overwhelming drive in our society, so much so that it dictates much of our activity. Television ads offer relief from every discomfort imaginable--relief is just a bottle or a relationship away. There are pills for headaches all the way to sexual dysfunction. “If your headache remains gone for 4 or more hours, call a doctor!”
Think about the foolish theology that offers freedom from pain and suffering. Is that not simply a product of our instant relief mentality? Is God simply an Extra Strength Tylenol? What about the millions of believers in oppressive cultures? Are they not entitled to instant relief? We have fashioned God into a puppet who gives good things to those who follow the rules. Our homes, which ought to be havens for honest acceptance and interaction, become boring when they no longer are effective as pain relievers, and we look for relief in other activities or relationships. We Americans; “Yes,” we American Christians, spend many of our waking hours retreating from pain. The answer, of course, is Jesus, but we hardly know the questions, let alone the answer. In order to really have a relationship with Jesus, we must cultivate that relationship like every other relationship. The difference is that a relationship with Jesus costs us our freedom to reach for a substitute pain reliever. You have to wean yourself away from pain relievers. Often it takes a long time. Jesus did not come as a pain reliever. In the scriptures, He promised pain and suffering might come to those of us who are serious about following Him. There is no such thing as instant, total relationship with Jesus, leading to a magical peace. Just as He was required to learn obedience to the Father by going through life in the valley of the shadow of death, so must we learn obedience to Him. How can we practice that obedience and receive the peace that lies in acceptance? We learn obedience through struggles that bring us to the futile end of our own scheming and dreaming. We build our dreams, only to come to the gradual realization of their futility, and a great heaviness of spirit sets in that makes us want to kick over the traces and start again. We are slow to learn that Jesus does not bring instant results, and we find ourselves getting into such trouble as divorce and, sad to say, remarriage. Divorce and the Church: The issue of divorce and remarriage is a tough one for the church, and the church is being faced with crises today that threaten to shake its foundation to the core. I, for one, think that is good, but the way is most painful for those of us whose theology has been frozen in time. We cannot help but question our inner
spirit to take inventory of the vitality of our commitment and the honesty of our contrition. For the time being, there is unfortunately little room for the visibly wounded in the Christian community. All too often, the church turns to its wounded and says, "You accepted Jesus, but you didn't trust Him. Learn to trust Him fully, and you will find peace and happiness and will know the right thing to do." That's all too easy to say, but there is much that needs to take place before we get to that state, and the church has a responsibility to each of its visibly fallen to bear their burdens and take on their pain. It is too easy and self-protective to simply offer a biblical exegesis of divorce and remarriage, for example, as though a believer going through such a vile experience is not aware that "God hates divorce." You don’t even have to read the Scripture verse to know that that is true. If God hates divorce, could that be the reason that we hate divorce? The real issue is where we go from here. We must stop this practice of putting a Bible between us to keep us from relating to each other as fellow believers. The implication that those who appear to be observing all the rules are being obedient to God's Word is open to serious question. It takes a lot more than a carefully constructed network of Bible verses to restore a person to faith. It takes love and an acute awareness that "there but by the Grace of God go I." If you are a Christian and have suffered or are suffering the pain of divorce, I want you to find hope in the words of this sinner who is himself a divorced Christian. I have learned a great deal about idolatry and addictive relationships through my own experiences, and I want to share what I have learned with you so that you will take heart in the struggles of this believer. Have you been hurt by the church's well-intentioned but destructive efforts to give advice? While in their midst, have you sometimes felt like a leper? Well, I have good news. You are a leper, and you may be one of the few in your Christian community who knows that about yourself. Congratulations; God wants to use your leprosy to bring you to a place of depending on Him. Bear with your fellow believers who may be threatened by your circumstances and your determined quest for discipleship. We are all at different stages of restoration, and God has a plan for each of us that will turn our failures into triumphs for His
glory. I will introduce you to the concept of idolatrous relationships in this book so that you can evaluate your marriage in the light of your own behaviors. The 2nd chapter of Isaiah reveals that idolatry is the worship of man or man's creation. There is nothing that raises the wrath of God more than idolatry. It is the basis for every sin we commit. Idolatry is the failure to worship the creator and instead, to worship the created. There is a definite, established pecking order to the creative process, and in order for our lives to be in harmony with God, we must diligently honor that order. Our strength comes from above. We are sinful, fallen creatures, and to place our trust and our futures in the hands of other sinful, fallen creatures is folly and downright dangerous. Worse yet is to place our trust and futures in the product of our own hands--wealth, power, position, properties, career or craft, religion. Allegiance goes upward and not lateral or downward. If you are reminded that God hates divorce, remember that He hates idolatry even more. Placing your trust fully in another human being, whether spouse or pastor, or in some other lower order of creation sends a message to God that you intend to be god of your own life by picking gods capable of your own control. How often I have heard a woman say that she "gave" her exhusband 15 years of her life and she'll be darned if he'll get one moment more. Well, that relationship was idolatrous during the marriage and continues to be controlling long after its dissolution. Relationships As A Form of Idolatry: When we derive our security from people, careers, marriage, church and the American Dream, we bring on the corrective discipline of God that we read about in the 12th chapter of Hebrews. If you are divorced and you are a Christian, chances are that you have been vaulted out of an idolatrous relationship. That's not always the case, but my experience is that most marriages that end in divorce are idolatrous. They fail because putting our hopes and dreams in the hands of another human being or into our relationship with another human being brings on desperate futility and emptiness. Those of us who had once known the joy of learning to depend on God but relinquished that experience for a marriage have
turned our allegiances from the Creator to the created. We have placed our happiness in the hands of another human being and have been left totally devoid of strength or spiritual bearing when our idol has been wrenched from our grasp. At best, relationships are a mirror by which God displays to us the degree of His image in us. They confront us with who we are and with little glimpses of the person of Christ within another. Through confrontation and acceptance, relationships offer the hope for renewal or the spiritual emptiness in our own lives. We see ourselves as we really are through the responses of other human beings. The highest order of human relationship is the marriage, God's intended reflection of His communion with man. Marriage was designed to mirror the ideal in love and trust--an ideal possible between man and God. When marriages come to an impasse through the mutual sin of the partners, they are either strengthened or shattered by our ability, with God's Grace, to accept the sin in ourselves and in our partners. Acceptance, however, is something quite distinct from denial. When our marriages fail, as they often do even among the bestintentioned, we come face to face with ourselves and those areas in the hidden corners of our hearts and lives that God wants us to place under His control. My concern has mostly to do with those who have been rejected by an unfaithful spouse. As you might expect, those people are mostly women. I can't tell you how many times I hear, "I've forgiven him, but I am still angry." This is often years after the divorce. Since the thrust of this ministry is to help the divorced person to look inward instead of always seeing himself or herself in reference to the departed spouse, we deal with the anger. I am reminded that the real sin here is anger and that God is offering a special opportunity to bring us to a place of dealing with anger and resentment which may well have played a large and surprising part in the dissolution of the marriage. Unless we come face to face with ourselves through our failures—and a failed marriage is our failure regardless of who caused it – we cannot get beyond who did what to whom and why. Thus, we can't get on with the business of moving forward with God. The Positive Side of Divorce: Failure in marriage has a positive side. We will be dealing later with the
issues of self-justification and victimhood and how they keep us from the fullness of God's grace and the joy of a life hidden in Christ. The positive side can only come, however, if we can understand that pain and suffering are the crucibles of our spiritual growth and purification. Author and pastor Dr. Gerald Mann is often heard to say that there is a "...yes in every mess." It is important to underscore his theme that we can begin again after moral failures, shattered dreams and the very failure of our life structures. We begin on a different plane, that's all. Here's the positive aspect. If we begin our lives from this day forward, with God as our only focus, we will learn to make better decisions along the way and to make no decision that is outside His blessing. We will learn to avoid trying to escape the pain of living through relationships, work or any other addictive behaviors. While the failure and collapse of our lifestyles may well mean the destruction of the ideals that we thought were so consistent with God's will for our lives, it might be the OPPORTUNITY for us to place our trust in God and thus begin living one day at a time. I have ministered to people struggling with hate, resentment of God, extramarital affairs, guilt or shame, and they have ministered to my own broken spirit. I have seen people who have been given the church's sanction of "victimhood" struggle under the conviction that something was very wrong because they were unable to express their fears and failures. Never, however, have I seen real spiritual growth without facing the pain and the sin in our own lives. That's why we need each other. We come together with a whole bag full of different experiences, but we share in common the sinful nature that brought us to our failures. Once we recognize this, we are ready to be used of God for His purpose, in His time. We have discovered that the way to life is indeed narrow and hard and there are few who find it. We come together out of our brokenness for the purpose of finding that path to life for ourselves, thus allowing God to create a peace and beauty that leads to opportunity from failure. For the newly rejected, the issue that is foremost on their minds is the need for a new relationship. We come together for healing and affirmation, but it seems that re-creating what we think we have lost is our greatest hope. We want God to make it better by giving us back what we have lost. All the while, God is
nudging us down a different path in order to really make us better prepared for His Kingdom work – living and sharing Christ with other broken people. I remember one person who was outright angry at God for not giving her a new husband after seven years. Hers was a quid-pro-quo relationship with God: "I'll do this for you, and you'll do that for me." She had been in a time warp for seven years, waiting for God to restore a lifestyle for her from which He had mercifully delivered her seven years earlier. In the meantime, God was patiently waiting for the allegiance and trust that He intended for her to discover in the tragedy of her life. Regardless of how appealing that lifestyle was that we left behind, we have to come to the place of wanting to do God's will first. That leaves us open to the lifestyle He has in mind for us. Most of us do not want to take that risk. Healing Through Touching Your Pain: The proper ministerial approach to divorce is not to put marriages back together or to promote reconciliation of the marriage, although that may be great when it happens. How preposterous it is, however, for a minister to assume that he or she even has enough facts at their disposal to decide for someone else whether or not he or she should be back in their marriage. What I do know from personal experience is that the individual with whom I am dealing is a hurting unit and needs to come to a place of accepting God's forgiveness for his or her own sin before being able to forgive another. It is my job to minister to the individual and let God take care of the future as that person heals. Yes, this bothers a lot of people who see their primary responsibility to restore the relationship, but our calling as Christians is to take them where they are, as God does. Touching God's people with love and acceptance is the business of restoration. Leave the miracles to Him. You can be healed through the techniques presented here and in community with other hurting believers. It will be too painful, however, for many who insist on being and remaining victims of another's actions. Victory comes from firmly believing in the sovereignty of God and His direct action on the life of His children. You'll be asked to take a moral inventory of your life instead of the life of
your departed spouse, and that will force you to look at the reactive sin that is poisoning your own system. You may not like that, and you may go away angry or disappointed. These techniques don't paper over your feelings. They attempt to get at the gut issues that are keeping you from the joy that is your spiritual inheritance. If you can take this journey with us and with other believers of like experience, it will be a journey that will keep you on the raw edge of faith. Your leprosy can be healed only by touching the leprosy of others. We offer you that opportunity and welcome you to our family of broken, struggling believers.
Welcome to the Leper Colony The Subtle Deception of Helping Others: Oh, how we protect our images and how we long to be whole in the eyes of others. I watched an ABC special on television one Sunday afternoon that brought home to me the subtle things we do to keep from seeing ourselves as we really are. The program was on the growing singles' ministry, specifically single
parents, that was making its way into a number of large metropolitan churches throughout the country. Because of the sheer numbers of people out there who are struggling with divorce and the single life, it makes sense for the church to reach out to divorced and single parents. Many were never churched but were seeking answers. Others continued to worship in a Christian community but felt somewhat out-of-place because of the emphasis on coupling and families. Still others had quietly slipped out of the church as a result of a subtle condemnation they had experienced or imagined they had experienced from other worshippers. I will preface my comments by acknowledging that a television special always makes things appear to be bigger or more serious than they really are. Television can distort dimensions severely, at the discretion of the producer, so you are often not sure that what you are seeing is what you are really getting. So, my first reaction was that perhaps any ministry to divorced and separated people would be simply a duplication of what is already being done out there. "Perhaps," I told myself, "I have an incorrect perspective on what people are going through who have experienced the pain of divorce and then the rejection by God's people." Then I began to take more notice of what was being said. The problems of single parents were clear enough, but the single people interviewed began to exhibit a certain common characteristic. It was clear that there was something special about them--that they were in a class by themselves and that other people were trying to understand them and perhaps help them. Helping others is always such a compelling virtue that I am most reluctant to go forward with my thoughts here, but you can see how the ethic of one group helping another places a subtle burden on the helped. The best analogy I can think of is how the welfare process segregates the helped and the helper into different social classes. Segregating the Helped: In this instance, the process required that the "helped" be segregated into support groups of people facing the same problems. I wondered why that was and whether or not there were something that these singles could offer to the congregation at large that would be significant to everybody's Christian growth.
The churches profiled seemed to take a certain pride in having an active ministry to the divorced and single. In fact, the pastor of one church proudly stated that over one-half of his congregation was made up of single people, mostly divorced. Why is it that this ministry takes on a special significance in the scheme of the business of God's Kingdom? Is brokenness so rare among His people that there is little or no appreciation for the benefits that a broken believer brings to the worship process? Two of the people interviewed were regular attendees of a "previously married" group that met every Thursday evening. They both mentioned the love that they experienced there in a way that indicated to me that it was the first time they had felt that love among God's people. There was nothing about the program that seemed to suggest that they were functioning as disciples in the church ministry. The only place where they really felt loved was in the group, with people who shared their own experience. I thought to myself, "How sad that there is not enough love within the general body of Christ that all His people are accepted and affirmed." There is a tinge of the unclean about a divorced person. I hear that consistently across the board. I never quite know whether it is self-imposed or whether it is really true, but I suspect there is a little of both. The reason, I suspect, is that people who have never been married also seem to be slightly on the defensive when talking about their relationships with their Christian brothers and sisters. The very process of recognizing our need for the redeeming power of Christ calls for brokenness. How often we begin to see ourselves as whole rather than broken as we live out our Christian lives. We seem to forget that we are to remain in an attitude of brokenness in order to experience the miracle of abundant life. Brokenness as a Common Ground: Brokenness should be the common experience to all who have claimed Christ as Redeemer and Lord. Only through our brokenness can we accept another with an awareness of our own fallibilities and vulnerabilities. It helps us to share who we really are with the entire spectrum of God's people and accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. The fact that we can only really feel understood in the company of others who have experienced the same failures we have indicates that we are somehow in a special category of failures. I call that
condition my leprosy. My leprosy is more obvious than the leprosy of my other brothers and sisters in Christ because it is no longer hidden or buried deep within me. It has become part of the public record. I therefore can only feel genuinely accepted inside the leper colony because I carry the brand of failure on my life. That brand is an "L" on my forehead, and it is there for all to see. That would be fine under normal, social circumstances, but you see, I'm a professing Christian, and a Christian is not supposed to have that "L" on his forehead. Being a Christian and being divorced is inconsistent. We are all aware of the inconsistency, especially those of us who have gone through that brutal experience. Those who have not are always faced with the dilemma of "loving the sinner but hating the sin," or so they say. The “Scarlet Letter”: There is a big part of me that wants to be accepted by the people with the clear foreheads. I want them not to notice my "L" and to love me as though I were like them. Some of them do, but I have to seek them out, and they are few and far between. So, I try to build a case for my innocence in the occasion of my "L." If I can pass as a pure victim, perhaps I can be loved and accepted. But all the self-justification in the world will not erase that "L," and there remains deep within me a feeling that I have failed and, as a result, I will never again be able to take my place with complete ease in the world of the clear foreheads. It is small comfort that the branded believers are becoming stronger and stronger in number. There is no safety in numbers of broken sinners. That is no surprise to the truly committed believer. It is also no comfort that after years and years of counseling and group therapy, the "L's" eventually come to the conclusion that they have set their course in uncharted waters. We are like Abraham; we no longer know where we are going, and we have become aliens in a foreign land. We reach out to God's people to help us heal, and they are only partially there for us--less as time goes on. We find solace within the leper colony but soon learn that many other lepers are trying desperately to get out, or are busily self-justifying in order to affirm that they are OK. One of the women interviewed on the television special told of her initial anger at God. "I did everything I was supposed to do as a mother and a wife, and
I was angry at God that He did not preserve my marriage." She was repenting her anger at God, but it was in a grudging acceptance sort of way. The sense of righteous indignation remained, however, and what I saw was an idolatrous marriage in which she felt entitled to be able to anticipate her future because of her allegiance to the union. While she is no longer angry at God, she is saying things like, "I loved being married. I loved being a wife and mother.” She sees herself then and now as a completely innocent victim of another person's actions, merely because she loved being a wife and mother. She claims entitlement to expect a certain return on her investment. In other words, she gave, not out of love of Christ or of her husband, but out of love for the institution of marriage. She went on to explain how hard she had worked at the marriage and how she had been completely blindsided by its dissolution. And yet, through no apparent fault of her own, she found herself in the leper colony. Which Leper Colony? The leper colony has many dimensions. You can choose the place that suits you best or where you feel the most comfortable. Close to town, there is a fringe group of lepers that almost melds with the normal folk. They look so much like everybody else that many times they forget that they have the leprosy disease. Usually, they don't need any alms or welfare, and they haven't brought anybody else to the colony with them, such as kids. It's really hard to be a quasi leper when you have kids. There's something about kids that reminds everybody about the family disease. You can also disguise the leprosy if you have well-known skills or a reputation for getting results. Everybody likes to have someone around who gets results. Then, too, if you are financially comfortable, you can pull this off with barely any of the ill-effects of the disease. Money has the ability to shield us from our failures--to protect us from confronting who we are. We can avoid a lot of stigma if we have earned respectability through success. Further into the colony there is another group that still has their possessions and are managing to keep the image together for the moment. Being left with the possessions and the custody of the kids makes a statement that "I won." Winning is important in order to help us keep our distance from those other lepers
that everybody knows are beyond hope. If life goes on with its previous "trappings," we can convince ourselves that we don't really have the disease--that we are not like those others. Winning is everything in this game. Maintaining the appearances of the previous lifestyle can keep us from realizing the seriousness of our disease. The most successful lepers, however, are those who have managed to recreate their previous lifestyles. Let's face it; if you can get remarried as soon as possible, as is often the case of divorced men, and settle back into life outside the leper colony, who cares how many times you have been married before? You have earned your citizenship in the kingdom outside the leper colony by pooling your energies and your possessions with probably another leper who is dying to get out of the colony. That's how the game is played. Of course, the leprosy is still there, but with a little medication and a Band-Aid or two, you can cover up the "L" and seem to be none the worse for wear. But deep within the colony there is something going on that most of us never will know about. There is a very large group of folks with nowhere else to turn--perhaps they have too many kids, have had problems with other addictions or are not attractive enough to be able readily to put something new together for themselves. Some are so deep "in the pit" that they have lost all hope of regaining their place in the kingdom outside the colony. Long ago they quietly slipped out of the door of the church, and nobody seemed to notice. Most of these lepers were so displaced by their divorces that they literally fell through the cracks. Sometimes they took refuge momentarily with other lost lepers and found a little peace in letting the world go by for a moment. But they have accepted the idea that they will never be like the people in the kingdom outside the colony. They remember their roots and their faith, but they have become so far removed from the American Dream that they are almost ashamed to try to relate to others struggling with this walk of faith. But isn't that Jesus walking among them? What is He doing down there when there are so many people in that other kingdom who are looking forward so much to seeing Him someday soon? You say He has been spending all His time down there? What is He doing? He is taking the worst of the lepers, healing them and teaching them to heal the others. Wow! That's incredible. It's too bad all
those lepers who are pretending they don't have the disease are not here to see what is happening. What is that faint noise that sounds like singing? "If you're a sinner and you know it, clap your hands... If you're a sinner and you know it, clap your hands... If you're a sinner and you know it, well your knees will surely show it... If you're a sinner and you know it, clap your hands... There is certainly something going on that defies logic. Here are people who have really messed up their lives, and they are celebrating their deliverance from sin? Let's hope this doesn't catch on, or there might be a movement of these people that will swamp the people in the kingdom outside the colony. There's nothing like a good case of leprosy to remind you of your uncleanness. Where else is there to go but to the Lord? Working Through the Pain: The pain, the guilt and the shame within me have been so acute sometimes that I felt I was going to come apart. More than once I wished that God would take me home so that I could escape those feelings of despair. For you who have known the pain of separation and divorce and the pain of the aftermath, you should know that you have experienced the greatest emotional pain that one can feel in this life. If there were such a thing as a pain scale, divorce would be on the top. What adds insult to injury is being reminded on a regular basis that divorced folks are people who run away at the least bit of trouble--that they bag their marriages when things don't go just right. How dare anyone lay that trip on you or me! What kind of arrogance and self-righteousness would allow anyone to pass judgment on someone else's pain? Whoops! I remember doing that myself before my life went into the dumper. If you are in hope of re-creating your life with another marriage so that you can avoid the crunching stigma of your divorce, that might work for a time. But remember, second marriages have a greater failure rate than first marriages. The risk of pain is greater the second time around because you are faced with the crushing blow that your failure must have something to do with you. You can never blot out your past, but you can benefit from it. Because of your experience with divorce, you are marked. But more importantly, you are marked for service in the Kingdom of God. It's people like you that God chooses
to do His work--to reach the broken and the discouraged. God has a purpose for your life; He knows every painful step you have taken. He can use your divorce for His ultimate Glory if you are willing. Even in your pain you can move ahead in the lasting, Kingdom walk. Your pain will always be back there as a reminder of where you walked before, but your forward steps will be ordered by God if you will accept His forgiveness and His sovereign rule over your life. That's probably a lot better lifestyle than you had before! You may have lost a lot of credibility with the establishment, but I don't recall that Christ came to minister to the establishment anyway. Every step forward with God brings more painful awareness of who you really are and the awesome significance of what He has done for you. Nobody's going to care or listen, even within your church, when you try and explain that a crown of Glory is now your goal. That's a lonely path you have chosen--one that is narrow, with few on it. But they are there, lepers all, waiting for your love and your touch.
Marriage And The Addictive System So, you're divorced or well on the way, and you want desperately to get a new lease on life and stop this painful process of trying to understand what happened to you. Somebody is a victim, and somebody is the perpetrator. You have to believe that in order to keep from going insane. The family has pretty much chosen sides--more for their own protection than out of fairness--but you have kept score of how many are on your side and how many are on the side of the one that didn't live up to his or her commitment. So, here you are, "all dressed up and nowhere to go," hoping you will be able to put together a life. Welcome to the addictive quagmire. Your fix has been taken away and maybe with good reason; maybe for the good of everybody concerned, so why don't you feel like celebrating? How come you still feel used and abused and left hanging out to dry? Why is that little voice inside of you condemning you and making you feel empty and guilty? What you are going through is withdrawal, in the same sense that a drug addict goes through withdrawal. You had what you thought was a comfortable, predictable life, and somebody pulled the plug without warning. Perhaps you even sought out another relationship because your partner had left you behind psychologically, or wasn't paying attention to you, or wasn't able or willing to understand you. Perhaps not. Whatever the circumstances, you are angry and confused and feel rejected. The gnawing feeling subsides with time but doesn't seem to go away. You try and justify what happened by telling yourself over and over again that no matter how bad it may be now, you are really glad that you are no longer married to that person. Well, if you are like a large percentage of the people in this country, you probably were in a relationship that was addictive, or co-dependent. What I mean by co-dependent is that the biggest thing that you and your spouse had in common was that you both trying to control your inner feelings by managing your
external life – controlling the people in your life and their behavior to accommodate your needs.. Perhaps you were engineering your way around the minefield of emotional or physical abuse, or the abuse of alcohol or drugs. Perhaps you were saying the things to each other that each of you thought the other wanted to hear and were protecting each other from the hurt of honesty. So, you settled into your life and concentrated on the kids and the cars and your schedules, pretending everything was OK while avoiding the inevitable. Psychologists call this "walking around the elephant in the living room." We set up diversions so we don't have to address the tough issues. One of you finally says, "I'm out of here," for no apparent reason, and you both now miss the elephant. Where Was God?: Perhaps one or both of you are Christians, although you doubt upon reflection that your spouse ever really was a Christian. So you go ahead and pass judgment on his or her standing with God as a way of explaining the heinous things that were directed at you. You will try anything except facing your own responsibility in the matter and coming to grips with your own behaviors. Heaven forbid that a Christian could act the way you saw your spouse act. You have successfully engineered yourself into the role of the victim in the conflict. What happened to you happened because of something someone else did or in reaction to someone else's unacceptable behavior. There has to be a better explanation than that, and there is, but you can't seem to find it or really are not looking too hard in the right directions. You want to go on with your life but the only way you can see to do it is to try to find relief from the pain. The only conclusion you can come to is that you made a bad choice the first time and exhibit extreme caution the next time, if there ever will be a next time. The news is not very good for success in future relationships. Now is an opportunity to begin to understand your role in your failure. Otherwise, instead of a 50% failure rate in first marriages, you have a 65 percent chance of making the same mistake again, and it will be a lot harder to justify your way out. Until I began to understand the addictive system and my role in perpetuating it, my own participation in my relationship failures never occurred to me. Oh, I heaped a little abuse on myself like, "anybody else wouldn't have stood
it as long as I did, but that still doesn't excuse my behavior." That's baloney. I have no further role in trying to figure out someone else. It is an exercise in futility. It is absolutely vital to my own recovery, however, that I get to the bottom of this addiction thing. The only path is to reconcile with God first. I know now that my mistakes kept repeating themselves. There was a lot of similarity between what happened to me at home and what happened in the workplace. And get this; in both places I carried out my responsibilities with great skill and energy. But it is clear that something was very wrong, and I cannot really go forward until I understand the dynamics of what happens to me in relationship. Until we see what we are doing to ourselves and to others with whom we are intimate, we are in danger of merely substituting one person for another, one job for another and one location for another until we finally run out of running room. In my first book, “No Turning Back, Journal of an All-American Sinner,” I wrote with urgency of my spiritual life being swamped by the massive tide of the so-called American Dream. There is something definitely very wrong with how we conduct our lives, but we can't seem to get a handle on it. It's like that elephant in the living room; if you can't see it, you can act like it isn't there. Every once in awhile you get uncomfortably close to it, but you can always work around it and get comfortable again, all the while knowing full well that something is wrong beneath the surface. Even society itself seems to be lumbering on to a random destiny. We see ourselves as part of the problem, but we can only theorize as to what the problem is. Whatever is going wrong, it is clear that we are all contributing partners. Few of us really have the courage to face ourselves to stop participating in the demise. Psychologists and sociologists are beginning to tell us in no uncertain terms that we are willing participants in a scheme to protect ourselves from discovery. That's a grim prospect that not only bodes poorly for societal recovery but makes each one of us a conspirator. This American Dream prosperity and success concept is now the blueprint for ministry, and still, seemingly, there is nothing we can do about that either. While Christ commends us to the death of self and the life of the despised and rejected as the path to peace, we have all too often turned the Great Commission
into a carnival sideshow with all the tricks of Madison Avenue, thus willingly laying foundations of hay, wood and stubble. If we must each bear the responsibility for perpetuating the corporate or societal myth of youth and success, how much more must each of us own up to our role in the myth of the suburban American marriage?. What’s Wrong with The American Marriage?: My sense of marriage as a contributor to this process of living a life in denial is a little-held one, I think. The American marriage is so consumed with the image that it projects to the community that it literally strangles real communication. Partners see themselves not as whole individuals but as units where protection of the institution of marriage is more important than the growth and health of the individuals involved. As children enter the scene, the protection of the family unit becomes more important than the vitality of the individuals, and on it goes. The allegiance is to something other than personal growth and interdependence. That's the addictive process. We co-opt other people until we learn to live and breathe as a well-oiled unit and in a predictable fashion, and then we die a little daily. I think there is much more to this unbridled pursuit of the American Dream than meets the eye. It's a conditioned behavior pattern that increasingly is bringing us to a place of crisis in our national and personal lives. The market is literally flooded with self-help books that skirt around the real-life issues by helping us look and feel good when we are not. The fact is, however, that maintaining the status quo becomes more difficult daily as we age. Maturity forces us to gradually zero in on the seriousness of our headlong plunge into image building and image maintenance, and we become increasingly uneasy. Noted authors and human behavior specialists such as Scott Peck and Anne Wilson Schaef have figured out the tendency of Americans to treat the symptoms instead of the disease and have offered startling insights into where we are going as individuals and as a nation. Because we have built our society on an economic base, we have become economic units ourselves. What we have found to be successful in business has been carried over into our social system. The bureaucratic machinery continues to serve us well and efficiently. This problemsolving, vertical-thinking mindset has gradually turned us toward robotic reflexive
action. In other words, as a people we are becoming increasingly left-brained (or organizationally minded) rather than right brained (or creatively minded) in our relationships, as well as in our institutions. We have successfully built a rational thinking process into all our systems-marriage, child rearing, business and church. We have come to view even personal relationships as task-oriented, with goals and expectations dependent on our management ability. We fire wives, husbands, children and friends in the same way we deal with non-responsive or unproductive workers. Conversely, if things appear to be running smoothly, we take the position, "If it ain't broke; don't fix it." Thus, we become oriented to status quo living, failing to nurture relationships but always ready to apply emergency treatment if they get out of hand. We run our lives like mini businesses, with dad as chairman of the board, mom as executive vice president and the kids as trainees. Our children become end products; our spouses become role-players in our corporate systems; individuality is lost in the well-oiled pecking order of our life systems; God becomes the Chief Executive Officer of a highly developed engine that needs a bit of tweaking now and then. We have purpose in carrying out our mandates efficiently and responsibly. We feel comfortable knowing where we are in the pecking order. We also feel rejected and worthless when someone makes the determination that we are no longer useful to the system. That's where we who have experienced divorce are left dangling. Our position has been eliminated, and we are left feeling worthless, especially if we were not the prime culprit in the split. In other words, we have been fired! We had become comfortable in a situation where reaching consensus is more important than promoting each other's growth and interdependence. I call this "least common denominator politics." This means that even our ways of relating are defined in terms that compromise our own needs, goals and beliefs. We quickly gravitate toward the compromise position that is comfortable to each party, which means that I defer my needs and wants to you and you defer yours to me. I get a little of what I want and you get a little of what you want. In so doing, neither of us really gets what we need, and we quickly come to the place
where we no longer know what we need. Surely, this person in whom I have placed my absolute trust and hope knows better than I what I need! Improper Christian values add to the confusion. We are taught that our own needs are to be put aside in favor of another, when if fact, just the opposite is true. Our needs are of such primary importance that God has promised to fulfill them. So, it seems to me that we certainly owe it to ourselves to know what they are. God Is Only A Bit Player in Our Lives: To fail to take inventory of our lives because we feel we are operating in some degree of God's will is foolhardy. It is clear from Scripture that God searches the willing heart and discloses our faults and our needs to us. That process of allowing God to search our hearts can best be realized through the eyes or the reactions of another person. That is often the way the still small voice speaks to us. Instead, we assume God's will in our marriages and in "obedience" passively take our least common denominator roles and subvert our very personalities to our partners. All the while, we know that something is wrong, but we can't put our fingers on it because the church is honoring the appearance that we have offered to the world. Operating on the basis of looking the part without being the part promotes the kind of havoc we are witnessing in the marriages of believers. There is something very wrong. We can feel it deep within our hearts, but any feelings of depression, anger or resentment are quickly stuffed down and condemned within us as being unworthy of a good person or a Christian. We have been carefully taught that such feelings are unworthy, so we mask them with a smile and a busy life.
