Man walking in surreal forest with fog trough trees

 

“To realize truth our whole being has to be brought into accord with actuality, with things as they are, which requires that in communications with others we respect things as they are by speaking the truth. Truthful speech establishes a correspondence between our own inner being and the real nature of phenomena, allowing wisdom to rise up and fathom their real nature. Thus, much more than an ethical principle, devotion to truthful speech is a matter of taking our stand on reality rather than illusion, on the truth grasped by wisdom rather than the fantasies woven by desire.”

 

– Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering, pp. 49-50.

 

This post is about spirituality. There are thousands of other posts about spirituality. What makes this one different? I don’t know: education, age, experience. It is written with addictive behavior in mind, in particular compulsive sexual behavior. It’s from a Christian perspective, although it will journey into psychoanalysis and Eastern beliefs before returning again. It’s also written from the perspective of need.

 

I guess that’s the biggest difference between this post and many other posts, books, or sermons on spirituality: it’s written from the perspective of need. Talking about God in the abstract can be fun and fascinating, but talking about God because you have to is another thing.

 

I’ll begin with a story…

 

Micah

Micah is the son of immigrants. He grew up in Los Angeles. His parents, particularly his father, were set in the ways of their homeland: respect for parents whether they deserved that respect or not. If you didn’t respect them, whatever that meant, you would suffer corporal punishment.

 

Despite their faults, Micah’s parents meant well. They came to America with little and wanted for their children that which they did not have. They were Christians. Observant. Bible-based.

 

Micah told me the story of a time when he was eight-years old and his family was on a trip with another family. While his family was tending to car trouble, Micah went into a Kentucky Fried Chicken with the other family. “What would you like?” asked the father. Never having stepped foot into a KFC before, Micah went for the 16-piece bucket of crispy. Go big or go home. When Micah’s father found out about it he was not pleased, threw the chicken out, and spent the afternoon chastising his son for imposing on others.

 

Years of beatings taught Micah the lesson to appear diligent, ordered, and competent even when he didn’t feel that way inside. He was a top-notch student bred in the ways of a first-generation American living out the dreams of his parents, taught to perform not to be. He was a musician and played in his church. He had an extensive community of friends. He also spent hours each day compulsively viewing and masturbating to pornography.

 

Micah did well and achieved throughout college and into graduate school, becoming a much sought-after corporate accountant. I may not need to tell you the rest of the story. Despite getting married, continuing to be a significant member of his church community, and becoming a father, his days would evaporate into porn use.

 

It wasn’t until his wife became more aware of Micah’s secret sexual behavior that Micah felt compelled to pursue help. Even then Micah didn’t act on it. A romantic and expensive trip to Europe ruined by Micah’s porn use more than suggested to Micah that he had a problem: he had stayed up all night using porn the night before departing and in his exhaustion caught a miserable cold, which his pregnant wife subsequently caught. Apparently hotel rooms in Lisbon aren’t much different from hotel rooms in the States.

 

My Job

Through his church Micah had heard about the groups I lead in Hollywood on Tuesday nights. He showed up one Tuesday night, and then another and another. He started seeing me as a client and now attends Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings (SAA), has an SAA sponsor, and is actively working the 12-steps. He’s been pursuing recovery from porn use, in fits and starts, for the past three years.

 

What I help Micah with is the same as what I help all of my clients with: finding that spot in his life where his perceived control over given circumstances ends and his desire for control begins. It is here where his problems begin, and, if he can learn to manage it better, stop. This very crucial spot, which few are conscious of, shifts around depending on the circumstances of a given day, week, month, year, or life.

 

Micah’s story is just one of many. The man who landed his dream job but in the uncertainty of a new and challenging position visits massage parlors to “unwind.” The woman who is so afraid of being alone that she lies to cover her husband’s alcohol abuse and infidelity. The Christian, so fearful of cosmic disorder, defends her worldview by hating and persecuting certain subgroups.

 

All of these people, at varying and repeated moments in their lives, came right up to the edge of what they felt they could control and unconsciously retreated into one form of fantasy or another to ease their anxiety or created so much havoc that moving into that which they felt they couldn’t control became impossible. Fear is about control. Humans don’t like not having control; it’s that feeling of floating down a raging river on an inner tube headed for a waterfall.

 

The devil we know, so it seems, is better than the devil we don’t, that is, until we discover that the devil we don’t know isn’t the devil at all but maybe even something to trust.

