I Must Hide My Failures
Principle 11: We should regularly meet together with the purpose of encouraging each other to abandon the old life for the pursuit of God.
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another . . . Hebrews 10:24-25
In one of my previous, half-hearted attempts at recovery, I had a close friend whom I met with weekly, in an attempt to hold myself accountable. As I was still unwilling to really change anything else in my life though, I soon found myself flirting with relapse. Once I started down that road, I had little desire to meet with and lie to my friend. Telling the truth was not an option I’d considered, so it was just far easier to make up excuses not to meet every week.
Looking back, my friend can clearly see that my twelve weeks of excuses was hiding my relapse, but at the time, my lies kept him in the dark. In my relapse, I isolated so I could hide my destructive behavior. I feared discovery, so I simply withdrew. When I had to go to church, it was in and out. The only time I really looked to God, was to beg him for a magical fix for my problems. In my addiction, I ran from faith and I ran from anyone who might shine a light on my failures.
In recovery then, it has been profoundly important for me to be very purposeful in meeting weekly with others who struggle, with the intent of being open and honest about those struggles. I need community in my recovery.
Why do we need weekly church, accountability groups, or recovery meetings? We need others because God made us, not to live alone, but to live in community. It’s in isolation that we secretly follow ourselves into whatever self-inflicted disaster we choose. In today’s passage, Paul insisted upon this principle: We need other Christians in our lives, to encourage us, motivate us, and to keep us honest.
In my weekly meetings, we tell of the successes and failures of our previous week. We can lie to ourselves, but others have a way of seeing through the nonsense that we can’t. Meeting with others who desire faith and recovery reminds us of where it is we want to be going and it helps keep us on the right track. Weekly meetings alone can’t guarantee we won’t relapse, but if we want to remain in recovery, we must meet regularly with those who would help us stay there.
Author’s Note: I’m currently writing through the principles that have helped me understand my condition as a Christian who still has very real struggles with my destructive appetites. I’ll include the full list here for reference.
- God created us to live in communion with Him, but man’s sin fractured that communion.
- We all struggle with flaws in our corrupt flesh nature, though it has different manifestations in all of us.
- When we come faith in Jesus Christ, we are born again into a new, perfect spirit life and restored to communion with God, but we still carry this gift in a flawed flesh life.
- Though God may graciously deliver us from some thorns of the flesh, some battles are lifelong, requiring the ongoing work of denying self and following Christ.
- We may always feel the gravity of the flesh, but we are not to live enslaved to it. We are meant to know and experience freedom daily in Christ.
- The Christian life (discipleship) is a continual process of abandoning (crucifying) the flesh nature and following Christ.
- Though we will fail, there is always grace and forgiveness for those who believe in Christ.
- Though we are forgiven, we are not to use grace as an excuse to continue in our destruction.
- God’s eternal forgiveness does not absolve us from practical, earthly consequences.
- As we all struggle, we must be continually honest, not constructing a facade of perfection, as this is detrimental to our recovery and the recovery of others.
- We should regularly meet together with the purpose of encouraging each other to abandon the old life for the pursuit of God.
- God provides the only adequate replacement for our pursuit of self. This is core to recovery and identity. Though we try to find purpose, joy and fulfillment in self, we find the answer to our deepest needs only in God.
- Transformation (sanctification) is not an automatic process. It is our responsibility to daily do whatever it takes to deny self and follow Christ. The Holy Spirit always does his part. We must do ours.
- God allows the daily battles and honest struggles of recovery to deepen our awareness of our constant need for God.
- Our eternal identity as Christians is in our new life in Christ. Acknowledging our persistent flesh life and its battles does not deny our position in Christ bur rightly identifies the forgiveness and power that alone can be found in Christ as we daily experience life through Him.
- God saves us from ourselves. We must tell others what He has done for us.