The Danger of Consensus Thinking: Consensus thinking leads to universal group think – how does my life measure up to the lives of those around me. Consensus thinking and living has no place in the arena of the Kingdom of God, where the first is last, the last is first, and the reward for faithful service is often pain and suffering. When we seek God’s blessings by way of the American
Dream, we make the kingdoms of God and man synonymous. It ought to be clear that when the line of distinction between those two kingdoms begins to blur, we are out of touch with God's purposes in our lives--the individual call to discipleship. I tried desperately in my first book to call attention to how we have contaminated God's purpose for our lives with this self-serving success formula, but my attempt was faltering and weak, I'm afraid. I knew that success as a disciple of Jesus Christ may spell failure by the world's standards, but I couldn't put a definition to the problem that would sum it up in a few words, nor could I quite seem to let go of the brass ring. Then a remarkable thing happened. I was given a book by a psychologist friend entitled, “When Society Becomes an Addict,” by Anne Wilson Schaef. Dr. Schaef has written a most remarkable and concise theory on the kinds of ills in our society that are causing this avalanche of broken relationships. Rarely have I read a book that is as clearly presented and as simple and direct. Dr. Schaef has zeroed in on one single malaise that is contaminating our entire society, and she thus departs severely from the typical Band-aid approach to problem solving. She dares to suggest that society itself is sick--that it is a matrix of support for the addictive process brought to light by such movements as Alcoholics Anonymous and others. I was astounded. Suddenly my struggle with the "American Dream" concept came into focus. Dr. Schaef had defined for me what it is about the American Dream that has killed the abundant life that Christ promises to those of us who are believers. She is absolutely correct when she states that to her knowledge, "...the awareness that larger systems such as schools, churches, businesses and government exhibit the same characteristics as the individual alcoholic/addict is new and revolutionary." She is correct, that is, in a humanistic, non-orthodox sense. Combined with the Christian concept of sin and rebellion from God, however, this is an old idea that Dr. Schaef helps us to understand in layman's language. She knows that, I discovered when I later got to know her a bit, because she has a seminary education. The sickness that we Christians call sin has permeated our institutions,
including our Christian marriages. Our institutions have taken on our own unhealthy personality characteristics. They act in a predictable fashion as though they have personalities of their own. Addiction is a control system, and control is the enemy of the spirit of Christ. Control is a way of re-creating ourselves or our marriages in our own images rather than in accordance with God's unfolding purposes for us. As God has created us in His own image, so we have created our systems in our own images, and we have breathed life into them, and we worship them. They dictate our very actions in allegiance to their continued survival. It is to the institution of marriage that these thoughts are directed, and I hope to show how this addictive system we call marriage has now become impervious to every feeble attempt we make to honor God in it, such as regular Bible reading and prayer. The adage that “A family that prays together stays together” works only within the context of two committed people operating as a unit committed to God. Dragging Our Baggage Along: With utmost thanks to Dr. Schaef, I seek here to help you understand that the failure of your marriage in light of your own sin come as no surprise. Having reached that conclusion, it will be necessary for you to change the way you look at relationships and stop longing to recover what you used to know. They tell me that cocaine makes one feel safe and powerful. So, then, does the addictive marriage. What we who have been rejected want so badly is to get back our fix-our safe place where we can again feel secure and needed. It is no wonder that the mortality on second marriages is 10 percent higher than for first marriages. The addictive system being what it is, our attempts at finding our happiness as half a person joined with another half person will be degenerative unless and until we deal with the addictive nature within us that seeks relief from the pain of life through unhealthy relationship. It is one thing to say that we have been created by God to live in relationship, and that is certainly very true. It is quite another thing to feel that the only road to peace from the agony of a failed intimate relationship is another relationship. Until our relationship with God is on track, we cannot know a healthy relationship with another human being. There is no love aside form Him who demonstrated true love to us by taking our medicine for us alone.
Who Blinked First? I've had the privilege of meeting and getting to know, at least on a casual basis, a number of Christian authors and artists over the years. You may recall author, Keith Miller, who had a number of best-selling non-fiction Christian books to his credit, the most famous of which was Taste of New Wine, which sold over a million copies in the 1960's. Keith is a salty, curmudgeon kind of guy who, when I have a rare occasion to talk with him, always reminds me of my vision of myself in five years. The first time I called and talked with Keith, he told me that I came on like a freight train and should back off. I reciprocated several years later when he organized an ocean cruise for a relationship recovery group he had put together. He invited me to sail with them, but if there were anything I had learned, it was that I was likely to fall in love a hundred feet from the dock. My response was, “Are you crazy? Taking a bunch of co-dependents on a cruise? There'll be enough energy aboard that ship by the time it gets ready to return you won't need a power plant!” I love the way Keith thinks. Only he could pull off a cruise for codependents. As for me, I didn't dare take the risk. I may have come on like a freight train, but I knew better than to be trapped on a cruise ship with no visible means of escape. Keith had gone through the pain of divorce and had remarried. At that time, in the 1970's, that took him out of the evangelical market and deprived them of his brilliant wit and wisdom. That is too bad, as I count him to be one of the most lucid, erudite speakers I have ever known. The evangelical community is in great need of believers who can tell it like it is, and Keith is especially gifted in that department. Keith had put together a course for would-be writers like myself that is rich with what I call "Millerisms." Straight out of Miller 101, I dreamed up the title to this chapter, and by the time I got around to writing it, I didn't have the slightest idea where it was going or why I dreamed it up in the first place.
So, this might be "Who yawned first." Let's give it a try and see what's in store. The Expectations of Others And The Set-Jaw Syndrome: Have you ever noticed how many divorced people seem to have that setjaw syndrome that gives them a determined, invincible look? I've met a number like that – several times in the mirror, as a matter of fact. We bring expectations of other people (parents/friends/neighbors, etc.) or what we think of as society’s expectations into our relationships, and we get very hurt when those expectations fail to be met. When you think about it, what right does anyone have to expect anything of a relationship unless it is a service contract paid for in cold cash. Most of these expectations have their roots in some pathology in our backgrounds. They are not legitimate, but we think they are because we believe wither that we are “normal” or above normal or want to be either. Below normal is simply not acceptable. The incredible thing about expectations is that they are rarely disclosed beforehand to the other person. We think of them, not as negotiables, but as part of some natural law out there in the ether somewhere. Our partners don't live up to them, so we are justified in bailing out emotionally while hanging in religiously. The fact that our partners don't even know what those expectations are is irrelevant. They should know what they are. Anybody should be able to read the mind of a normal person. Those expectations do not require disclosure; they only require fulfillment. This is a great way to set both the partner and the marriage up for failure. We have been let down, so we get off the hook of failing to live up to the standards we so proudly set for ourselves. I hate to think of how many times I have convinced myself that I don't need anybody because the person I depended on to fulfill my expectations failed to do so. That's when the set-jaw syndrome kicks in. In thinking about that set-jaw syndrome, I always wonder whether that came before or after the disappointment or betrayal. It occurred to me that the degree of setness of the jaw may be a direct function of the number of years of “endurance” of the marriage. The set jaw conveys a “stay-the-course” endurance, a very valuable asset in our society. Christian marriages are not by
any means immune from that effect. There is something to this idea of firm entrenchment showing in our faces. We can tell a lot about a person's attitude by his outer facial expression. It is said that by the time you reach the age of 50, you have the face you deserve. It's etched in, and there is little that can be done to change that. We need to learn to read faces, especially our own, if we are going to be able to respond to what's really going on inside ourselves and inside others. That's what made me think about that kid's game of "who blinked first." You stare into the eyes of another kid, and the first one who blinks loses. Some kids seemed to be able to stare until the dust covered their eyeballs. Playing the Game – Losers Acting Like Winners: Blinking indicates weakness, and it seems important to us and to our parents and peers even early in our development to find out who is weak and who is strong. That is true all through life. It isn't long after the fascination with that childish game has worn off that we begin to play more serious versions of the same game. Perhaps it is in on the playing field, where psychological advantage has a lot to do with winning. We are conditioned to believe that thinking and acting like a winner makes you a winner. But we rarely give a moment's thought that being a winner always creates a loser and that perhaps it would pay to lose once in awhile to give the other person a break. One way to do that is to play games we are not particularly adept at playing and be genuinely happy when the other person wins. But no; we mostly stick to those games that we know we are good at and avoid the ones we are likely to lose. After all, who wants to be a loser? There are other ways we play that game of psychological advantage. At home as kids, we took our punishment with that set jaw, not crying and not really being sorry for disobeying. You'll relate to that if you have had the trip to the woodshed – an old discipline technique currently out of vogue. We develop a certain personality profile that works to our advantage in school and at play that keeps us in a game-playing mode with our teachers and friends. A couple of profiles come readily to mind. Looking totally attentive to what the teacher is saying while your mind is elsewhere, taking copious notes and
rarely asking a question are familiar techniques. What we are really thinking about is the party Friday night. Another personality profile is that impish way of pretending not to be interested in learning but manipulating one's way into the hearts of others through charm and wit. A third might be to figure out what the teacher or friend likes and feed it back. That one works right through graduate school. Trust me! The game continues. When dating begins, it pays to be cool and detached. Play hard to get. By the time the other person really finds out who you are, you may be deep enough into the relationship that all objectivity is gone. You continue to be who the other person thought you were, even though you are not, if that makes any sense. If you can pull that off, you've won, and you have protected your vulnerability. What parent doesn't want his or her child to be a winner? To be in demand, to be successful in school even if it means using your skills to outwit the system and to excel in athletics is every parent's dream for his or her kid. There is an air of superiority in that kind of achievement that makes all of the family proud. The one who isn't popular, or doesn't make good grades or excel in sports blinks first and therefore loses – for the moment, that is. But what is more important than the moment? The ultimate coup is for Johnny to meet and marry a "wonderful girl," or Mary to meet a guy with a future. Through all this training, there is a premium placed on the ability to stand alone without flinching. That engenders pride, and pride is what successful American families are all about. To share your feelings is to blink first. To be sensitive to losers is to drop the winning attitude. All those real feelings get stuffed down inside us until they represent our shame factor – our weaknesses that we are not permitted to display to anyone else or to acknowledge to ourselves. We deny those feelings; in fact, we not only deny them but are ashamed of them. Those feelings, if they were to get out, would make us losers or would make us vulnerable to rejection. Therefore, we grow up with a decreasing awareness of what is really going on inside us or a sense that whatever it is, it is bad and should not come out. As a result, fear, shame, guilt, anger – all those emotions stay buried until we can't even feel them anymore.
