Learning to Live

When trying to overcome harmful behaviours, people are taught how not to die.  But in truth, the challenge is learning how to live.

Often techniques are given for beating eating disorders or drinking or overspending or whatever.  But the solution is not found in ratcheting up my will power. In fact, that only exacerbates my problems.

Aside from anything else, I can’t change.

Scripture reminds me that I might tone down my actions, but I can’t change the heart that motivates these desires. And thank God for that.  Because if my recovery is dependent on me, then I’m trapped in a never-ending cycle of works.  I’m only as good as my last meal, or quiet time, or whatever it is that I think is important. And I will never get the rest or approval I so desperately crave.

Not only that, but life becomes a series of negations.  And that’s what I’d always thought Christianity was about – do not, do not. But the Bible says it’s the world that thinks like this, not Jesus:

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”

These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Col 2:20-23)

This is what doesn’t work.  Yet the passage doesn’t end there…

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  (Col 3:1-4)

Rules used to be your life.  And as a new friend has just commented – rules become rulers.  So what is your life now?  Not a principle but a Person.  Jesus Christ.

And Jesus is not a killjoy.  He tells us that He has come to ‘give us life and life to the full’ (John 10:10).  He’s the world’s greatest host, the master of the banquet.    But you know, that’s maybe the scariest thing of all.

The truth is, I’m not so sure I want to be at this banquet.  Now, given my history, a buffet style feast is never going to be up there on my top five events.  But it’s more than that.  It’s the noise, the colour, the people, the smells.  It’s too much.  I feel I don’t belong.  It’s not safe. I’m outside in the cold, looking in, breath steaming up the window, shrinking back into the shadows as the door opens and all the colour spills out. I can see all the people and the noise, I can hear the laughter and I can’t stay away –  but there’s an almost physical barrier that means I can’t – I won’t – join in.  It’s too dangerous.

C S Lewis explains this far better than I could;

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” (‘The Four Loves’)

You see, that’s another tricky thing about ‘recovery’.  And even life.  I kind-of  like the coffin of my selfishness.  It’s what I know.  Yes, it’s a little grey and pokey, but I know where everything is.  It’s my world and my universe.   And in it, I am God.  After all, hope is much more terrifying than despair.  At least with despair, you know where you stand.  You can predict what’ll happen, even control it.  But hope? Hope means opening up to the possibility of good things, to the possibility of being hurt.  And that’s not going to happen to me.

I’m torn.  On the one hand, I want a simple, glorious recovery.  A matter of hours – days at most. And sure, I’ll say that the Lord helped me.  But actually, I’ll do it myself.  On my terms.  Because secretly, just as I masterminded my decline, I’ll dictate the terms of my restoration.

But on the other hand,  I’m not sure I want to be better. My addictions and drives are problems, but they’re also solutions.  They do things.  They fill the spaces that threaten to swallow me when I stop.   And even if I don’t want to die, I don’t know how to live.

And yet..

This world of mine can get a tiny bit – stifling.  Airless.  It’s a safe world, but it’s also small.  In fact, there’s only room for one person –  me.

And it makes me wonder if hell really is other people.  Maybe it’s a world without God, without community.  Maybe it’s just me.


3 thoughts on “Learning to Live

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *