So do I write spiritual platitudes today or real life story delineating the purpose of pain? It would be so much easier and safer to stick with platitudes—some vague spiritual truth far removed from the trenches where I find myself fighting for life with Christ this day.
I will choose to speak of the trench and commit human opinion to God, for this is exactly where God wants me. Being real in the mess of life—in the pain of the valleys we encounter—that’s where I have been called to speak so often, it seems.
But I do not speak as one who knows all or who has overcome all, reaching some spiritual height unrecognizable to most of us progressing pilgrims. I have prayed and am compelled to write real—right now—right here—in this quiet, often unnoticed corner of my world, hoping some other soul might find solace and encouragement. So here we go . . .
Background . . .
He was found out yesterday, our son. I have spoken before of his addictions and, this time, he has slipped deeper than ever before. He is not addicted to drugs or alcohol. He is addicted to massive amounts of sugar, caffeine, video gaming, unlimited spending, and—the worst—lying as a way of life—creating his own false reality, seemingly unaware or not caring about the relational consequences of having no credibility or trust with others. Some mothers tell me to count my blessings–that he’s a normal twenty year old. Though they are well-meaning, we know better. Two professionals have recommended residential treatment—one last year and one today. My heart sank. Their opinions echo my own as a doctor of clinical psychology but, as a mother, this is not the recommendation I wanted to hear. Not relying on human professional opinion alone—or any human opinion, for that matter—we are praying for wisdom and guidance.
So here’s what happened . . .
Our twenty year old son moved into his own apartment two weeks ago Sunday. We thought he was ready. With my husband’s and my help, Zach secured his first job through an employment agency last March and was hired by the company two months after. He had just completed his ninety day probationary period successfully and had been given full benefits. We were all joyful after praying for years that God would help our son find employment, being that he is a young man with disabilities due to frontal lobe brain damage caused by exposure to alcohol in utero which affects his ability to plan, organize, follow-through, concentrate, and control impulses. It may even be the reason why he lies. In his case, his addictions have not progressed (yet) to alcohol and drugs. Instead, he is using massive amounts of sugar and caffeine to stay buzzed and uncontrolled video game purchasing/playing to avoid young adult life.
When addiction to anything begins destroying relationships and ability to function normally, the addiction has the mind, body, and soul in a vice grip as if the person were shackled with invisible chains. They cannot break free on their own. They need something and someone outside themselves to release them—to lead them to freedom—to provide the structure they cannot provide themselves.
Yesterday, the fire department where he volunteers called me early. My stomach turned. They were concerned because they hadn’t seen or heard from Zach in over two weeks. He had not returned their several phone calls and texts. The fireman asked me if Zach was alright. He also told me he had received several messages from one of Zach’s co-workers saying they hadn’t seen Zach in over a week.
Turns out, Zach never went back to work since moving into his apartment two weeks ago. He never called his employer. For two weeks now, he has been completely in the grip of his addictions and has been lying straight to our faces about his job—saying he was going every day. He told us details—all fabricated. He also lied about showing up to fire department functions like a controlled burn a week ago Saturday.
The lying hurts more than anything. How can we work with someone who lies?
In our intense emotional pain, all I knew to do was pray—for peace—for wisdom—for mercy—for grace—for God’s will, whatever it turns out to be. Todd and I will accept, knowing God is sovereign and unchanging and despite disappointing and sometimes heartbreaking circumstances, we do know one truth . . .
God’s love for us and covenant with us to save and sanctify us who have faith in Christ alone—in His atoning sacrifice—this truth grounds us when storm winds threaten to shipwreck and drown us.
We moved him back home yesterday. We think he has finally realized his high need for structure and accountability to help him manage his addictive personality. Todd drove him to work today and this twenty-year-old son of ours walked in, asked to speak with his manager privately, cried, confessed, and asked for mercy. His boss turned out to be a man of compassion and grace. He wrote an email to Human Resources on behalf of Zach, asking that he be rehired.
Zach will meet with Human Resources shortly and humble himself again, confess, ask for forgiveness and mercy, and present his plan for accountability to manage his addictions with the help of his parents and professional treatment. We have no idea whether he will be rehired. But that’s not the point, really.
The point is the practice of humbling our broken selves, confessing our wrongdoing, communicating our awareness of how we have pained others with our actions, asking for forgiveness, and accepting the outcome, even when it’s not to our liking. Having done these things, we can rest in knowing we have pleased our God who will continue to care for us, providing what we need to keep growing in grace and truth and love.
Now It’s easy to point the finger—to see the speck in another’s eye—when we encounter such gross moral violations in others. But I have been challenged in the past day to look for the plank in my own eye—to realize that I too am a sinner saved by grace who must humble myself daily, confess my wrongdoing as shown to me by God’s Spirit, acknowledge the pain I have caused others and God when I have truly sinned against them, ask forgiveness, and accept what comes, knowing God still loves me always and will never reject me.
I also got to thinking about addictions—how we’re all addicts and that’s our core human problem, the starting point where we all go wrong and follow our individual paths to destruction. We are addicted to Self, plain and simple. We want to rule our lives. We want what we want when we want it. And addictions are nothing more than idols we worship—those things or attitudes or possessions that we want more than intimate relationship with our personal God. He is to be nothing less than LORD of our lives, not just a benevolent reality we think we can manipulate to gratify our own lusts.
So what are our modern day idols? We must ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal them. He will. That’s His job. And we must pray for help to dethrone ourselves and smash our idols—every over-indulgence we want more than God because, though most things in and of themselves are not bad, anything that becomes an over-indulgence is truly an idol. God Almighty is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He does not and will not share His throne with anyone or anything.
Achievement? Career? Being right? Appearances? Approval of others? Good kids? Successful kids? Success—period? Money? Possessions? Food? Substances? All distilled, the idol is Self—Pride—or the flip side of the coin, Shame.
So this day, I’m asking God to search my own heart and know my innermost thoughts and cleanse me from all that keeps Him out of first place in my heart, helping rid me of my idols. Oh, I confess I have far to go. It’s hard to put your child on the altar and let God have His way. Abraham and Sarah knew the anguish. And all I can do this day is thank God for His radical, amazing grace and His trustworthy promise to complete the good work He has begun in me—and our son. We know not where we’ll be on our journey six months from now except for one thing—we WILL be in the center of God’s will—and that’s all we need to know.
I am trusting God for our son, this day—each day—and I will NEVER give up interceding for him in prayer.
And I need prayer too, I do. I need courage to allow God to smash my idol of self-sufficiency, thinking Todd and I alone can help our son. We need God to provide gifted others. We are waiting on Him.
You? What stands in your way, this day, of giving God complete reign of your life? Pride or peace? That’s always the choice.