Role Playing: More critical is the subconscious belief that we can bluff our way through life because bluffing is what has paid off in the past. There is no reason to believe it is not a skill for future relationships. We carry this attitude into our marriages. It's an attitude that says that no one really wants to see me as I am, so I must do what I can to live up to what I think are the expectations of the other person. In order to be a good husband, for example, I must be a better-thanaverage provider. That usually translates into "workaholic," as being a workaholic demonstrates to a watching world that I am responsible. Displaying responsibility is what is necessary to get what I want--to earn the respect of my peers and my family. In order to be a good wife, I must take meticulous care of the house and the kids, anticipate what the husband needs and provide it, and always maintain a cheerful attitude, all while bringing in an extra paycheck. Maintaining a cheerful attitude is so very important, for a good wife cannot be expected to be loved and appreciated without a cheerful attitude. Also, as a good friend reminded me – stay skinny, too! Nobody's blinking. Each partner thinks he or she is really putting everything into the marriage and can expect to get certain results from it. Hasn't each gotten predictable results from this behavior in the past? I can't tell you how many times I have listened to one party to a divorce action say that he or she put everything into the marriage and is not able to understand why it blew up in their face. Somebody quits. The surprising thing is that the winner, or the one who doesn't blink, is usually the loser. There is a certain pride that develops in knowing that you weren't the first one to blink. "I really worked at that marriage; he was the one who blinked first!" What that means is that he had an affair that must have been something he decided to do one day and did. You never knew what was coming? Your real problem is that you played the game flawlessly and yet didn't achieve your anticipated result. Without understanding what you were doing then, the only way you can justify your present position is to view him as the worst villain God ever put on the earth. In the meantime, he is complaining that you never let him know you or that
he was always lonely while he was with you or that you were too much of a "saint" for him. It's all baloney by two people who set out to hide their real selves from each other and are now looking for reasons to self-justify. If you are a woman, and if you and I crossed paths shortly after your divorce and years ago in my life, I would have loved your story. It wouldn't be long before there would be two of us believing that your "ex" was a total louse. We could build a whole life on that (as a matter of fact I almost did that once). We could feed off of that for years and years and even show up that "piece of garbage" in how well we raise his kids. Oh boy! Is that one easy! We are off in the blinking game again, except that there are now two of us staring down your "ex." The beat goes on. We're busier than we ever were before – me playing the ultimate stepfather and you proving to a watching world that you can indeed be a good mother and wife. The game hasn't changed at all; it's just gotten busier. And now, you and I are beginning to see that we didn’t get what we bargained for. Dying Inside: Obviously, two people living like this are dying inside. The marriage union is intended as a mirror for each to assist the other to grow. I discover that you know my faults and accept me anyway, and you do the same. That's where the trust is established. If I am dying inside in order to keep from blinking, no longer am I aware of why I feel so empty. I can't share it with you anyway because that would violate the rules of the game. You may have made it perfectly clear to me in the past that there was no room for even loving criticism by going into a spasm when I tried to bring a fault to your attention. Or I might have done the same. Enter the element of Christian marriage. This is a marriage that is truly "for better or for worse." The blinking game has been perfected by both parties to an art form. We transfer our personal responsibilities onto God and direct our energies toward what we think He wants us to do for Him rather than what He longs to do through us. The former is a legalistic response; the latter is a faith walk. "I will be a good Christian father, no matter what it takes." "I will love my wife even though I can't stand her." "I'll take my medicine and stand up to my responsibilities." "I'll marry him because God put us together." If I have feelings
of anger, shame, guilt or hate, I condemn myself because good people are not supposed to have those feelings. Couples in Christian marriages play the game with God. "If I do what God wants me to do, I'll be esteemed in God's eyes." And what does God want me to do? Well, I can find that out in the Bible, or I can listen to what Christian leaders are telling me, or I can observe and make assumptions about the marriages of other Christians and try to live up to those ideals. The point is that I attempt to display an attitude that my Christian friends think would be pleasing to God when in fact, deep down inside, my attitude stinks. But I don't know that anymore because I continue to deny my feelings. I'm not supposed to have those feelings anyway, so I convince myself that they do not exist. I met an old friend a while back in a restaurant. He had recently been remarried, and he introduced me to his new wife with the words, "She's a saint." I spontaneously responded with an invective against sainthood, whereupon he mumbled something about his mother being a saint, and I dropped it there before I got into further trouble over that one. But, haven't you heard that so many times before? "She's a saint." "He's wonderful." Perhaps you have used those words yourself. I know I have. It’s a control technique – laying on the spouse a standard of behavior that is unreal. Both parties know better than that, but they are hoping for the best – a better deal than they made last time, or they take comfort in the thought, "I could have done a lot worse." If I call you a saint, I am really saying that you had better live up to my expectations, or I will be disappointed. If you tell me I am wonderful, I am forced to live up to my billing like the good co-dependent that I am. Since my purpose in life is to make you happy and thus reap rewards for myself, I will do everything I can not only to live up to my billing but to keep you from knowing that I really feel pretty rotten inside. Now, if I can pull that off, I insult your intelligence, but you are not going to let me know that because to do so would be tantamount to blinking. Heaven forbid! I might even knock you around physically or emotionally a bit, but every wonderful person has his moments, right? Nobody’s perfect, huh? “When did you stop beating your wife?”
And since I'm so wonderful, by your own admission, I'll probably be able to convince you that you contributed to my eruption. Since you already feel so crummy about yourself deep down inside, convincing you won't be that hard to do. It's a vicious cycle of dishonesty to ourselves and to each other, and you can bet that after eight to ten years of that kind of living, I 'm going to find short-term help in some diversion that won't be good for me or for our marriage. Once we understand the dishonesty and the dynamics of the relationship, it shouldn't come as a surprise that one or the other partner goes off the deep end, should it? "But she blinked first!" So long as we don't know why we are dying inside, and so long as we are determined (with set jaws) to make this marriage work, come hell or high water, we are going to be blaming other people or circumstances for our unhappiness. "Passing the buck" is our way of protecting ourselves. So we contrive reasons for our loneliness inside and accept them as reality, when all along we have that gnawing feeling that we are not "hitting the mark." These are little diversions that keep everybody off balance so that neither party has to blink. God Calling! I remember a rather sad story about a Baptist minister and his wife whom I personally knew. God kept calling them to the weirdest places, but it never seemed to work out, and it wouldn't be long before they would be back in the area where I lived as a boy. Each time, they would end up in a church that was a little smaller than the one they had left. This continued until finally the husband died suddenly of a heart attack. I visited his wife a short time later, who by this time was probably in her mid-forties. Boy was she mad! Why? Because she had played the dutiful pastor's wife, she had deferred to his judgment all the way, and he left her hanging out to dry. She was truly angry at him. She had no working skills; she had no insurance and no funds; she had a couple of teenage kids to raise alone. She had done everything right as a wife, and she felt she deserved better treatment from him. Sound familiar? He blinked first. Do you see the similarities with a lot of divorce stories you have heard? Keith Miller jokes that there are two kinds of people—skunks and turtles. Skunks are very busy talking all the time. Turtles pull their heads in when things get rough. The problem is that they marry each other. It always seems to be the
turtles that view themselves as victims of a divorce action. They do everything right, studiously avoid conflict, and yet they get "sprayed!" How unfair! "What did I do to deserve that?" Look; you don't have to win. You don't have to be the last to blink. God wants you to blink first so that you can get on with the business at hand. Sometimes it pays to lose early in the game. If I can be vulnerable by sharing with you who I really am, you have to make the decision early on whether or not to reject me. If I show you mine, you will be encouraged to show me yours, and maybe we can understand each others' fears and joys better, cry a little and learn to trust each other. That's so freeing. It's a lot easier way to live than straining to keep from blinking: "Here at last is a human being who knows my faults and still accepts and loves me." There's hope in being the first to blink. You can see yourself as you are and your previous marriage as it was when you measure your own performance against that standard. From there it is a short distance to demanding that we be real with each other. I demand of you that you lovingly point out my weaknesses, and you demand the same of me. I am trusting you not to be lazy and gloss over my deficiencies; you want the same from me. In that way, we are encouraging each other to be everything we are capable of becoming. We come before God together, not only remembering prayer requests at church, but to admit and confess our sins before God and each other. This produces healing and growth. Can't you see what was wrong with your attitude in your marriage? You can blink now. The contest is over. Your ex has his or her own contest going by now, and if he or she didn't go through the process of finding out what they did wrong, the same mistakes will be made again. You don't want that for yourself, or you wouldn't be reading this or thinking of joining a recovery group. You have to come to the place of blinking before God because you cannot continue to rationalize away your sin. Adam tried it with, "The woman that you gave me made me eat it." The fact is that you are where you are, and you are not blameless before God. The sooner you recognize that, the sooner you will be able to soar like an eagle and accept God's great gifts and plans for your life.
The Pain/Pleasure Principle
A Christian Approach to Addiction, Treatment and Recovery by James H. Moody, Ph.D. Jim Moody, brother of the author, was, when he wrote this article, a psychologist at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Walpole, Massachusetts, one of the tougher penal institutions in the country. A Christian, he has studied the addictive tendencies prevalent in the Christian community and has noted the similarities between substance abuse and addiction by Christians to personal image and group-think. The material in this chapter, while not necessarily limited to marriage and divorce, is critical to understanding the behaviors that leads to divorce among Christians. This is a serious, sobering treatment of co-dependent behavior and should give all of us a better understanding of our participation in our own failures. My thanks to Jim for taking the time to share this vital material with us. I have experimented with a number of forms of therapy in my treatment of substance-abuse addicts. Many of those treatments, although theoretically very sound, seemed to be ineffective in treating the abuser. It did not seem to matter if the therapist were skilled in the therapy; the addict seemed always to be in a constant state of relapse. I thought, "Surely the addict knows the physical and mental damage that drugs cause to the body." Well, the addict does know, and he or she usually knows better than the therapist. If they know, why don't they stop? The answer is simple; they are addicted. As I looked into the reasons for addiction, they seemed to drift all over the map. There seemed to be no identifiable cause, either genetic or environmental. People abused because of pressure from home situations, peer pressure or because they simply wanted to get high. I noticed, however, that when the addict became a Christian – or had some kind of spiritual awakening – there seemed to be a transformation in the desire to feed the addiction. In individual or group therapy, the Christian expressed less of a desire to use than did the non-Christian. In session, there was less time spent
dealing with relapse prevention and confronting denial. I wondered why this was so. I looked at the AA, NA, GA and all the A's and discovered that the recovery rate was much higher with these groups than with any other form of addiction therapy. Addiction involves a spiritual issue that reveals itself in the thoughts, emotions and behavioral patterns of the addict. Something happens spiritually to the addict when surrendered to a "higher power," whatever that may be. A void is filled that has been empty for many years – maybe even for a lifetime. While this may not be an orthodox salvation theology, the impact of this act cannot be denied. I took a look at other recovery programs with a spiritual base, and I noticed they also had a high success rate. Be it Christian, non-Christian, or cultish, when the basis for treatment was spiritual, things began to happen to the addict that led to the road of recovery. If contact with the program were maintained over a long period of time, successful recovery was almost assured. From the Christian believer, the argument comes loud and clear that it does little good to recover from addiction in this life if there is no hope for eternity. I agree, but the fact that this phenomenon does happen through a variety of religious convictions became intriguing to me. Addictions Are Profoundly Spiritual: My experience with addiction therapy has led me to the conclusion that addictions are profoundly spiritual – that they share a common element with Christians and non-Christians alike. I have concluded that addiction and sin are so similar in process that one could successfully combine the two into a common word, "addictsin." I will use the term throughout this section and apply it not only to the traditional addict but to the Christian who is addicted to the pleasure principle of the world. It is this pleasure principle, which operates on the human emotions and psyche, that I believe is the very core of sin. It is also this same pleasure principle to which we have all become addicted without ever being aware of what was happening to us, hence the term “addictsin.” I have often been asked by addicts in my recovery groups about my own drug habits. My response is that if they looked up the word "straight" in the dictionary, they would see my picture beside it. They wanted somehow to make me an addict in order for me to qualify to treat their addiction. One person
ventured to say that just once he would like to tie me down and force a drug into my vein. At times, even I wished I had a drug habit so that I could better treat drug addicts. I wanted it so badly sometimes that I could almost get a rush from the thought. I began to feel inadequate as a treatment professional, but I also began to think more about my own addictions and recovery process. I realized that, while I was not addicted to a chemical substance, I was just as severely addicted to other more acceptable things, all of which were potentially as lethal to my soul as drugs were to my patients. It occurred to me that we are all addicted. Part of the realization came through writing this section. There were times when I became so excited that I actually got a high. While I am not likely to land in the hospital from overdose, the dynamics of addiction in my own life were there for me to see. We know that we are born to sin, but do we realize that sin is addictive? We think of "sins" as one-time occasions or mistakes or repeated deliberate disobedience. But even we as Christians have become comfortably addicted to the world and everything that the world has to offer. At times we may have to recover from this addiction when we get blown out of our comfort zones, as in the case of divorce. But because of our sin, or addictive natures, we usually fall back into some variation of those false allegiances that got us into trouble in the first place. We are born into addictsin. Please understand that I am not trying to minimize the miraculous effect of the Christian conversion experience. What I am trying to do here is to make a case for Christ as an ongoing and growing relationship that eventually leads to a change of allegiances. I am attempting to put into language an explanation for what the Scriptures have been telling mankind for thousands of years. The Pursuit of Pleasure: The brain is a computer. Once it learns a habit, it never forgets. That habit is etched in the memory bank for life, leaving the individual scarred and struggling to maintain equilibrium forever. An addict can identify with what Paul said in Romans 7:24, "Oh, what a wretched man that I am; who will deliver me from this body of death?"