 

I have already written posts about recognizing that spot inside all of us where our control ends and our need for control begins. As the African proverb states, “Don’t look where you fell, but where you slipped.” You can find that in “Change Part I,” “Reflections on Perfection,” “The Crucible of Vulnerability,” and “Fear.” While I’m going to summarize some of that again here, what this post focuses on is not only learning to trust the Unknown once we come up against it, but most importantly of all to see the Unknown as a Loving Presence inviting us toward our true purpose.

 

This is a pretty heady topic and one that won’t lend itself well to an oblique discussion. For clarity’s sake, here’s where we will be going: a discussion of reality, spiritual trust in Reality (with a capital “r”), belief in God, Christians and Reality, sanctification, and the concept of God’s invitations. I hope you make it to the end.

 

Reality

I’m going to make a bold statement: for anyone wanting to recover from any emotional challenge, and certainly from addictive behavior, it is the pursuit of reality that is the solution.

 

I’m going to write that again: for anyone wanting to recover from any emotional challenge, and certainly from addictive behavior, it is the pursuit of reality that is the solution.

 

Humans are meaning makers. Our brains work very hard to make sense out of what would otherwise be a constant bombardment of random events. If we don’t organize what we experience into a coherent narrative, we become lost (see “Honor Your Conflict”). After all, what is a crisis but a moment in one’s life when an experience doesn’t match up with what he or she perceives his or her life narrative to be – poor health, divorce, the death of a parent?

 

On the whole, our sense of “reality” is inherited. From birth on we develop a sense of what life is and what life means based on what our immediate caregivers demonstrated to us. “Reality” is that we are loved or not loved, nurtured or neglected, fed or starved, coddled or abused. To have this reality challenged later in life is to challenge our very sense of being. “You mean I’m not that! If I’m not that, then who am I?”

 

Whether we can recognize it or not, we all go through life experiencing the unconscious tug-of-war between our inherited sense of “reality” – who we were taught we are in the world – and circumstances in life that either disprove that reality or our desire to live a different reality from the one we inherited.

 

For example, Micah was expected to be a very diligent, ordered, and financially successful professional. Not only did he experience anxiety when life experiences contradicted who he felt he was supposed to be – like making mistakes on an accounting assignment – but also when his internal desires for a different reality welled up in him – secretly, Micah wanted to be a singer-songwriter.

 

Remember that spot in my clients’ lives that I help them locate, that spot where their perceived control over given circumstances ends and their desire for control begins? What that spot really is is a moment or moments when certain circumstances don’t match up with the person they believe they are supposed to be. When this occurs they experience fear because if they aren’t the person they are supposed to be then they run the risk of being cut off from the very people who taught them who they are supposed to be in the first place. To their unconscious this “means” disconnection, isolation, and loneliness.

 

Of course it doesn’t mean this. It could mean a number of things, but to the human brain, so intent on maintaining safety through connection, not being who you are supposed to be broadcasts to the nervous system that “things aren’t right” and “you’d better get back in line.” That anxiety you feel when you “do something wrong” is your fight-or-flight system telling you to conform or else run the risk of getting left behind. It’s in this state of anxiety that many people turn to drugs, alcohol, or sex as all three of these options either mask anxiety or stimulate the same portion of the brain that registers love and connection. The problem is, all three of these options are temporary, and illusion. Not to mention they also compound anxiety as, for many men and women, they were not supposed to have relied on these substances in the first place.

 

Hanging Lamps

Spiritual Trust in Reality

Sigmund Freud’s great “contribution” to human understanding was his acknowledgement and explication of the concept of projection. Projection is when we make assumptions about current events or people’s behavior based not only on past experiences with events and people but also based on our fantasies, hopes, and desires.

 

For instance, Micah frequently responded to his wife returning home from work in the same way he responded to his father returning home from work – a rise in blood pressure, quickly turning away from whatever he was doing (like keyboard playing), and a frantic scurrying to appear as if he were in the midst of doing something more productive, like work. Now, does Micah’s wife really care that he is playing keyboard instead of doing something “more productive”? Furthermore, in what ways does Micah behave toward his wife so as to elicit responses from her that are similar to his father’s?

 

Crazy dynamic. Why would we do such things? Well, we unconsciously project past experiences with events and people onto the here-and-now because, as we just discussed, we only have the reference points of the reality which we inherited and this projection provides us with the illusion of familiarity and order, which in turn provides us with a sense of psychological safety and connection.

 

Because of this dynamic, recovery from emotional challenges is accomplished through the pursuit of reality because it is only in reality that we can see things for what they are, and thus respond to them for what they are, instead of recreating dynamics and relationships from the past, often maladaptive dynamics and relationships!

