Monday, November 3, 2014

When You Hit Rock Bottom

There is a famous little poem by Portia Nelson that goes like this:

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

It’s always a struggle not to hate ourselves when we fall. We know we have failed miserably. We know we know better. We know we are responsible, mature adults, so why do we keep jumping so blindly into the same dark pit? Why the porn? Why the masturbation? Why the drugs or cigarettes or booze or binge-watching Supernatural?

Perhaps today you have hit rock bottom. Maybe you were riding high for a while but then you slipped, just a little bit, and everything came crashing down. Now you feel stuck. You can’t imagine life without this vice, or that you will ever be free from it. No one understands or cares or is able to help you. God is disappointed in you; He might even hate you. 

Not to sound like a Southern Baptist preacher, but these mindsets are literally the snares of Satan. They are like brick walls between us and the reality of our situation. They can completely blind us to the truth and enslave us to despair. So let’s look at each phrase in a bit more detail and reason out why these mindsets are so debilitating, and most of all, why they are dead wrong.

1)    It’s hopeless. I will never be free from this. I’ll have to struggle with this for the rest of my life.”
This is the easiest paradigm to believe in, and, I believe, the most deadly of them all. It convinces us that we are so utterly evil and unlovable that no one, not even God, can help us. This is really our pride taking over, saying smugly “I’m so bad that not even God can save me.” Bull. You are certainly not the worst sinner in the world, and never beyond God’s grace. You’re no Judas. You are a Peter. 

 Keep in mind that if you try to battle this addiction through your own strength, you are one-hundred-percent guaranteed to fail. You are human and weak and yes, even a little bit stupid. You don’t know why you do the things you do. You get carried away in the heat of the moment. You’re happy and smiling one minute and out to kill someone the next. Basically, you can do nothing on your own, and it takes a great deal of humility to admit that. But once you do, you clear the way for God to step in and take charge of the situation. With God, all things are possible. Even the most deep-rooted addictions and selfishness and pride can be vanquished by one simple, genuine plea of “Jesus, help me.” He’ll come flying to the rescue faster than Superman. 
2)    “I’m all alone. No one understands my struggle.”
Trust me, fam--you are not the only poor, pathetic bastard in the world who struggles with this. There are millions of people out there who are also too afraid or too prideful to speak up about their problem. Reach out to them. Start writing a blog about your daily battles (it can be totally anonymous, which is very liberating). Join a support group and shell out the cash for it if you have to (though there are a lot of free ones). Don’t pull an Elsa and live in your isolated ice castle (you see how well that went for her). Make an effort to share your story and connect with others; don’t just sit there waiting for people to find you. 

3)    “I’ve failed so many times. God must be so disappointed in me. He probably hates me.”
This is something I have struggled with a lot myself. Luckily, I have a MacBook Air that has a little app called Stickies on it. Basically, they are little digital sticky notes you can leave on your computer desktop. I have these three quotes permanently glued there:

“It is not because I have been preserved from mortal sin that I go to God with confidence and love. Even if I had on my conscience all the crimes that one could commit, I am sure I would lose nothing of my confidence; I would throw myself, my heart broken with sorrow, into the arms of my Savior. I know how much He loves the prodigal son; I have heard His words to Mary Magdalene, to the woman taken in adultery, to the Samaritan woman. No, there is no one who could frighten me, for I know too well what to believe about His mercy, about His love.  I know that in the twinkling of an eye, all those thousands of sins would be consumed as a drop of water cast into a blazing fire.” –St. Therese of the Child Jesus
“Christian holiness does not mean being sinless, but rather it means struggling not to give in and always getting up after every fall. Holiness does not stem so much from the effort of man's will, as from the effort to never restrict the action of grace in one's own soul, and to be, moreover, grace's humble 'partner.'" 
--Saint John Paul II
"There is no shame for a soldier falling in battle; what matters is his willingness to get up again and continue the fight."—Also by St. John Paul II

These three quotes really say it all. Jesus became a human being and allowed himself to be whipped, crowned with thorns, and nailed to a cross to save all the perfect people, right? Wrong. He died for every stinking one of us. He wants your sin. He wants to swallow it up in His mercy, to purify you, to love you. Let Him be your savior, for crying out loud—He sure went to a hell of a lot of trouble to do it.
Another quote, by a person who is not a canonized saint but who still spews wisdom, is this: “You start from right now, wiser. You live for today and for what comes next. You bury the dead and you move on.” None other than our man Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five-O (a great show, by the way—have I told you about it?) Basically, every day is a new day to try, try again. Every morning God gives us a clean slate. How cool is that? 

That's pretty cool, Danno!

4)    “I’m a horrible person. I can’t believe I do this.”
You are not horrible, but you are human. You are not perfect, but you are fallen. And that is why God humbled himself to take on a human body and allowed himself to be murdered on a cross. He knows why you act out this way, even if you do not. He understands the deep longings of your heart that you are trying to satisfy in unhealthy ways. You need love. You need friendship. You need a savior. What’s so horrible about that? You’re just looking for love in the wrong places, and God understands that. That’s why He’s here—ta-da! 

If you have hit rock bottom today, pull yourself out now. As long as you’re alive, it’s never too late to say YES to God and to let Him help you. Continue the fight with His grace. Your soul is worth it.


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