Relationship addiction, as contrasted with drug and alcohol addiction, is not readily recognizable by the conscious mind. These are the addictions, or addictsins, that keep us from fellowship with God but in harmony with the world. It is too easy to dismiss the drug or alcohol addict as totally removed from our experience. The substance abuse addict, however, is not merely addicted to a chemical; he is addicted to a lifestyle of excitement, material goods and a powerful image. He pursues this passion until he can pursue it no longer. As a result, his emotional life becomes a mess, and he can no longer relate to another human being. He becomes addicted to the pleasures that his drug offers him. The drug does not talk back, offer him advice or nag him. It offers him comfort and relief from the miserable pain that he is experiencing when he is without it. It is the desire to escape pain that drives us all to the pursuit of pleasure. And it is in this pursuit of pleasure that addictions are born. At every age we are driven toward pleasure in order to escape from pain. Children are taught at a very young age to have fun, to feel good, to run away from what is painful and toward what is pleasurable. We strive to look good, smell good, have pretty houses, impressive credentials and jobs. No longer do we eat to live, but we live to eat. Sex has become something that we all must experience in all its variations because it is one of life's pleasures. Not knowing how or why, we are helplessly and hopelessly caught up in the addictions of our lives. No, we are not in prisons. Yes, we still function as rational adults, and we are serving the Lord in places where He really seems to be working. So, how can this be? There is a basic drive that is in all of us to one degree or another. It involves two very powerful dynamics--the drive for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. In my experience in counseling, I find that all of my clients have one thing in common--they want to feel better when they leave than when they arrived. They know that they are experiencing pain, so they come to me looking for something that will help them feel better. Unfortunately, probably 90 percent of what happens in therapy involves helping the client feel better than when he or she came into the office. This pain/pleasure dynamic can be seen in our marriages and in the
increased divorce rate. Going into the marriage, there is an expectation that we can escape discomfort by our behavior. People going into marriages, especially Christian marriages, are unaware that the pain of confrontation is a necessary ingredient to the health of the marriage and to their own growth. Certainly I don't mean physical or sexual abuse, but there is pain that comes naturally when building relationships that really works to the benefit of both parties. That pain comes from just plain, day-to-day hard living. To avoid that pain, we try to devise a simplistic formula, like reading the Bible and praying together. We tend to equate happiness with pleasure, so the next expensive car, fancier home, livelier dinner party, and the most exorbitant vacation seem like roads to happiness and the good life. The way people cling to the belief that a fun-filled, pain-free life equals happiness actually diminishes their chances of ever attaining real happiness. If fun and pleasure are equated with happiness, then pain must be equated with unhappiness. But, in fact, the opposite is true: More times than not, things that lead to happiness involve some pain. Freud was the first to introduce the world to the concept that man pursues pleasure to avoid pain. Disciples of Freud presented variations on the theme, but the dynamic was always the same. (It is also interesting to note that Freud's experiments with cocaine contributed to a major portion of his work.) His basic premise was that man is driven by sexually instinctive urges. In my experience with cocaine addicts, the claim that cocaine increases the sexual drive is very common. Could it be that Freud's whole premise of sexual frustration was the result of cocaine addiction? We'll never really know, but we do know that even without drugs the sexual drive is very powerful. For cocaine addicts, their addictive drive is a thousand times more powerful than the normal sex drive. Can you imagine what it would be like to deny the satisfaction of a drive that is a thousand times more powerful than the sex drive? Hunger is another such basic drive. It is no accident in our addictive society that accessibility to food is just a short walk in any direction. In America, the average person has little knowledge of hunger pain. When we do, we have to take care of it on the spot, without delay. The phrase, "I'm hungry," has become
such an overused expression in our society that its meaning is lost. Pleasures are of two sorts – enjoying this life better by making us realize the extent of God's plans to give us good things, and engaging in "worldly pleasures" – those that are harmful to body and mind and thereby to the Christian and religious life in general. The Bible contains numerous statements concerning the necessity for avoiding worldly pleasures. We obscure or merge these two types of pleasures. On the one hand, the biblical definition is that pleasure is God-given for life's enjoyment and to bring glory to God, which is the chief end of man. On the other hand, pleasure can be harmful to the mind, body and religious life. Sorting out the difference between the two can be very tricky, especially because our society offers more and more pleasure traps that can lead Christians away from fellowship with God. The Bible tells us that God will "...meet all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) We include in those "needs" all that we want, even though we already have far more than we need. This is part of a denial system that keeps us from distinguishing between the pleasures that glorify God, and those that stimulate the senses. The key to defining what constitutes pleasure is the phrase, "the gratification of the senses or the mind." God has given us five senses that we use to experience what the world has to offer. Without these five senses, we would not have knowledge of anything outside ourselves. We see, smell, hear, touch and taste our way through the world. We build experience upon experience, which results in personalities that are a composition of learning and habits. The center for gathering sensory data is located in the cerebral cortex. Neurologists tell us how this sensory data is transmitted to the brain to create pleasure of the mind and body. Opiate receptors release the chemical endorphin, a pain-relieving chemical. Physical or mental exercise stimulates this chemical process to cause a "natural high." Drug addicts report that half their drug habit involves the chase of the drug, not in the drug itself. The pursuit of pleasure is the gratification or satisfaction of the pleasure centers of the brain. It is based on the reward system of pleasure. It feels good to yield to those things that are pleasing to the senses. The pursuit of pleasure and the process of addiction are joined together in
the area of Needs Fulfillment. This is the area where the enjoyment of pleasure becomes a need to be fulfilled. This need can involve a host of outlets, chemical or otherwise. The latest theories on chemical addictions are, for example, that we are predisposed to becoming addicted through the biological inheritance of a gene that is passed on from one generation to another. However, this might also apply to all of us living the pleasure-seeking life. The Needs Chain: Abraham Maslow, a well-known 20th century psychologist, offered a humanistic argument on the motivation of man. He is right on the mark in his explanations of how society has developed pleasure-seeking attitudes that become more sophisticated and harder to detect. He stated that there are five basic needs that human beings are motivated to fulfill and that these needs are common to all people. He arranged those needs on a hierarchical needs system. In order to move on from one hierarchy of needs to another, the individual must fulfill the previous need. Once a need is met and satisfied, there is no longer any motivation to keep fulfilling that particular need. The individual becomes motivated to move on to a higher need in the hierarchy. The first and foremost need is the physiological need. Physiological needs are the basic biological needs such as food, sleep and water. These are basic needs and the first order of priority to fulfill. Once the physiological needs are met, the next higher motivation for needs fulfillment is for safety and security. This includes the motivation to fulfill shelter needs and to feel safe and free from physical danger. It is important to stop and look at these two needs in the hierarchy because Maslow, without knowing it, is pointing to the scriptural premise for trusting God. In Matthew 6:25 we are exonerated by Christ not to "...worry about our lives, what (we) shall eat or drink; or our bodies, what (we) shall wear." Christ knew about Maslow's hierarchy of needs even before Maslow did, and He has told us not to worry about these things because He promises to take care of them. Christ, however, added a caveat, "...but seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). I would suggest that this Scripture is virtually meaningless in our Christian experience today in America. For the most part, we have moved far beyond this
level of needs fulfillment. Why? Because few of us have to think about what we will eat, what we will wear and where we will sleep. So, it's impossible to understand how we can seek the Kingdom of God first in order to receive that which we already enjoy. It is in the movement from the physiological to the security needs fulfillment that society starts to become addicted. Maslow suggests that once our basic biological needs are met, we become motivated to move up the ladder to meet our security needs. Again, Christ said in Matthew 6:31, "...so do not worry, saying, what shall we eat, what shall we drink or what shall we wear. For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Here, Christ is promising us not only physiological needs but also clothing, which implies shelter. He is telling us not to worry about these basic needs because God will supply them. Here again, I would suggest that in this day and age, this piece of Scripture is virtually meaningless. For the most part, our physiological and security needs are met by an exchange of our labor and the income that we achieve through that labor. The Bible takes no further role in urging us on to still higher and greater needs fulfillment. But Maslow says that the urging of man is to meet even greater needs than the physiological or security needs. He suggests that once these first two needs are met, the next step in needs fulfillment is the desire for love and belonging. This is the area of status, acceptance and approval. You might stop me here and ask, "But wait a minute; aren't these basic needs for every human being?" My response would be that this might be true in our society, but in a place like Ethiopia, the priority might well be a need for a little food instead of acceptance, status or approval. Without the basic needs being met, there is no sense of what love and belonging mean. For us in America, love and belonging are very important needs. Witness the tremendous increase in psychological services over the past generation. I doubt that there would be much demand for psychological services in Ethiopia. One might conclude from this explosion of self-awareness in America that this is a product of our addictive society. We have moved as a society from the baser needs into the need for acceptance – an ironic twist for those who have garnered
so much for their own comfort when compared with other societies. Is it any mystery why Christ failed to mention that He would meet our need to be loved and to belong in society? In our addiction to needs fulfillment, we have taken our eyes off Christ and are left feeling alienated, not only in secular society, but in the Kingdom as well. Once our love and belonging needs are met, Maslow states that we graduate to the next higher level of needs motivation – that of personal esteem and success. We need to feel more adequate, secure, competent and confident about ourselves. We want to have the feeling that we are worth something to ourselves and to other people. We begin to win the respect of others, who welcome our opinions and come to us for advice. The Ego begins to receive a real stroking at this level. Like the rat in the cocaine experiment, this feels good to us, and we start to do anything we can think of to experience more and more of that good feeling. One might say that political ambition falls into this category. Addiction sets in, just as surely as does addiction to drugs. How could we possibly return to the lower motivational needs? What would others think of us now if they saw us struggling for primitive, basic physiological needs? The alternative is the one most of us seek – continuing on the path of higher and higher needs fulfillment. By now, as Christians, we have lost all sense of propriety. We start chasing after the high. The final stage of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs is that of being selfactualized. According to Maslow, we have at this stage simply arrived. Our needs for self-fulfillment, understanding and appreciation have been met. We have achieved everything that society says is important, but we have neglected to take God's real intention for us into account. How could God not be for this? It is successful, pleasant, wholesome and certainly a good witness. We have become so addicted to what is pleasant to the senses that we cannot hear God's still, small voice calling us back. We get a sampling of this culture in 2 Timothy, chapter 3. Paul states that, "...there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, lovers of pleasure rather
than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power." I have heard so many drug-and-alcohol dependent people describe their addicted life in very similar terms. I am also ashamed to say that I have seen much of this addiction being actively practiced in our churches today.
God’s Expectations: When you look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it is just the reverse of what Christ would have for us. First of all, people who complain at the low end of the hierarchy of needs – those concerned with the physiological, safety and security needs – would be classified as grumblers. They don't have the energy or the resources to become significantly vocal in their complaints. The people who are in the Love and Belonging stage and Personal Esteem hierarchy are low grumblers. Their immediate needs are being met, so logically they can't complain much, but they still do not feel fulfilled. It is in the last stage of needs motivation--the Self-actualization stage, that the high grumblers emerge. Once they have arrived at that stage, they say to themselves, "Is that all there is to life?" It is at this level that the next high often becomes a substance-abuse high. The pattern of addictive behavior has already been established; the methods of getting high have just become ineffective. Mid-Life Crisis Now, perhaps it is easy to see why we have such a phenomenon as "mid-life crisis" in the male. He has moved from one level of high to the next, never being fulfilled but eventually running out of highs. His family is failing to confront him or make him accountable, and the norms of society, including the church, are encouraging his progression. An addictive relationship seems the logical next step when drug abuse is out of the question. He comes to his senses finally, begins a full repeat of the cycle and finds himself some years later in the same situation. Christ has supplied us with His own version of needs fulfillment. Unlike with Maslow's formula, these needs are harder to achieve because the world to which we are addicted looks down on them as meaningless and weak. While we are busy trying to self-actualize, Christ states that we are to become motivated to
develop characteristics of Kingdom citizens. These characteristics are very difficult to put into practice because our addictive personalities scream out at us to become self-actualized. We learn these characteristics of Kingdom citizens in Matthew 5:1-11. As Christ delivers the Beatitudes to his disciples, He starts by saying that the very bottom level of the Kingdom is humility. Once this is practiced, the next step toward the Kingdom is penitence. The ladder goes higher through meekness, up to spiritual hunger, mercifulness, inward purity, peacemaking and finally sacrificial suffering. The question then becomes, "How many self-actualized people are also practicing sacrificial suffering?" I'll leave that for you to answer. The pull from the pleasures of life has become so strong that we have become addicted and helplessly locked into the conflict between what is pleasurable to us and what is spiritually good for us. Everyone has heard that old story about the man who was beating his donkey with a two-by-four board for no apparent reason. When questioned as to why he used such harsh measures to get the donkey to do what he wanted him to do, the man responded by saying that this was necessary just to get the donkey's attention. As Christians, we can all relate to this concept as we strive to find God's will in our lives. How difficult it is for us to turn our full attention to God when things are going well for us. When we have all that we need, God starts to become more of a concept than a personal being. Our relationship with Him moves from depending on His grace to one in which we coexist with Him. It is at this point that God usually has to allow us to experience pain in order for us to stop and listen to that still small voice. Most often, what distracts us from listening to that voice in the first place is that it interferes with our pursuit of pleasure. Threshold of Pain: From the pursuit of pleasure and Needs Fulfillment, we move to the other dynamic that operates on the personality – the Threshold of Pain. We are talking here about pain that we perceive will not go away. This translates into psychological and emotional pain. When we experience physical pain, we are aware that there is a beginning and in most instances an end. When we experience psychological and emotional pain, however, we are filled with a feeling
of hopelessness and helplessness that this pain might not go away. Unlike the doctor who can simply prescribe treatment to ease the pain and predict recovery over a specified and period of time, the mental health professional cannot offer passive treatment and make such recovery predictions. The client must take an active involvement in the treatment process. Therapy fails when the client expects the mental health professional to make the pain go away in the same manner a medical doctor relieves physical pain. To heal psychological and emotional pain, it takes work and creates more pain, and most people are unwilling to pay the price for this success. For the person who is addicted, the price is greatly magnified, and successful therapy becomes even more difficult. The Church And Pain: It seems to take an involvement by the humanistic psychologist to get a handle on this emotional pain phenomenon. The Christian tends to dismiss theories by secularists, which accounts for the degree to which the church lags behind the rest of society in the understanding of the addictive process and addictive systems, such as marriage and the church itself. The threshold levels of pain are largely psychosocial; that is, people from different cultures have different ranges of tolerance to pain. Fortunately for each of us, God knows our tolerance levels. As we become more addicted to whatever it is that keeps us from experiencing pain, whether it be busyness, frenetic family activity, excessive and compulsive church involvement or our careers, we become more and more immune to treatment until disaster strikes. God allows us to reach our end point, at which time He gets our attention. Then He reminds that we need to make Him the real god of our lives in place of those other activities or things to which we look for our pleasure or diversion from His purpose for us. Especially in relationships, the avoidance of pain becomes the norm for the addictive personality. As we understand the dynamic, it becomes easier and easier to see how marriages, in which each person is convinced he or she has invested all, can go "belly-up." It is my opinion that in an environment where Christian people are prone to believe that with Christ there can be a relatively pain-free life, the opportunity for addictive behavior and thus dysfunctional family life is greater than in the non-