 

From the psychoanalytical point of view, when we work to experience things for what they are not what we need them to be, when we remain present in reality instead of disappearing into illusion (projection is illusion, after all) or spinning off into addiction, change happens. It happens because by sitting in the tension of reality we eventually make a choice: either we hang onto the anxiety caused by feeling as if we need to be someone whom we’re not or just let go of both the anxiety and the perceived expectations regardless of how relationships get reconfigured. In this way, Reality is the Great Teacher. It’s how we discover who we really are and who we can be.

 

I put the word contribution in quotes when I refer to Sigmund Freud and his naming and explication of the word projection because these conceptualizations of human experience have been around for thousands and thousands of years. The spiritual process in Buddhism is similar to the “spiritual” process in psychoanalysis: to learn to accept reality on reality’s terms because anything short of that is an illusion that compromises the now. If there is an observable Truth about existence it is that we rarely see things for what they are and in doing so we cause ourselves and others undo suffering.

 

The big question then becomes, if we know the cause of human suffering, how does one go about alleviating it? The answer to that question is truth, an unabashed, unapologetic pursuit of truth at all costs.

 

It is very difficult for us to realize how often we as humans avoid the truth. Sometimes it may be as minor as blaming a late arrival on traffic when truthfully you slept in. Sometimes it may be as big as having had an affair and not disclosing it. If you constantly pursue truthful speech it forces your projections to be challenged and above all else it forces you to take stock of the ways in which you will present a false self in order to please people in your environment to keep them in your life.

 

It takes a lot of trust to be truthful. It takes a lot of trust to believe that if we are truthful, if we are ourselves, we can still remain in relationship with others. This is the tipping point of Real Change – being able to journey off into the unknown of truth and trust that you will make it to where you are intended to be, that you don’t have to lie to yourself or others in order to be safe, you can trust that as things fall apart they are actually falling together as they are meant to be.

 

This sounds a lot like faith, and it is. For most psychoanalysts and Buddhists it is an atheistic faith. It is the faith that things will be as they will be, whatever that is.

 

So why believe in God?

 

Belief in God

You don’t have to believe in God, of course. Some psychoanalysts like Freud would suggest that belief in God is, in itself, illusion. And many Buddhists are not too concerned about what is beyond now as all one needs to know about Truth is in our immediate environment. Existentialists and some Atheists would suggest that not only is belief in God an illusion but also that it is destructive and has been throughout history. If it weren’t for people believing in their own definitions of the Unknown then we wouldn’t have had centuries upon centuries of wars and suffering.

 

Buy many of us do believe in God. Why? I find there are two reasons. The first reason ties in with everything we have discussed so far: belief in God maintains a psychological connection to important people from our past who told us that God is “reality.” The second reason is much less quantifiable…something happened.

 

There are two religious contexts in which I currently work, an Orthodox Jewish setting and a mostly non-denominational Christian setting. In both of these settings the role I often play is one of spiritual paramedic. Because of the dynamic I have outlined in this post – that of the unconscious tug of war between our inherited sense of “reality” and circumstances in life that either disprove that reality or our desire to live a different reality from the one we inherited – recovery from emotional challenges often calls our belief systems into question as we let go of who we are supposed to be and embrace not only who we are but also who we would like to be.

 

This process can be very disorienting on a number of levels. First and foremost there is the practical level of needing to maintain some semblance of human connection as you grow and change. For many people, to question their childhood belief system is not just “to find a God of their own understanding;” it is utter banishment. Beyond that, if you’re questioning your inherited belief system and are curious about another belief system you are faced with a panoply of options formulated over millennia of human existence. This can be overwhelming.

 

A number of my Hassidic Jewish clients may never see their families again because within the individuation process that is recovery they made the decision to shave their beards, cut off their payots (side curls), and walk away from Orthodoxy. To remain in what was for them an oppressive environment would be to remain in their depression, anxiety, and addiction but to leave meant that they had to leave not just parts of their family and community, but all of it. To be without their childhood belief system, community, and family recreates the same loneliness that developed their depression, anxiety, and addiction in the first place.

 

For many men and women in recovery from emotional challenges this appears to be a lose-lose situation, enough for many of my clients to become so angry, not just at their childhood faith community but at God as well, that they disavow faith altogether and remain in this limbo where they wouldn’t necessarily say that God doesn’t exist but that they’re certainly not pursuing God in any meaningful way. This is a tough spot to be in for the exact person who needs God.

 

Yes, one must be willing to walk away from ones childhood faith tradition, one must be willing to stay away, but one must also be willing to return or else one is doing the same thing as what he was doing when he was in his emotional distress in the first place – responding to his faith tradition based on other people’s expectations rather than on his own experience with the Unknown. If God is real, God can take our questions, and God can either lead us back or outward toward a new conception of God.

 

Which brings me to the second reason people believe in God…because something happened.

 

I will be the first to admit that the existence of God cannot be empirically proved. There are just as many arguments for God’s existence as there are for God’s non-existence. For me, it is a maddening game of one-upsmanship. I never partake in arguments regarding the existence of God as they often obscure a more profound reality – we either need God or we don’t. Yet, it has been my experience that when we need God, and when we reach out to God, something happens.

 

I believe in God. More specifically, I believe in a Christian God. How I ended up here may not be relevant to this post and may not even be very interesting. What seems relevant is that I came to God because of need – something was missing in my life – and I came to Christianity because of certain influences. I remained in Christ not just because I had made a decision to follow Him, but because in being willing to walk away from Him, in exploring other options – Atheism, Buddhism, even Judaism (not that they’d have me) – I was drawn back not only by reason and sense, but most importantly by an ineffable Presence. I felt Christ, and I continue to feel Him today. Christ challenges me and helps me become a better person.

 

I can say this much about Truth: if there is a God, God will manifest. But in order for God to manifest, one must be open to that manifestation and that can only happen if one lives intensely in Reality, pursuing truth and honesty, as void of the many projections we engage in daily. We must exercise a consciousness of what we are bringing to Reality and what Reality is bringing to us. In this sense, for those who believe in God, Reality is God. And Reality not only can be trusted but Reality has something to say about who we were created to be.

 

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Christians and Reality

What fascinates me, however, not just about my own experience with Christianity but that of many of the clients with whom I have worked, is the extent to which we can profess a belief in God yet at the same time the extent to which, in our moments of fear or anxiety, not trust God in the least but instead turn to control and/or substances of abuse to manage our emotions. If there is a God, why are so many Christians so damned afraid?

 

This is an important question and one very easy to gloss over. I spend large portions of my week with men and women whose Christianity is so conservative that, while they are willing to seek help from me because I’m a therapist, they become leery if I introduce a concept rooted in anything other than their, or their childhood community’s, interpretation of the Bible. Discussions of mindfulness or psychoanalysis are anathema, yet two hours earlier their wives had caught them with their pants around their ankles at the tail end of a two-hour pornography binge.

 

As a therapist, I have learned that what we do says more about who we are than what we say. If the reality of compulsive sexual behavior or substance abuse is a fundamental reluctance to trust the Unknown (God!) then our secret behavior (untruth!) says a great deal more about our faith than what we proclaim. Pay attention to what you do, especially in private, and you will come much closer to understanding yourself in relation to God.

 

This is not “works righteousness,” which is the belief that if we do certain things God will be pleased with us. My theology tells me that we are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ’s action on the cross and there is nothing we can do about that gift other than accept it. We are free. It is our choice to accept that freedom and walk in it. It’s the walking in it part that is the real demonstration of our faith as when we are willing to face Reality on Reality’s terms we are having a tremendous amount of trust that the fear we are experiencing is unfounded and that there is, indeed, a Loving Presence that is not only there for us but is also guiding us into a new way of life. This is a significant flip on how religion is frequently taught and it is the exact flip that Christ embodied.

 

I recently had a conversation with a Christian client about his decision to start a relationship (and have sex) with a woman other than his wife before his divorce was finalized. He stated his uncertainty about his behavior. I asked him why he was uncertain. He said he wasn’t sure whether or not it was the will of God. I asked him how he would know. He brought up the Bible, certain passages in Matthew, Romans, etc., etc. I asked him what I felt was a much more pressing question: “Who knows about your current affair and who are you afraid to tell about it and why?” My client smiled. It appears as if his inability to live in reality and be truthful to the people closest to him, not to mention himself, seemed much more revealing of God’s will in his life than dissecting scripture ever could.

 

This is not to say that Scripture isn’t relevant because, at least for many Christians, including myself, it is. But we can make scripture say what we want it to say and then use that as an excuse to justify our shitty behavior. Humans have been doing this for centuries. A careful reading of Scripture coupled with our pursuit of Reality is transformative, not because Scripture necessarily tells us what to do and who to be but instead because it gives us the courage to meet God in the now through Reality and grow and change and become the person God has called us to be. The Bible reminds us that people have been where we are and this is how they responded to Reality; this is how they learned to rely on God.

 

Sanctification

As it turns out, what I’m discussing is nothing new from a Christian perspective. The church fathers have wrestled with this concept for centuries and have even given it a name: sanctification.

 

Sanctification is the process through which we grow closer to the person God has created us to be and it occurs not because we do things to please God, but instead because God is so pleased with us that we naturally do good works out of our gratitude (Eph. 2:8-10). It is through our faith in Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are emboldened to face Reality knowing that the challenges we face can be trusted (Rom. 5:1-5; Jas. 1:2-4). God is living and breathing and not only participating in creation but in our lives as well (Lk. 17:21, Acts. 17:28).

 

As I noted, throughout history the essence of what makes Christianity Christianity has been perverted by the preachings and teachings of church communities that focus on what we do as a pathway to our salvation instead of who we are. I’m not telling anyone anything new here; yet, from my experience with Christians, we still believe it. If we are to accept the New Testament, what we do as Christians has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not God is pleased with us. None. God is as pleased with us when we masturbate to pornography as God is pleased with us when we serve at a soup kitchen.

 

The reason why church communities have lapsed into “works righteousness” is because it’s easier that way, for everyone. It takes a lot of selflessness (kenosis) to open up unconditional space for men and women to gather, to mourn, to celebrate, to ask questions, to make mistakes, and to leave if they want to leave. And it takes a lot of trust to live in such a way as to accept that you are justified by faith alone without having to follow rules and regulations.

 

Humans are looking for answers, concrete answers that give us a sense of earthly safety. Remember, humans don’t like not having control; it’s that feeling of floating down a raging river in an inner tube headed for a waterfall. So instead of experiencing that which we can’t control, and trusting it, and learning from it, we create rules and regulations again and again to make us feel safe, becoming the Pharisees for which Christ had so much contempt (Mt. 23).

 

Ironically, this type of Christianity has created many of the problems that it has set out to alleviate. Yes, it’s a good thing that our religious communities have standards, especially if the standards point out the ways in which we rely on idols instead of God during our times of anxiety. But when not living up to these standards elicits shame, shame that leads us back to our idols, that’s when the standards prove useless and destructive. Read Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. I’m not saying anything new.

 

The real question isn’t, What should I be doing to please God? The real question is, What would I have to let go of if I were to believe that I am already justified by my faith in Christ alone and not by my actions? Well, the first thing you would have to let go of is the need to please others. And the first thing you would have to embrace is your freedom.

 

The truth is, no one is going to live your life for you. And obeying your church’s rules and regulations just to feel as if you are being “good” prevents you from stepping out and being with God. If you live your life fully, it’s going to be up and down and glorious and difficult and all of these things. You will get off track and back on track and into and out of the woods but God will always lead you back to the person God created you to be. The tragedy of pornography addiction isn’t that you sinned against God; the tragedy of pornography addiction is that you didn’t live your life.

 

Statues

The Wise Woman in the Small Group

About twelve years ago my wife and I were in a church service in which my wife had sat next to a slight white-haired woman. The woman was new to the church and didn’t know anyone so my wife extended an invitation to her to join a small group we had been running out of our house for the past few years. Later that week the woman showed up.

 

It didn’t take long for us to become close friends with this woman whom I will call Alice. Alice is mild mannered with a sing-songy voice. She quotes the Bible verbatim and peppers her communication with liberal amounts of “thank God” and “praise Jesus.” Ironically, she has worked in Hollywood since the Seventies. Her co-workers know her as “the Christian.” This is meant to be pejorative yet it is usually Alice to whom they turn when the shit hits the fan.

 

As saccharine as Alice can be her personal story tells a different tale. She was married once to an abusive man whom she divorced. She got pregnant out of wedlock and despite her friends’ encouragement for her to get an abortion she decided instead to trust God with raising a child she neither felt capable of raising nor could afford. Her daughter graduated from a prestigious university, is married now, and Alice is a grandmother five times over.

 

One can attend seminary, study with scholars, or follow the most renowned spiritual leaders in the world yet little can compare to the wisdom that can be gained from a slight white-haired woman sitting anonymously in a church. This is why younger men and women who leave small groups in search of other groups that have members closer to their age frequently dismay me. But maybe they’re in search of a date rather than wisdom. Oh, if only the first had come last!

