I first encountered Peter Scazzero & his “Emotionally Healthy” books in 2006. TheBean & I were in therapy together & we were coming to the realization that a big chunk of the issues we were facing in our marriage stemmed from unresolved “Louie-issues” (aka things, behaviors, attitudes, practices, etc… related directly/indirectly to my own emotional immaturity, unresolved hurts, & a Type-A bent.) As our therapy transitioned from “US” in therapy to “ME” in therapy, my counselor suggested I read through Scazzero’s book & then process with him the things that stood out to me, the things the Holy Spirit was speaking to me, & the areas I saw that needed something more than a little change… I needed a wholesale extreme makeover. A transformation. Something not orchestrated & conducted by me, attempting to put my life back together again in my own strength & resources, but a transformation instigated, worked through & completed by God the Holy Spirit.
During this time, I clung to the verse: “…and I am SURE of this, that He who BEGAN a good work in you WILL BRING IT to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
One of the first things that stood out to me was the “10 Symptoms of Emotionally UNHealthy Spirituality.” They are:
- USING God to RUN FROM God.
- IGNORING anger, sadness, & fear.
- Dying to the WRONG things.
- DENYING the impact of the PAST on the PRESENT.
- Dividing life into SECULAR & SACRED compartments.
- Doing FOR God instead of being WITH God.
- SPIRITUALIZING away conflict.
- COVERING OVER brokenness, weakness, & failure.
- Living WITHOUT limits.
- JUDGING other people’s spiritual journey.
(List taken from “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazzero. (re) Published by Zondervan in 2017. p.22.)
Today, I’m going to tackle how #1, Using God to Run from God, showed up in my life.
1 – USING GOD TO RUN FROM GOD
I have been a Christian since I was 3 – prayed the prayer with my mom on Easter 1973. My earliest book I read was the Bible. All of my earliest memories involve our family going to church. Being involved in church. Leading others in the church. I am eternally grateful for the foundation that was worked into my life: a foundation of God’s love, grace, compassion, stability, & faithfulness, esp. as revealed in the Scriptures.
The problem was, I often never considered HOW living as a Christian would involve Jesus as Lord & Master of EVERY area of my life (physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, & emotional.) Mostly I just focused on the accepted, tried & true “spiritual practices” of church, worship, Bible study, serving, etc. How I “felt” was irrelevant, don’t you know? Because feelings would LIE to you, & feelings CAN’T be trusted to drive the Louie bus.
At the time, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate this, but the answer to just about every challenge was strongly implied: Read the Bible MORE. Pray MORE. Get MORE involved in church. Do MORE. (This isn’t something I was taught by my parents; it was more ‘absorbed’ through observation & participation in the daily/weekly life of the church.)
MORE always seemed to = BETTER.
The real world has a way of blowing up our illusions of being in control of our lives.
At about 30 years of age (right when i began as the Lead Pastor of our church, BTW) I was angry. I was frustrated. I was volatile. I was in all sorts of turmoil inside my head & heart & I had no idea what the issue was. So I did what I’d always done when I didn’t know what to do about how I was feeling: I did what I was currently doing, MORE & with MORE gusto.
It didn’t help.
How I used God to run from God:
- My schedule was so packed there was literally no room in it for any of life’s surprises, emergencies, &/or challenges. Keeping busy made it so I never actually had to evaluate (let alone invite the Holy Spirit to review) how my life was going & if there were any changes/course corrections necessary.
- Instead of following clear Scriptural instruction (stuff like, “If you have an issue with somebody, go to them & work it through;” or “Forgive in the same way Jesus forgives;” or “Don’t be harsh with your wife,”) I would “pray about” the issues – I was having, almost as though Scripture wasn’t clear enough for me so I had to triple-dog-clarify with God what I should do & how I should interact with my spouse.
- Things were never my fault. There was always a very valid (& RIGHTEOUS I’m sure) reason WHY I was acting the way I was acting.
- I didn’t really ask for God’s directions for me – my prayer life was more of a wish-list looking for Divine validation of my priorities & values.
- I blamed God, to others, for my own opinions, thoughts, & preferences.
- This list could go on, but I think you might get the point.
In my solo-therapy, I was forced to STOP & CONFRONT the fact that the wheels had come off of my life, my marriage, my family life… the only thing that was going “well” was church, & that was only through force of will & the denial of the inner storm, struggles, rejection, turmoil, & pain I lived with.
Chuck, my therapist, asked me a few questions. Went something like,
- “What do you really think that Jesus NEEDS you to do for Him that you are constantly so busy?”
- “What are the reasons you believe that God loves you?”
- “What evidence is there in your life today that you believe & live out the fact that God’s grace applies to you & not just other people?”
I couldn’t answer the questions adequately. I could ANSWER them, but even I, in my state of turmoil, could see that I was merely offering up platitudes & not touching on what was going on in the depths of my heart & life.
And so I gave up. Surrendered. A little bit at a time. And God met me.
To be continued…