Christian, pragmatic culture. The pain that accompanies the failure of such marriages is also greater because the parties are doubly condemned in view of their tendency to want to make God happy. As Christians, we are subject to addictive symptoms and are thus vulnerable to the very addictsin that we think we are avoiding through our religious behaviors. That's a tragedy that takes a long time and a lot of hard knocks to overcome, but that is the area in which God will chastise His beloved. When we avoid pain through the pursuit of pleasure and will do anything to maintain the balance of the two, God will do His work and bring us to His communion the hard way. Be assured of that. Characteristics of Kingdom Citizens: The contrast between Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Christ's Characteristics of Kingdom Citizens is so great that it presents a clear-cut difference between human personality and spirituality. It is also this contrast that offers a picture of the addictive personality. There is no better biblical reference to this contrast than in 1 Cor. 1:27. Paul, well aware of the pleasures of the world, says, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." The truth of this Scripture can be no more evident than in the mockery of the Beatitudes written by Dr. Thomas Szasz, a well-known psychiatrist and author. He claims that the Sermon on the Mount fosters dependency and disability. "In certain situations, these rules prescribe that when man (subject, son, patient) is healthy, independent, rich and proud, then God (King, Father, Physician) shall be strict with him and punish him. But should man be sick, dependent, poor and humble, then God shall care for him and protect him." Dr. Szasz heaps insult to injury by attempting to build a "logical" corollary to the biblical text on the Beatitudes. "Blessed are the poor in spirit" becomes, "Man should be poor in spirit – i.e. stupid, submissive: Do not be smart, well-informed or assertive!" For the meek, his corollary is that, "Man should be meek – i.e. passive, weak, submissive: Do not be self-reliant!" And finally for the pure in heart, Szasz states that, "Man should be pure in heart – i.e. naïve and unquestioningly loyal.” The ability to call God "stupid" in order to scorn belief in God is the surest way I
know to an addictive lifestyle. Szasz promotes wealth, fame and human strength as laudatory, while Christ offers hope for the weak and poor in spirit. Somehow, we have become addicted to the idea that we must achieve – that we must feel good about ourselves – that we must realize our full potentials. Christ said, however, that this is not so. It is through pain that we will grow. It is through pain that we will develop the characteristics that are so vital to Kingdom living. Certainly, practicing humility, penitence, meekness, spiritual hunger, mercifulness, inward purity, peacemaking and sacrificial suffering is a lot less pleasurable than achieving a sense of belonging, personal esteem, success and self-actualization. Characteristics of the Kingdom citizens are forged in pain, while Maslow's Hierarchy of needs is forged in pleasure and represents something tangible for which to strive. The most competent and talented will succeed in the Needs Hierarchy and will be respected and idolized by those of the same quest. The characteristics of Kingdom citizens, however, are only available to the meek and pure of heart, etc., and are not recognized as the trappings of success by worldly standards. Perhaps the greatest example of this conflict between kingdoms can be seen in Exodus, chapter 31. The nation of Israel, after being led out of captivity from the hands of the Egyptians, abandoned all that God had given them and began to listen to the calling of their human natures by worshipping things that were pleasurable to them. It was not as though God had not revealed Himself to them, for He had many times in the past. Had God not provided a cloud by day and a ball of fire by night to guide their exodus? Had God not given them manna to eat when there was no food available? How much more could He have done for the Nation of Israel to prove that He would meet all their needs? But a conflict developed between man's needs and man's wants. It did not take long for Israel to turn minds away from all their first-hand experiences with God and toward their own pleasures. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary offers a good explanation of what took place at the incident of the Golden Calf. They were unwilling to continue longer without a God to go before them. The faith upon which their desire was founded was a
very perverted one, not only as clinging to what was apparent to the eye, but as corrupted by impatience and unbelief. They imagined themselves forsaken by God whenever His help was not visible and outwardly at hand. (p. 82) The story of addictsin begins with the dawn of mankind. In the beginning, all was well. Our first parents had all they wanted or needed, and they were both in harmony with God. There was no rush to get to work, or anxiety over paying the bills or over getting married. There was no pressure to keep up with the Joneses. There was not even a thought, feeling or worry about their own mortality. Everything they needed was provided by God, who on occasion would walk and talk with them in the Garden of Eden. The scene was close to what we would term the ultimate pleasure experience. If only Adam and Eve knew what we know today, they might have thought twice about what they were going to do. The stage was set for a long journey of mankind. It was a picture of perfection, but the picture had all the ingredients of a disaster that would make our nuclear weapons look like small firecrackers – the Garden, Adam and Eve, the tree, the serpent, the free will, the temptation, the giving in, and finally, the disaster. The Bible says that the serpent was craftier than any of the other animals. So he tempted Eve by raising doubt that God really meant what He had said. Eve believed the lie. She looked at the fruit on the tree and saw that it was good for food and was pleasing to the eye. Thus we have the introduction to the pleasure drug that started a whole history of pleasure drugs that are a reality in society today. She tasted the fruit; it was good, and she gave some to Adam, who also tasted it and found it pleasing to him as well. Suddenly their eyes were opened. When God found them in their hiding place, Adam introduced the first denial system into our psyche. He stated that it was not his fault but "the woman that you put here." How often, especially in the case of a broken relationship, do we blame the other party or God for our sin? Next it was Eve's turn to explain. God turned to her and asked, "What is this that you have done?" Adam must have felt pretty good because he thought that God was buying his denial. Denial is simply a defense mechanism in which the existence of unpleasant realities is disavowed. It is a process by which the conscious mind keeps out of
awareness any aspects of either internal or external reality that, if acknowledged, would produce anxiety. Adam would never have known about this mechanism had he not eaten from the tree. The reality of what he had done had created such anxiety inside him that he could not acknowledge his act of disobedience even to himself. In the meantime, Eve was planning her own strategy. She thought to herself that if Adam could pull this off, then so could she. Yes; she would lay the blame on the serpent. Judgment was swift and merciful to all three who were involved in the act. God did not attempt to argue with them. Sin had been born, and because God is who He is, sin could no longer be in His presence. There was an aspect to their punishment that is often neglected. Yes, God did ban them from His presence, but He banned them from the Garden as well. Now they were to begin life as they had never known it before. Life was to be represented by the pain of toiling in the soil for Adam and in child delivery for Eve. No longer would they know the pleasures of the Garden. The Tree of Life was closed to them. Thus began a continuous journey from that time to this day for the pleasure that might restore to us the peace and contentment that was ours before the Fall. Man's infatuation with pleasure has led us to the point where we have all become addicted in one form or another. Why? Because at that moment of rebellion, the incorruptible became corrupt. Sin had entered into the world, changing the ultimate glorifying experience with God into a degrading sinful experience with Satan. Pleasure had been born, not as pleasure was before the Fall, but with a new meaning, fulfilling and gratifying the senses and motivations of man. God was very clear to both Adam and Eve as to what His agenda would be with mankind. It was very simple: pain. This is just a metaphor for the endless definitions of painful experiences that we have today, especially in modern society. Is it any wonder that we are always looking for that illusive piece of pleasure that seems to be there for us, or that other people seem to have, but so often escapes our reality? Sure, we have periodic moments of experiencing pleasure, but soon the reality of life and pain return. This, I believe, is exactly what God has intended for mankind. This is also why so much of the thrust of our
society is aimed at avoiding pain in the pursuit of pleasure. We want to beat the system, which is at the core of man's rebellion from God. Never before in the history of man has the battleground been so tightly defined, and yet we slumber on in our addiction to the pleasure principle, even as Christians. People come to Christ because the pain of going it alone has become more intolerable than the pursuit of pleasure can relieve. My experience in working with people has been that growth never occurs through the pursuit of pleasure but as a result of pain. This principle is, I believe, Biblical, and is God's agenda for His people. The battle, then, has become the battle between pain and the pursuit of pleasure. The battle is not new but is an ongoing conflict between two kingdoms diametrically opposed. On the one side, we have Satan encouraging us to pay attention to what feels good now; on the other side, we have God with His still, small voice offering us hope only if we face our sin. We are in the middle with our free wills, knowing in our head what God wants for us, but also paying attention to what feels good. It is perhaps for this reason that Kingdom living has been maligned by the humanists, secular as well as Christian, as it contradicts a world void of pain, as we would like it to be. Finally, in Genesis, chapter 6, we have another encounter between man's pursuit of pleasure and God's reaction. We read that man did not learn from the mistakes of Adam and Eve but became involved in the pleasures of the world through the most corrupt means. In verse 6, "... the Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain." An interpretation of this verse is offered in the Wycliffe Bible Commentary: "The depravity was widespread. And it was inward, continual and habitual. Man was utterly corrupt, bad in heart and in his thoughts and in conduct. The whole bent of his thoughts and imaginations was completely out of line with the will of Jehovah. Flesh was on the throne." (p. 12) Sounds like a good description of a lot of addicts I know. Man's actions were beyond being corrupt; they were addictive patterns that had taken us out of control. God had to purge the earth of corruption and start all over again. Where are we in this world today? Where indeed is the church? Are we as Christians so bent on what is rightfully our "piece of the rock" that we are
sacrificing our very lives in the pursuit of pleasure? Are our marriages and our churches merely vehicles for that good feeling, or are they the places where we become broken in order to find communion with God? The answers to those questions will not be found in the pop-Christianity of which we are all so much a part. The answers will be found within the covers of God's Word by broken people who have reached the end of their ability to find their "fix" in the little pleasures of their lives and their institutions. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).
The Joy of Victimhood I recognize that the title to this chapter is a paradox. However, there must be some joy in being a victim, otherwise why would so many people wallow around in that condition for so long? It might have been better to title the chapter, "Ignorance is bliss," but the element of choice is missing in that title. Choice having reached sacred dimensions in our culture, we must pay tribute to at least some modicum of choice in every condition. I am convinced that victimhood is an attitude that keeps us from seeing ourselves as we really are or keeps us from moving forward with our lives. Perhaps it is easier, and thereby more joyful, to stay back in the comfort of what we know rather than to deal with the future and its unknowns. In the previous chapters, we have viewed addiction and how it controls our behaviors until we become totally unaware of its effect. Of all the characteristics of the addictive personality, the one that keeps us from seeing ourselves and others as we are is denial. Psychologists, in recent years, are suggesting that our denial is spreading from individuals to infect our institutions. For the Christian, this means that we have to take a good look at our marriages and our churches and how we are hooked into their addictive patterns. We need to know that our most sacred institutions tend to take on personalities of their own and begin exhibiting characteristics very much like the addict. We are often unknowing contributors to the continued existence of addictive institutions and societies. One of the common ways of deluding ourselves into thinking that our causes are legitimate is to form a club or group of like-minded people. Eventually, these groups take on a life of their own and reflect a ghetto culture. The irrelevancy of the institution becomes obscured by numbers of adherents and longevity. If good people have been involved for a hundred years or so, it must be relevant. Room to Wiggle Around, But Don’t Pull Out!: The addictive nature of the institution flies beneath the radar until we attempt to leave our church or club for any reason other than death or relocation.
It is easier to wiggle around in the organization than it is to pull out. Pulling out as a matter of choice will never be forgiven. To forgive it is to be forced to question the relevancy of the group. You who have been divorced have been presented with an opportunity to question the relevancy of your own group - your marriage. The safety of a bad marriage is easier than life on the outside. The fact that Friday nights after separation and divorce are Hell indicates that "getting out is so very hard to do." It ought to be hard to do. It ought also, however, to offer an opportunity to begin making cautious and wise choices in the future. I recall being so driven by a need to re-create an intimacy I had never really experienced but thought I had, that I would couple with the most unlikely people all too quickly and too superficially. Through a lot of heartbreak, I leaned a few tricks. Among those tricks was if I went out to dinner with someone who spent the time telling me what a louse her ex-husband was, I asked myself, "What kind of woman would marry a louse?" The next question was, "What am I doing here?" The addictive system is so compelling that, once extricated, we want to get right back in. As we explore how this has happened to us, you may see your previous lifestyle, before divorce, flashing before your eyes. A Society Run Amock: We are a society run amok. There is a certain joy in not having to take responsibility for our own actions. That joy is evident in the way we tear around to meet self-imposed schedules that really have little bearing on the overall quality of our lives or on the quality of our relationships. As a matter of fact, this tearing around is usually destructive to both. As we have seen in the previous chapter, the end result of this madness has been an onslaught of psychologists and self-help books. We are in search of a reality that we have been carefully avoiding for most of our lives. We are in pursuit of the American Dream, and it has infected our spiritual lives and our marriages to the degree that we are in mad support of its maintenance and its future. In my first book, No Turning Back: Journal of an All-American Sinner, I described this "God-ordained" American Dream as the biggest bill of goods sold to
a people since the purchase of Manhattan Island. We buy the lie that it is our inalienable right to pursue happiness, and if our mad pursuit does not yield happiness, we change directions. We live in the era of the "rush,"--the artificial high from a never-satisfying, upward spiral of progress. Everything we do is a steppingstone to something bigger. Ingrained in us is the notion that if whatever we are involved with stops growing, it dies. If our marriages stop moving at their frenetic pace, they die. If our churches stop growing, they are dead. The symbol of that growth is most often money. We have to have money to build respectability and credibility. We need money with which to measure our successes and, ironically, our failures. We need money to support our habits. I described this as "a fool's paradise of spiraling consumption in a world regulating itself to the objective of zero population growth." The importance of even the smallest choices is becoming evident. Where we are as a people today is a compilation of bad decisions and wrong turns, each seemingly harmless on its own, but potentially deadly. In the search for answers within our own control, we are leaving a wake of broken lives, drug abuse, mental illness, war and disease. Give it all the window dressing you want, and it comes down to the desire of man to control his own destiny - the definition of original sin. All this has resulted in an attitude that looks for a convenient scapegoat on which to blame our unhealthy habits and our failures. As long as we look outside ourselves to find the reasons for our condition, we can expect the cancer to continue to grow, not only within ourselves but within our institutions as well. It should be apparent, with the growing number of Christian marriages that are in trouble, that our ways of relating to each other are not healthy. In order for our marriages to be sick, the parties themselves must also be sick. Inside the marriage or outside, every party to a bad marriage must accept the responsibility for his or her contribution to its failure. We must do that in order to be able to go forward. I have great respect for the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is the antithesis of quick-fix solutions to complicated problems. Its premise is that I can point to no one but myself for my condition or my circumstances - the "buck stops here."