 

There are many pieces of wisdom Alice has bestowed upon me, but the one that sticks with me the most was her interpretation of the Book of Jonah. If you remember, God called Jonah to go to Nineveh to cry out against its wickedness. Jonah didn’t. He got on a boat headed for Tarshish. The weather got bad; the ship’s crew searched for its albatross; it was Jonah. Jonah was jettisoned. A giant fish swallowed him. When God was ready, God had the fish spew Jonah out onto dry land. The dry land was Nineveh.

 

As Alice reminded me, the moral of this story is that God has a call for your life, and it’s best to listen to that call because, as the book of Jonah so humorously points out, you’re just going to end up headed toward your call anyway. This may sound as if you have limited freedom, but if one is to believe that God created you, and created you “to do good works,” to pursue your call is to pursue your freedom. Anything else is just going to be an effort to please others and an exercise in futility. Part of the good news, as it were, is that even if we get off track with our call – which we will! – by paying attention to God, God will get us back on track and stronger for it.

 

Alice spoke not just from Bible reflection. Alice spoke from experience, many decades of experience. She suffered loss, enjoyed gain, witnessed justice and injustice and was able to see from the vantage point of time that there was an undeniable form to her self which was only brought into greater detail during the times in which she stood firmly in Reality (God!) and let Reality (God!) do its (God’s!) work.

 

Alice’s sense of self was like raw marble taking its shape with each and every strike of the sculptor’s chisel and mallet (Reality/God). The strikes only hurt when Alice viewed them as strikes; when she viewed them as what sculptors call “pitching” – the removal of excess marble to release the form inside – she reveled in what she could see as God’s invitations toward her true form.

 

God’s Invitations

God is in us through the Holy Spirit and God is Reality. This means that as we bring ourselves in concert with Reality through truth we maintain a constant flow between the God that is within us and the God that surrounds us. As we face challenges, make honest decisions, and wend and wind through life’s experiences we discover the person God created us to be. This is the most amazing Journey on which anyone could ever go and frequently it doesn’t involve physically going anywhere.

 

Such a Journey requires presence of mind, a presence of mind that is attuned to our heart’s desires and the fear inside all of us that prevents us from moving into the Unknown in order to pursue these desires. It also requires a presence of mind that pays attention to the invitations that God advances to us moment by moment by moment. Porn, alcohol, and drug use and abuse is the opposite of presence of mind. It is detachment. It is oblivion.

 

Sometimes God’s invitations are as subtle as coincidence. Sometimes they are as concrete as losing your job. Sometimes they are difficult and grow us. Sometimes they are sublime and inspire us. Whatever their shape and form, God’s invitations abound and we can trust them. Yes, we will frequently read these invitations wrong or ignore them altogether, focusing too much on pleasing others instead of pursuing Reality, taking the wrong road or not taking a road at all. But we must strive to be attuned to them. God will always bring us back if we ask, search, and knock (Mt. 7:7-8). This is grace.

 

What Micah is discovering about himself as he moves further into his recovery process is the many moments of his days in which he responds in fear to that which he cannot control. He misses a deadline, his wife is displeased, his father disapproves – all of these incidences (and there are many throughout the course of his day) engender anxiety in him because he unconsciously believes that these incidences mean that he will suffer isolation and abandonment. They don’t. Micah is learning not only to be conscious of this fear, but also to challenge it by trusting the Unknown, by trusting Reality through the pursuit of truth and honesty. In doing this he is discovering that God is constantly inviting him to become more and more of the person God created him to be. God can be trusted.

 

To engage in this walk with God is to change the world because in responding to Reality through trust versus fear we no longer need to control others and we no longer allow others to control us either physically or, most importantly, psychologically. When others can no longer get from us what they have needed in order to manage their own fear – which is the definition of oppression – they are either required to find a new object to control or take a hard look at themselves in order to achieve what you are striving to achieve. In essence, by pursuing Reality (God) you are providing others with an invitation of their own. This is non-violent resistance. This is micro-social justice. This is evangelism. This is the Holy Spirit at work.

 

Further Reading:

Book of James. (Read with Ephesians 2:8-10 in mind.)

Frankl, Victor. Man’s Search for Meaning. (A Holocaust survivor and psychologist’s exploration of the seminal importance of meaning in a human being’s life and quality of life.)

Hollis, James. Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life. (A wonderful, if not at times dense, study on the ways in which humans will live a “false self” in order to please others and the importance of pursuing your “real self” despite fear.)

Luther, Martin. Freedom of a Christian. (A concise, classic theological treatise on the part “works” play in a Christian life founded on faith alone apart from works. Published in 1520 by the father of the Protestant Reformation.)