“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
What does that have to do with this article? More than likely absolutely nothing, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I wondered how I should begin today. I usually just go with what comes to mind and feels right in my spirit.
I am currently reading through the Old Testament prophets. They are by far not my favorite part of Scripture, but each time I read them I glean something from the wearisome curses and blessings pronounced over the peoples of this world. This time has been no different.
I have noticed that the Prophets are incredibly obsessed with calling things what they are. That is what my counselor calls “confession” – “calling things what they are” and “taking ownership”. Repentance is changing and reconciliation is repairing that which was lost. Something like that anyway. At least according to me.
One of Celebrate Recovery’s favorite verses for Step 1 (stepping out of denial and into God’s grace) is found in Jeremiah. “You can’t heal a wound by saying it is not there,” so declares the favored translation of Jeremiah 6:14 in the recovery workbooks.
You can’t forgive by saying you have forgiven. You can’t repent by saying you have repented. You can’t stop watching porn by saying you have stopped watching porn. You can’t quit drinking by saying you have stopped drinking.
But more than that you can’t get to the root of your character defects by not even acknowledging the sin that they are creating in your life.
“What is a character defect?” you might ask. Well, the twelve-step way is to think of it as the major character flaw that is driving the external behavior: insecurity, anger, fear, lust, greed, gluttony. I think of them as related to the seven deadly sins. It is what God usually talks to me about during extended fasts – the motives that lie beneath my undesirable behaviors.
The more normal translation of Jeremiah 6:14 declares, “They dress the wound of my people as if it were not serious, ‘Peace, peace’ they say, when there is no peace.” or “They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace.”
Have you ever had someone dress your wounds superficially? They give you a pat answer to an impossible problem.
Life gets so much better when one steps out of denial and into God’s marvelous grace. When the declaration over one’s circumstances changes from an unconvincing mantra of “peace, peace” to a penitent prayer of, “God, there is no peace. I am still doing ‘x’. Worse than that my heart is full of greed and self-indulgence. But I know there is hope in You and power in the Blood. I haven’t really forgiven. I keep trying, but it doesn’t seem to stick. I am still angry. I am still resentful. I still want revenge. Help me release it to You, Father, once and for all. You asked me to forgive as I have been forgiven. You are no longer angry with me; help me be no longer angry with them. Help me finally release it to Your eternal care. May I grieve about it as You grieve, but may I also forgive the sin against me as You have forgiven my sin against You.” There is power in agreeing with God and calling sin what it is: sin.
The first step is admitting we are still wounded in the first place. I think of a friend of mine who always used to tell me that she went through counseling back in 19?? and she was on the other side of healing. That was her answer every time in conversation when she began to feel uncomfortable with how much she still needed healing or she really wanted to be able to give me advice about my problem instead of walk through the pain of real healing with me. Years later after re-entering counseling, she is a much better friend. Now she no longer confesses to having reached another side of healing. Now she knows that she too needs recovery. She was someone who often said “peace, peace” when there was no peace.
I have other friends, which simply tell me they know they are still angry and bitter but they have not yet faced their issues with so-and-so. Someday they should. These friends do not say “peace, peace”. They say, “There is no peace, and I should seek it.”
There is such a difference between these two categories of people. As someone who has been through the depths of recovery. I find the first crowd (while still saying “peace, peace”) intolerable to have a real conversation with. They are always telling you what they think God wants them to say. They don’t seem to realize that God simply wants them to acknowledge that there is no peace and then begin the journey to obtaining it.
The second crowd I find delightful to speak with – even if they have not gotten brave enough yet to face their own unforgiveness, anger and pain. These people don’t push me away when I share the vulnerability of my journey of healing with them. They embrace it. Perhaps they even envy it. “Peace,” they say, “How I wish I had peace!”
My word count says I should shush now, but I want to tell you one more story. Early on in my recovery, I was sitting in prayer with God. He showed me this picture of my body covered with wounds. I had a major wound on my left arm. It was infested with gangrene. It was really gross, ugly and infected. He was binding the wound without cleaning it. I found myself panicking and begging God, “No! No! If you bind it that way, I will die!” The conversation between us continued as He told me that Celebrate Recovery and counseling were ways that the wound was cleaned. It couldn’t heal without first being cleaned. In fact I suppose that binding the wound while infected would be worse than not binding it at all. When the wound was bound, I simply wouldn’t notice what was about to kill me.
Naturally it is the principles of Celebrate Recovery and counseling that cleanse the wound and heal us. Nothing is vital about attending Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery isn’t necessary to all healing. It isn’t necessary at all, but confession and repentance are. Stepping out of denial into God’s marvelous grace is.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5
As a wise man once said, “De Nile is more than just a river in Egypt.”
Do you ever claim to have peace when you have no peace? Do you ever call anger “forgiveness” or lust “a healthy sex drive”? Do you ever try to heal a wound by saying it is not there?