There are those in Christian circles who suggest that our problems are the result of a general breakdown of morality. If we could only get back to the basic values on which this country was founded, they say, we could solve our problems. To those I would ask, "What is morality?" If morality means an outward show of moral restraint or holy living, I would agree that if we all were able to restrain ourselves, we could probably put together a rather predictable, orderly society. But to suggest such a thing is to suggest that the control of the problem is in our hands or in the hands of government, a clear evidence of the denial of addictive thinking. If, however, morality means a natural reflection of the inner character, then I would challenge the assertion that there has been a breakdown of morality. The lack of morality inherited through the sin disease is merely showing through. The breakdown is in the facade, which is cracking enough to allow the unacceptable behavior to surface. We who have suffered the experience of divorce have all heard the "breakdown of morality" message loud and clear. The future of our marriages is in our hands, the thinking goes. If it is a good marriage, the values of the partners are presumed to be in order. If it is a bad or broken marriage, one or both of the partners is at fault. To accept the blame ourselves is to admit that our values are out of order. So we have concocted, with the unwitting help of Scripture, a series of conditions by which we contort the real story to give us absolution from blame. The church encourages this process, but we know deep down in our hearts that something is wrong. We must deal with the sickness within ourselves before we are able to pass on the benefits of our experiences to those less enlightened, let alone to our partners in marriage. Secular psychologists are beginning to ascribe certain human characteristics to our marriages as reflections of the health of the parties involved. The church would rather not accept that concept because it upsets the notion that we can somehow instantly create a born-again government, business or marriage. This is cover-up of the sin condition that has been redeemed at Calvary. Little Help for the Broken Sinner:
The sin condition, however, is still very active in the heart of the believer, and cover-up is simply denial. "Quick-fix" advocates - our political leaders, psychologists, and even our churches - have been unable through their efforts to change the direction our society is headed. The bottom line is that these social ailments from which God's people are no longer immune, are highly resistant to anything but the cry of the broken sinner. The church has awakened at long last to the fact that there is a growing and alarming problem of divorce among its people. They are less than willing, however, to do anything but treat the symptoms. That's because the church is itself in denial. There is all too much emphasis on "Christian" behavior without regeneration. That simple code of behavior and terminology can be easily adopted without conviction. If we are able to appear holy, we must therefore be holy, without ever experiencing the painful inside changes that would make such behavior spontaneous and natural. Thus, the church not only practices this deception but heaps abuse on those who have been unable to do so themselves. This is the direct result of our unwillingness as Christian brothers and sisters to look at ourselves or others honestly. The great cover-up within ourselves has led to the great cover-up within the church. And America desperately needs the living, breathing, trusting, effective church if it is to be responsive to the Creator. So, here we are, we who have dirtied our linen through the very visible results of divorce. Our standard of reference as to our goodness is the church, and the church practices a code that declares us either victim or perpetrator. Forgiveness by God, and knowing in our hearts that we have been forgiven, is not enough. We still have to run the gauntlet of well-meaning church people who have not yet awakened to the news that they are in the middle of an epidemic. So, it becomes easier for us to self-justify than to look into the bottom of our natures. It's a form of ecclesiastical "I'm OK; You're OK." We're not okay, and we know it deep down inside. Nothing is going to cover up that gnawing feeling that something is amiss. We are going to fight that feeling tooth and nail, and it may be years before we come to the end of ourselves. I wrote a short paper on the theme of "victimhood" a short time ago for the benefit of a friend of mine, who had been involved in a very public divorce and
remarriage within national Christian circles. Who’s the Victim?: I thought I had hit on something worthwhile; my thoughts were that one could not go forward with life until the strands of victimhood were severed. That means that we must be purged of any attempt to lay the blame for our circumstances on anyone but ourselves. Well, my friend came off the wall. I really touched a nerve. He fired back a four-page letter that let me know in no uncertain terms that if you are a victim, you ought to be able to say you're a victim. I thought about that for awhile and had great difficulty with the logic. If we use the dualistic model of either victim or perpetrator, what is left in between? Since both parties to a divorce think they have been victimized, who is right? Neither wants to be a perpetrator and incur the condemnation of friends, family and church, so both attempt to put together a web of rationalizations that make themselves look like victims in the eyes of others. So, there are virtually no perpetrators in a divorce action. That's why I entitled this chapter, "The Joy of Victimhood." All this sin and no one is to blame. Isn't that wonderful? Usually, if the parties are Christians, each goes on to another church, where their victimhood status is affirmed. Well, if in all this sin and despair, there is no perpetrator, then what are we worried about? Divorce is not a problem. All reasonable men and women, and unfortunately children, can see that both parties were victims, so the breakup of the marriage is healthy for all involved. Does this make any sense, particularly in view of the bitter and hateful exchanges that continue long after the marriage has been officially terminated? I submit that the effort to ascribe victim status to either party in a divorce action is sick behavior. If I need to sift through my behavior and declare myself justified, I am purposely avoiding the reality of the Cross. The church presents its exegesis on divorce and vacillates with interpretations to justify its mandate to love and forgive. What about the situation where infidelity and desertion are factors? In cases where infidelity and desertion are clear, there is scriptural license to divorce and to remarry, provided certain procedures are followed. However, there are
any number of interpretations on the definition of "desertion," which provide a large enough hole in the argument for a Mack truck to drive through. Three cheers for legalism! You see what is happening here? We, along with our friends, are creating all kinds of reasons why we should not have to fall on our knees in repentance. We are trying to justify ourselves, while all the time God is trying to bring us to the end of our self-justification so He can do a real work in us. Can we justify ourselves about anything we do or that happens to us? Does it make any sense at all that we are justified in the flesh about anything? That logic isn't even Biblical. If our righteousness is as "filthy rags," why are we contorting ourselves to be without blame? If we are to believe the Scriptures, even our "victimhood" is as filthy rags. Isn't it time we examined our natures to see the reasons for our failures instead of looking to the actions of someone else who has successfully justified himself or herself before others? The joy of our "victimhood" leads us on to the bliss of perpetuating an addictive system and denying our roles in the chaos of our lives. I'll offer a few examples to emphasize my point. I have sat in a Christian Ethics class at my seminary and been alarmed over the simplicity of the thinking, as the major sins are studied and discussed. There is a movement on to invoke the procedures of Matthew, chapter 18, as a discipline method to deal with the visible sins. That scares the heck out of me, as I wonder what is being done about the invisible sins that infect those who feel the need to invoke this procedure. As one who has been forced to deal with his own sin in a shattering and almost violent manner, I find it incomprehensible that anyone would look at adultery as something that could be stopped through a meeting with a couple of elders of the church. But believe me, that is the consensus, and that is the sense that is passed down to evangelical ministerial students everywhere. It is like the old "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" logic that glosses over the problem. This perspective comes spontaneously from people who fail to understand the addictive system and their own contribution to its vitality. I remember a ministerial student postulating the circumstance in which two
Christians just decide one day to "bag" their marriage because they are tired of it. He was struggling with the dilemma of whether or not he should ever perform a marriage for either one of them. He asked, "Would it not perhaps be a just punishment to them if they were never permitted to remarry?" Two questions occurred to me. The first was why anyone in his or her right mind would just wake up one Tuesday morning and decide to go through one of the most destructive emotional pains one can experience. The second was why this guy was interested in the ministry. Certainly, with such a lack of awareness of sin in his own life, it would be questionable that he had received any kind of call. But who am I to questions these things? That would be playing his game. Consider, for example, that a man just gets up one day and decides to commit adultery. Church leaders would go to that husband, confront him with his adultery and tell him to stop. Just like that! If he failed to stop, by the formula of Matthew 18, they would bring two witnesses, and if he still failed to stop, they would bring the matter to the rest of the church and expel him. The wife would then be free to divorce, and she would be free to remarry. Can you believe this? This is actually offered as a proper procedure, and I personally know situations where this procedure has been implemented. We have thus created a victim - the thrown-away woman. There are a number of things wrong with this absurdity. The first is that there is little or no confession among sinners in the church environment. This means that I have no idea of the sin that plagues the lives and hearts of the elders. They refuse to share that with me. Therefore, I question whether they have earned the right to paw around in my sin. The second issue is that the understanding of the dynamics of marriage is woefully inadequate in this scenario. Adultery is a symptom of deep-seated problems that probably began the day after the wedding, or before. It's commonly not an act of rebellion but an act of desperation - a symptom of the desperate act of an addictive personality that is groping for relief from his pain. The "hook" in infidelity is as strong as that of cocaine, and it has to be treated as addiction. Just to tell someone to stop his addiction is ludicrous! Perhaps the church would be better advised to get the funds together to send the sinning husband to a treatment center, away from his temptation. I
don't know the answer, but to treat this symptom (adultery) as a single rebellious act is ridiculous. Supposing he did manage to stop; does that make the marriage okay now? The final problem I have with this approach is that it leaves the wife blameless. I have met many such wives in the past. The clue that I have to their co-dependency is that they say they were "hit with this right out of the blue." They were blindsided, in other words. I have heard them years later tell about how they were really working at the marriage, and the husband just suddenly found somebody else - usually younger or richer. Well, I call that kind of partner a codependent. She was assisting in sustaining an addictive environment in which one of the parties finally went off the deep end. The level of dishonesty that is required to produce that kind of setting is staggering. Feeling resentment and anger inside but making the other partner think everything is wonderful is just one example. It is one lie on top of another until both parties are dying in their dishonesty. And yet, it all looks so good to those elders who enjoyed its appearance all those years. "Pull yourself together, Charley," is the only help they can offer. Tuning Our Backs on the Cross: If you are hanging onto that little bit of self-justification, you are preventing God from completing His work in you. You are denying the constant need for the redeeming power of the Cross in your life. You may be saying to yourself after eight years of divorce, "I have forgiven him, but I'm still angry sometimes when I think about what happened." You have been rejected, it is true, but chances are that you were a participant in a phony relationship, and you need to square that with God. You must do that before you can go on or before you can accept His forgiveness. Some women suffer many years of physical and emotional abuse, and some finally end the suffering by getting a divorce. However, we can't just take the battered woman off the hook; she must be able to understand why she made the choices she made in the first place and why she stayed in the abusive situation as long as she did. She must understand how she may have been in an idolatrous relationship that put her husband or the marriage or appearances above her God. We'd all like to give her absolution, but if she is going to avoid repeating the
same mistake, she has to come to the place of understanding and confessing the addictive sin in her life. Otherwise, where will the church be when history repeats itself? They'll be less ready to grant victim status and probably leave her to her own devices. The Wayward Spouse: Nobody understands the pain and the guilt you feel for being unfaithful to your wife and failing your children. You have a list of reasons why your wife has driven you to this predicament, and you consider yourself a victim of a bad marriage. Your church will never accept your reasons for infidelity, so you are doubly condemned. Your career is nothing but pain; your marriage is nothing but pain; nothing is going right for you. You didn't want to get involved with someone else. It flies in the face of everything you were taught as a kid and what you have stood for as an adult. But here you are, and you think this actually isn't an affair--it is really love for the first time in your life. After all; how ordinary to be engaging in such common behavior as an affair! Each time you meet this "true love," you say to yourself it will be for the last time; you go home a lot more self-assured than you were before your liaison, and you are certain that you have everything under control. Perhaps you are able to get right into your life for a week or two with little or no contact with that other person, but all it takes is a little insecurity or confrontation at home, and back you go. You can't seem to get it under control. You are addicted. You have a drug that makes you feel on top of the world. You know that you are not willfully or intentionally hurting your family. You are, however, hurting your family, and you will pay a heavy price for your addiction. You will pay an even heavier price if you fail to break free of your habit and attend to what is really wrong with you. If you manage to put together a new marriage, it will be a success for awhile, but it won't be long before the drug wears off, and you will find yourself back in the same or a similar situation. Your new church has accepted you and your marriage because of a lack of familiarity with the background. Perhaps you are even a deacon now, giving credence to the lie that invades your soul. You have not hit bottom yet, and it will take more devastating surgery to bring you
there. God awaits, and He forgives, but you have to know your sin before you can confess it. It will not work in the long run for you to blame your former wife for the bad first marriage. You will not be able to play the "victim" in your heart indefinitely; you will have to account for your sin. That may take more pain than the first time. It only stays the judgment for awhile to know that your current marriage is better than your first marriage. That's a cop-out that allows you to justify your sin. Your sin was not infidelity; your sin was idolatry--the sin God hates above all other sin. Is There Joy in Victimhood?: Is there joy in victimhood? For the addictive personality, there is for awhile. But crashing down to earth comes harder and harder as we become more entrenched in our denial. As we run out of "drugs," we are left looking within for the answers. Then comes the real pain, as our props slip away and we are left with the rubble of our lives. That is where God needs us to be if He is to gently restore us to fellowship and trust. The reality that we have avoided so long comes crashing in, and our defenses are used up. We are thrown on the mercy of the court--the redeeming power of Jesus Christ, and it is there that we are reshaped for God's glory and for Kingdom service. Thank God there is room for sinners within His church. Thank God that the pervasive power of brokenness comes through to even the most self-righteous. Thank God that He does not rely on our self-justification to honor Him and that He did not even consider His spotless Son a victim. How can we, steeped in the sin of denial, even for a moment justify our sinful behavior, when the most perfect representative for us gave all that we might be justified?
