Washed by the Water of the Word

Water

As we prepared to start our meetings, one of the men sat and worked through a notebook of material. He took different documents out and spent time looking at them intently, kind of moving his lips to indicate that he was reading aloud, albeit very softly. He was studying.

This was a group of men in a place most people will never land. These men had struggled with addiction and had landed at this community center/half-way house. We were meeting to share life through the Word as part of the walk towards freedom from the things that had haunted them.

This man, the one studying, had been homeless in Dallas with a serious addiction problem. On his way to get drugs, he heard God. The whisper inside of himself said, “you have a choice right now.” It caught his attention and instead of keeping his appointment with another high, he diverted to meet a leader from a local ministry that serves that part of the community. The pastor he met with bought him a bus ticket to send him to this place the same day.

As the man shared, he told us that what he was studying was from one of the two community college classes he was taking. He is registered and attending and moving towards an associate degree. He mentioned that, in his 50’s, his academic skills and memory weren’t what they once were so he had to study extra hard to keep up with the “kids.”

More than anything, he talked of how these classes made him feel. He said he was alive. He wakes up energized, confident, excited and moving forward. He said that he has attempted recovery before but this was a major difference maker. These classes provided him something to focus on to move forward and feel good about himself. He woke up every day with a destination.

We require a purpose we are passionate about to live the way we are intended. When we lack that purpose, our focus inward all too often leaves us dissatisfied and increasingly empty. Our purpose gives us something to pour into which allows for us to be filled again. Without that flow, we grow stagnant and nasty. The flow refreshes our soul.

It all started with a word . . . “you have a choice right now.”

Seeing

Have you ever felt “different?” Have you ever felt “weird?” Was there ever a time when one of these things was seemingly not like the others and that thing was you? Chances are there have been those times and they aren’t pleasant memories.

One of the most powerful Truths I have seen play out among folks that are struggling is that there is healing in the realization that they aren’t more screwed up than anyone else. There is healing in the revelation that we are “normal” in our dysfunction. I’ve seen it distinctly in many different settings.

I’ve seen it in the eyes of a teenager locked up for their rebellion when told that the circumstances they were living in were a set up from the start. They were failed by their parents and their reaction, while wrong, was logical given the fact that their dad was in prison (or whatever), their mom was an addict (or whatever), etc. Hope comes in as they realize they aren’t losers, freaks or weird.

I’ve seen in the face of the accused. When facing charges for possession for the 3rd or 4th time but finally connecting that the reason they use marijuana is because of the stress and pain of their life. Then when realizing that the stress and the pain is legitimate and the desire to numb it is logical. Then to realize that the Comforter replaces the escape of the weed which was a counterfeit of the Truth.

I’ve seen it in the tears of the recovering addict, ex-con who feels like something is wrong with him because he’s done wrong things but then realizes that everybody else has, too. With the realization Salvation is just as available to them as the college educated businessman. The emotional release of a man-made right by revelation of Forgiveness is an incredible sight.

I’ve seen it in the broken cries and resulting Joy of church folks and pastors who get away and experience what they have been saying and trying to believe but never really knew. They finally connect the striving to follow the rules to the guilt and shame over the rules they seem to always break and realize the lie they were believing. They receive Grace and know Love intimately for the first time and know that they are accepted.

I’ve seen it in the mirror.

Beauty from Ashes

A friend of mine who works with people in the judicial process was telling a story of a young lady he encountered recently.  She was broken and accused, frustrated with the consequences of a life out of control.  Her destructive behavior had burned up the hope and promise of her youth with ashes replacing her joy.  As he spoke to her, she trusted him and opened up regarding the “why” of where she was.

She told him, “I’m intelligent and have no problem getting a good job or making good decisions.”  She was setting the stage as she explained that there was hope in her ability.  She was not without gifts or skills to accomplish the things that were necessary for her destiny. She did not lack confidence in her ability.

She went on to say, “I just want to be seen as beautiful.”  That was it.  That what was holding her back.  She didn’t know the Beauty which was within her.  She desired for the Beauty to emerge and be her identity but the lies of failure and rejection had buried her Beauty under insecurity and doubt.

Her father had never been involved in her life and had never affirmed her.  He didn’t tell her that she was beautiful and worthy of protection.  He didn’t show her that she was a princess worth rescuing. When her father failed her, she failed to hear her Father tell her the very thing that she longed to hear the most.  “You are a beautiful princess worthy of sacrifice to pursue and rescue.  Your beauty is captivating.”

John Eldredge has written books on the importance of the affirmation of a father for both daughters and sons and makes this point exactly.  He points out the transformative process of bridging the children to the Father through the affirmation of our worth.

My friend served this young lady well as he met her in her sorrow.  He comforted her in her sadness and affirmed her radiance, speaking Truth of her Beauty emerging from the ashes she perceived. That is the Power we have the opportunity to walk in.  We can speak Life which literally transforms Beauty from ashes and turns the destruction of lies into the Hope of Truth.  The true identity of the princess is called out by affirmation of her Beauty and by the evidence of the pursuit of her rescue.

From Childhood to Maturity

Often times I have clients who have a history of documented legal trouble.  While their record speaks of their failures, that doesn’t mean the they have no effort towards success.  The tension between their failures and successes lead them to great frustration, sometimes to the point of tears.  They really are trying, at least at some level.  For whatever reason, they have been unable to turn the corner and walk out the new life they desire.

When someone is in jail, they are often humbled and open to input.  The same person that may be rude and arrogant when they are free is infinitely more open to an investment in their lives when that freedom is taken away.  When they have a record of ongoing trouble and are at this place of humility, I often try to take the opportunity to invest with words.

Recently, there was a man like that who was locked up after years of failures.  He was trying, kept a job and took care of his young child.  There was some substance abuse which seemed to be a common denominator in his failures.  At first, I thought he was in his twenties, but looked up his date of birth and he was well into his thirties.  He had not turned the corner from childhood to maturity.

During a conversation, the best encouragement that I could give him was that “it is time.”  He knew exactly what I meant.  “It is time to stop.  When I was a child, I acted like a child, but when I became a man then I put my childish ways behind me.”  I share that Truth relatively often with people in these types of patterns of destructive behavior.  It almost always seems to resonate with them.

There are plenty of older people running around in the same mindset that they had when they were children.  If there is substance abuse involved, their emotional maturity stalls at the point in which they began use of their drug (or alcohol) of choice.  So if they started self-medicating at the age of 14 with alcohol, marijuana or whatever else, then that very well could have the emotional maturity of a 14-year-old twenty or thirty years later.

It’s a new Life we all desire.  We just can’t do it on our own and we can’t try real hard to get that Life that calls to our souls. We move into maturity by laying our self down to allow Another to rise up.  Or not; it’s our choice.  Accepting the invitation of Life makes a way for maturity to move us beyond our childish ways.  The choice is a decision to step into our destiny within the context of our purpose. Our purpose requires us to put our childish ways behind us.

Overflow

Had a lady come into the courtroom late the other day . . . so late that she wasn’t too far from being arrested.  She was so worried about being late and had rushed so frantically into the courthouse that she had lost her breath to the point that it appeared to be borderline emergency.  She didn’t get arrested and we walked outside the courtroom and talked of Truth regarding Peace and allowed Peace to permeate her circumstances which had seemed so overwhelming just moments before.

Today there was a different lady stressed out about her relatively minor case to a similar place of physical manifestation.  Her body was rebelling against her emotions, which had gone into overdrive because of the imaginations of her mind.  Again, we stopped for just a minute to acknowledge the need for Peace and allowed the contentment of the moment to have it’s rightful place ahead of the panic of the possible future.  Her situation worked out fine and she left much more rested and acknowledging a need for consistency.

We’re going to have trouble in life.  We just are.  Then there will be other stuff tomorrow . . . and the next day.  But most of it, if we’re being honest, isn’t as bad as we think it’s about to be.  Most of the stress and anxiety that we operate from is premature.  Most often, we are borrowing trouble from tomorrow when tomorrow promises its own challenges.  Then today is overloaded with today’s stuff as well as tomorrow’s.

Each of the ladies that I mentioned had lives that apparently were in the difficult cycle of borrowing trouble.  When any of us get there, the small things can and will set us off.  The cup is full and one more drop creates an overflow of anger, addiction, physical symptoms, escape or some other effort to cope and control. 

The alternative is to create and cultivate healthy ways to pour out the excess; getting rid of the disappointments, imaginations, hurts and other junk that we pick up and carry.  We find Truth and position ourselves on it with a determination not to take a single step to the left or to the right from the Righteous path.  We depend entirely not on ourselves, but the comfort of the consistency of an unwavering Counselor in Truth.  Anything that contrasts with the Peace of the Truth is expelled and we develop a community around ourselves that supports these things.

No Rabbit in the Hat

The father of a young man who I represented the other day was upset with me because his son’s court hearing didn’t go as well as he would have liked.  I usually have a pretty good idea when I missed on something and could do better and am often a little harsh with myself in my self-assessment.  This wasn’t one of those times.  The young man had some significant issues and while I believe I was an effective advocate, there was no rabbit to pull out of the hat.

The father’s frustration subsided and we talked it through and I’m not so sure that his reaction was anything less than normal.  We want to take care of our children, we want to protect them.  We want them to succeed and avoid the pain of failure.  When they experience the things that are contrary to those desires, the frustration often spills out and some of it can be more about us than them.

A good friend of mine has four children which are raised an out of the house.  I complimented him one time on how great his kids are; how they reflect a great job of parenting by him and his wife.  He said, “it’s because I don’t  care.”  Now, I know him to be very wise and a loving father so I waited and he went on to explain.  “Of course I love them and want the best for them, but I don’t own it when they mess it up.  It’s their deal, not mine.  That frees up the relationship from unnecessary pressures and allows me to walk with them through their mistakes.”

That’s really a very insightful statement.  Keeping our identity separate from our the behavior of our children and allowing them to experience the trials of life to grow in their own wisdom.  I think he’s onto something.  A common ground of family dysfunction where there is addiction and/or drug use often includes an unnatural priority of the comfort and well-being of the child.  The consequences of the child’s decisions are actually a benefit to the child, not a detriment.

Not an easy proposition for most of us and not always easy to discern the fine line between parental oversight which will include legitimate protection vs. a “little prince” syndrome.  There is likely no way to pull it off perfectly and little hope of getting close if we’re not prepared for the leadership which is required through a firm understanding of our own identity.  That identity without Foundation won’t be likely and that Foundation allows for progression through life leading to the point of a posture to lead.