Love and “Luv” If you are not wondering by now who can escape this addictive relationships trap, you should be. It is a disease that passes from one generation to another and seems to grow by leaps and bounds in societies such as ours, where the basic needs of food and shelter are met. We are witnessing today the frightening growth of behavior patterns that are being passed on to our kids without our even realizing it, and that will affect the way we in this society relate to each other forever. That's a stark reality and one that readily explains why our lives seem increasingly out of control. They are. The rampant drug epidemic and the alarming divorce statistics are testimonies to the results of generations of indifference and allegiance to the wrong goals. Relationship Junkies in the Church: How do we as believers in Christ fit into this picture? I'm going to say something now that will be considered heretical in most evangelical circles, I am certain, but I'm going to say it anyway. I believe that we as Christians may be as vulnerable or more vulnerable to co-dependent relationships than are nonChristians. I am willing to go on the record as saying that there may be a higher percentage of "relationship junkies" among Christians than among non-Christians. I believe this because our upbringing and training within the church has prepared us for these behavior characteristics. Church has become an escape from self-confrontation. It is a path to following Christ without the suffering necessary for change. There are so many moral restraints on conservative Christians that there is little room for being real with themselves and others. The culture is replete with holy huddles and jingoism. Because there is little room for free expression without condemnation, there is little room for healing sinful natures. Conservative Christians live in a fish bowl that focuses more on what you do than on who you are. Dogmatism regarding behavior overwhelms the broken and forces people
into a mold that prevents intimacy. If feelings cannot be expressed and are instead repressed, self-righteousness will be the result, and the sin will stay submerged until it erupts in some ugly form. I suspect there is more emotional abuse going on in conservative Christian homes than most of us would care to believe. The expression of real emotion is quickly shielded by select Bible verses, pompous prayer or condemnation by other Christians. America may be one of the most idolatrous nations on earth. Everything points to the love of money and power. In recent years, the Church has lost sight of its sovereign Lord and is patterning itself after the world it was designed to flee. The kind of idolatry practiced in McChurch is subtle but condemns people to a lifestyle that is fake. Career and relationships are celebrated goals in our society. Those goals, reflected in rich, successful Pastor/CEO's, have been adopted by the church as marks of good stewardship and Christian responsibility. As a result, I believe that Christians are more likely to practice relationship addiction, all in good conscience, than they are other more common addictions like alcohol and drug abuse that would bring reproach. I can hear the hue and cry now. "But Christians have Christ, and as a group they are more moral than non-Christians". Is that really true? I've been around both Christians and non-Christians all my life and cannot say with certainty that that is true. Certainly, they display outwardly more moral characteristics than those for whom morality is relative, and certainly they are somewhat protected through the church community, but does that really mean they are less prone to co-dependent behavior? I think not. Relationship addiction is, simply, an acceptable form of pathology encouraged by shepherding pastors and reinforced by group think. Codependency is a family disease that is inherited from being raised in a dysfunctional environment. The behavior patterns are inbred, and the only way those patterns can come to light is through failure, repentance and recovery. Failure in the evangelical community is discouraged, repentance is reserved for the other guy and recovery is considered to be instantaneous upon conversion. Christians Going Underground: Because of the peer pressure to outwardly exhibit morality that fails to
reflect what is inside, evangelical Christians have gone underground with their codependency. Going underground causes deep denial, and as a result, all potential for considering that co-dependency or addictive behavior patterns are present even among the majority of Christian people is closed off. Christ has simply taken away all such allegiances, and there is no need to understand the mechanics of human behavior as demonstrated through the failures of an occasional Christian here or there. I will readily admit that allegiance to Christ, even on a nominal level, is consistent with one's dependence on the 'higher power' of the 12-step programs, but there is considerable question as to whether or not the traditional American evangelical community even practices or encourages development of that dependency. Our allegiances have been misdirected from the self-denial of the cross to the trappings of success. If we as believers look successful and talk successful, then we must be successful. Our churches would rather not explore the issue beyond that point until something unexpected happens. When someone suddenly exhibits uncharacteristic behavior, the church responds in characteristically crisis-solving fashion, and often, for lack of knowing what else to do, they invoke the discipline of Matthew 18. Almost more than any institution or club I can think of, the church discourages honesty in relationships between its members. You can be an alcoholic or a teetotaler in the Elks Club, but if you are an alcoholic and a member of an evangelical church, you have to keep it under wraps. You can be a wife beater and still be a success at the Rotary Club, but you and your wife are both committed to keeping such heinous behavior a secret from your fellow church members. You can have lustful thoughts and enjoy a laugh or two with the guys (or the girls) at the local country club, but you must not exhibit such deep secrets to any of your brothers and sisters in Christ. As a result, we are producing a Christian society with all kinds of grotesque problems that are suppressed in the very places where there should be healing and forgiveness. I am told that sex abuse, sexual fantasy and emotional abuse are very common among evangelical Christians. None of this bobs to the surface
until something dramatic happens, at which point, most of us would prefer to think that the occurrence was a one-time occurrence and can be swept under the rug with concentrated prayer and Bible study. We are not building discipleship in our evangelical or mainline denominational churches. We are building stewardship and evangelism techniques but are in denial about ongoing sin in the heart of the believer. We are not encouraging brokenness as a path to righteousness but are encouraging the appearance of righteousness as an end in itself. We are imitators of Christ, and very poor ones at that. It is not very difficult to understand, therefore, that when Christian people finally come to the end of their ropes, the church rejects them. The church in effect divorces those whom they deem culpable, because it is easier to nudge them out the door than to deal with a problem that belies the image. We all stand condemned, however, in the light of another's brokenness. No Place to Turn in the Face of Visible Sin?: Where does this leave those of us who have been involuntarily broken? Well, I'd say in a place where Christian people who are in trouble have no place to turn because of the shame and guilt they know will condemn them. Isn't it ironic that we are ashamed of our thoughts and actions within the very institution that was designed to bring healing to the inner person so that our thoughts and actions might change? Real healing does not occur through covering up the symptoms of our sin. Why is it so difficult to admit sin (I mean something more serious than using bad language when we spill hot coffee) when we have supposedly acknowledged and confessed our sin upon acceptance of Christ? Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we are supposed to live sinless lives. Failure to do so condemns our commitment to Christ before other believers. There is that very present sin in all of us that wants to take over our Christian development for God. This discourages trust in God and discourages healing in each other. It is understandable that Jesus suggested that thieves and prostitutes would be first in the Kingdom. Their sin is visible. You who have failed and are no longer able to hold your head up with a successful image within your church community are in a unique position to
minister. Because of your failures, assuming you are facing them squarely, you are able to reach out to other Christians who aren't going to make it as showcase church members. Thus, you have begun a counter movement to the geometric progression of addiction within the Body of Christ. That's one of God's purposes in your experience. There is good news in all this. Secular psychologists and legitimate Christian psychologists are making the point that to be dysfunctional in your relationships is not conscious or intentional. You have inherited your codependency from generations of your family background. Now that you know what the problem is, however, you are responsible for doing something about it. That's where the rub comes. We may succeed in hiding the co-dependent denial of our sin from our fellow church members, but we cannot hide it from God. He will bring to light the denial in the heart of the believer. No Place for Condemnation of Self: There is no reason to feel guilty about these codependent characteristics. There is reason, however, to feel guilty about not doing anything about them once they are realized. It is important to understand that not all Christians have these problems with co-dependency. We all have problems, but the non co-dependent has the capacity to work through his or her problems without the degree of devastation experienced by the co-dependent personality. If you are completely devastated over your divorce or pending divorce to the degree that you can't imagine going on, you are probably a co-dependent (CD) personality. The difference between you and someone who is non co-dependent (NCD) is that the NCD has achieved a balance in his or her life that does not allow the same degree of desperation or devastation. Their (NCD's) relationships with Christ are more in balance, and they have not abandoned those other friendships (like the ones you discarded long ago in giving your all to your mate). A friend asked me recently, "Why is it when people get divorced they are still carrying it around years later?" I don't want to minimize the effects of divorce on anyone, especially for the Christian, but there is in the CD personality a drive to re-create the former circumstances and make them right this time. That's part of the disease, and we cling onto our past for dear life, hoping to analyze it to the
degree that we can do it right the next time. It becomes a pre-occupation with us, and we continue to support the notion that we can do it right the next time rather than accept our dysfunction and do something about that. We substitute the idolatry of self for the idolatry of marriage. We focus on our ability to control our circumstances rather than on getting well, because we think that getting well is getting back that 'well' feeling. Getting well is always a day-by-day, unpredictable path. Ironically, this is the path that Christ would have us follow in our walk with Him. Is it any wonder that we are out of sync with His will for us? “Luv” As Escape from Reality: I can hear the melodious voice of Perry Como crooning the song, "It's impossible" into the psyche of all us love bugs everywhere. It almost sends chills up and down my spine just thinking about it. The words to that song are the best definition I can think of for the word "luv:" "I would sell my very soul and not regret it, for to live without your love is just impossible." We have been bombarded by the notion that love is an emotion beyond our control and that it supersedes all other allegiances. That is the norm for the American way of life. We have been raised on that notion; indeed, we "could have danced all night" on the strength of the feelings that those songs bring to the surface. Let's face it. If love is work and is a healthy mixture of both joy and pain, what kind of song could anyone write about that? And who would buy such a song? It is much more enjoyable to entertain the notion that there will indeed be "someone standing across a crowded room" for us at some magical moment in time. Haven't we come to believe that God has that for us? That special someone will make our lives better - will put a spring in our steps and a song in our hearts. I submit that if you meet that someone across a crowded room, you ought to resist with everything in your power. In all likelihood, it will be another codependent. We can spot each other across crowded rooms. We are amazing people. We have the ability to keep one relationship going and another on hold. We think we are so much more blessed than others, but we fail to take into consideration that we keep attracting the same kind of destructive people.
What is even worse for the divorced is that since the preponderance of us is co-dependent, in all likelihood we will wind up marrying another co-dependent or addictive person. We are relationship junkies or love addicts. I can fall in love at the drop of a hat and mean it every time. "This time it is going to be different." Well, it is always different, but the more different it is, the more it stays the same. It was as a result of a number of disastrous relationships that I finally realized that I kept getting involved with the same kind of people - needy people. Isn't that a Christian virtue? Getting involved with needy people was not only a pattern in my personal life but in my business life as well. I was astonished at how quickly I was willing to make a business partnership with an alcoholic, as though I were able to completely understand and trust such a person. I hate to tell you how many alcoholic personalities I became intimate with on a personal level, every time with all the sincerity that I could muster. All were from dysfunctional families, and all were what I needed to fill out my dance card. God as a Concept Rather than a Partner: The process of becoming involved with another CD (and I consider drug and alcohol abusers also to be CD personalities) requires that we feel incomplete within ourselves or with God. That is a very important point for the Christian in trouble. That sense of incompleteness remains after the "party is over," so to speak. We want that someone special to come along and give us that full feeling again, lifting us to the level where we are on top again. In the process, God takes on a more technical role than a personal one. What has happened is that we have never really learned to relate to anyone in a healthy manner, and we cannot relate to God in a healthy manner either. Thus, without a consuming relationship, we are left with that feeling of incompleteness. I have just defined "luv." We live for it; we hold onto it for dear life; some of us even die for it. We sing about it; we steal for it; we lie to retain it; we hang on even when we are being destroyed by it. After we lose it, we want it back so badly that it seems we can't cope without it. Many of us can't. So, we keep trying over and over again, and eventually we settle into a level of acceptance of failure that never gets to the bottom of the problem. We say, "I guess I'm just not good at love."
Where does the Christian fit in? Well, think about your own perceptions of love and marriage. If you were brought up in a Christian home, perhaps your role models seemed like the perfect parents. Perhaps, however, they were too legalistic or repressive to you. Whatever the case, chances are they did not show you who they really were. They made every attempt to be models of the perfect Christian marriage, while all the time encouraging you to repress your real feelings. You had little or no personal options open to you under that background, and the only thing you knew was that you should find a Christian mate. Sound familiar? "Some enchanted evening across a crowded room" time again, except that you are deeper in denial because you would not admit such a worldly motive to yourself. So, you manipulate God. You say, "God, if he calls me twice this week, I'll know he's the one for me." That's your "fleece," keeping step with Biblical manipulation. Of course, you didn't forget to remind him to call - just for insurance. Do you think anyone outside the church is going to cover up such selfserving manipulation with fleeces and distortions of God's will? By getting God superficially into the loop, we absolve ourselves of the responsibility of making the wrong decisions. In fact, we don't really get God into the loop at all. We know what we want, but we paper over our own wants with a little self-convincing, and we are off and running, to the joy and satisfaction of all parties to the deception. Let's get further into denial and make it our goal to marry and go into fulltime Christian service for the Lord. Wow!! Talk about the sanction of the Almighty! We are suddenly absolved of any involvement in the reality of our lives. God has ordained this marriage and has directed us to serve His Kingdom. For those of us who are a little more realistic, God directs us from one job to another, one career to another, and eventually one mate to another. Sound ridiculous? It's not. This scenario is being played out in every McChurch in America, and very few people are awakening to the lie. It is easier to think of such people as unstable than it is to take responsibility for the background that encouraged that route. That's luv. And we reel from its effects, wringing our hands in horror as we see others wallowing in that kind of life. It's a cling/clung relationship of two half people coming together to make one whole person. We desperately want it back.
I can have thorough head knowledge of co-dependency and still want a CD relationship. I know that when I am in such a relationship, I will feel great - really on top of things - for one of the few times in my life. Who wouldn't want to feel like that? You'd have to fight yourself tooth and nail not to fall into that trap. What's worse about luv is that you can deceive yourself into thinking that you really don't need your significant other (SO). As long as things go along smoothly, with nobody rocking the boat, you think you are in control of your life. As soon as things start coming apart, however, like when your SO wants some space or wants to see other people, watch out. That's when it would be best to orchestrate God's will in the relationship and get married so that you can prevent anyone from taking away your drug. Absolute terror sets in, and you find yourself totally preoccupied with your sense of abandonment, when in fact you probably haven't been abandoned at all. You take on a "vulture" complex that anticipates abandonment before it happens and heads it off "at the pass." Finally it really happens, and, "That's the story of; that's the glory of luv!" The fact is that we "relationship junkies" don't really want love at all; we want luv. Luv is controllable and exciting. Words like "symbiotic relationship" and "synergism" come to mind. Expressions like, "We complete each other's sentences" also are common. Since we are not whole people ourselves, we view relationships with whole people as boring. Letting another person be fully himself or herself is beyond our capacities. We think of them and ourselves as being appendages of each other. Life After Divorce: Now, we are divorced, and the half of us that we never developed is floating out there with or without somebody else. What's it like being a half person? Lousy, and it doesn't get any better with time. Untreated, we just sink into a depressive acceptance of our lots, hoping beyond hope that someone will come out of the woodwork and awaken us to luv again. I can do no more than to help you understand that knowing about this is a long way from being well. As I sit here writing this chapter, a very dear friend is talking with her father for the first time about sexual abuse that she experienced from him while growing up. She has to do this for herself, and it will involve breaking away from her family and perhaps even reporting him to the authorities.
The harsh reality of this case is that her father's alcoholism and sexual abuse and their resultant co-dependency in her life have already infected one marriage, her relationship with her children and her immediate family and one other significant relationship. This is just a beginning. Beyond this are years of breaking old habits and learning to live and relate in a healthy manner. It's tough work, but she has decided that she would rather take the chance on learning to love than living in luv. Your circumstances may not be as clear. But I can tell you with conviction that if there was alcoholism even several generations back in your ancestry, chances are the descendents (and you) have exhibited co-dependent behaviors in your relationships. Repressive fundamentalist religious upbringing can deprive you of your needs so greatly that it actually can set the stage for CD behavior. Without help and a willingness to suffer the pain of getting on track, you are condemned to a life of being less than fulfilled in your relating to other people. You will go out of this life convinced that you were just unlucky in love, when if fact, you may have been very good at luv. A fellow I talked with recently related to me a very stormy relationship he had with a lady one time, during which he moved to another town within the state. He rented a beeper for the purpose of allowing the lady to beep him from time to time while at his work. It was like the rat in the cocaine experiment. When there was no beep, he became paranoid. Finally, he came to his senses and disposed of the beeper and the lady, immediately entering into another relationship. When that relationship ended on a violent note, he finally went for counseling. Five years later, he is still struggling with the ability to relate and his tendency to pick women who are needy. Let me add that this is an evangelical Christian who was brought up in a Christian home and takes his faith more seriously than most. Complex? You bet it is. It's too complex a business for people who are looking for easy answers or a Bible verse to solve it all. The hope that is offered through counseling, the 12-step programs, and repentance and trust in God is a long, tedious and painful process. But it is the same process to which all of Christ's people are called. We would hope that those in our churches who are dealing with the sin among them would themselves have experienced that painful process of healing. If not, where can we find the understanding or compassion so
necessary for reconciliation? People get hurt by the condemnation, and the stage remains set for another generation of people who will need help. Where then will the church be? (To Be Completed)
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This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?