Loneliness: The disease of the soul that is common to all mankind. Loneliness: That burdensome feeling that we run for our life from through busyness, addictions, NetFlix binges, talking on the phone, zoning out, video games, sexual activity, internet use, and probably a hundred other things. Loneliness: That thing that God uses almost like nothing else to grow us, to help us face ourselves, shape us, and teach us to be relational with ourselves, others and Him.
Even after over 11 years of freedom from my sexual addictions I still have regularly scheduled accountability with at least 4 people. Recently I let that “slide” for a couple of months. Truth be told, in the back of my mind I likely thought “I’m beyond that”. After a few weeks I found myself being uncharacteristically tempted to look at pornography like I hadn’t been in perhaps years (by God's grace I didn't slip). I laid awake in torment, weeping as I fought through temptation. I desperately made an appointment with one of my mentors for later in the week. As we were speaking (well he was speaking, and I was speaking as much as one can speak through sobs) he stated, “Kim, what has happened is that you have been engaging with people, but you haven’t been taking any relational risks. And this set you up for temptation! Your accountability is as much about connecting on a real and raw level as it is about keeping yourself from your sin”. BOOM. I instantly knew he was correct, and wouldn’t you know it ~ as soon as I started connecting again in a real and honest way my temptation lifted, because I was being proactive to combat loneliness.
Genesis 32: 24Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.26Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
What happened in the above passage when Jacob was alone, and chose to spend his alone time “wrestling” with the Lord and refusing to let Him go? After he finally admitted his true identity (Jacob = Deceiver) the Lord touched him in a way that his walk was forever changed, and the Lord forever changed his name.
God is no respecter of persons. If we choose to handle our loneliness in a way that is honoring to Him the way we walk through life will be forever different, and so will our identity!
A couple of weeks ago I started having some pain on the right side of my throat, along with difficulty eating. As time went on, I started also having pain in my right ear. The pain became greater and greater, and so did the difficulty eating. Because I've had an abscessed tooth before, I just "knew" that this was a tooth problem. So, off to the dentist I went yesterday. I let him know that he needed to get this tooth out of my head because it was causing excruciating pain. I even was convinced that I knew which tooth was the culprit! As I was explaining to him what was going on he said, "Your tooth isn't going to cause all that". Well, in spite of his almost 30 years of experience I just "knew" he was wrong. While he was examining me he told me to open wide and say, "Ahhhhh", which I found strange and yet another sign of my dentist clearly being delusional. Then he told me, "Girl, that's not your tooth, you have strep throat". After I proceeded to argue with him a little bit more, he sent me on my way with a prescription for an antibiotic and a pain medication. Because I was so insistent it really was my tooth, he said, "Well, this is going to clear everything up, but if not I guess just come back." So, upon waking up this morning, wouldn't you know it, my symptoms are somewhat better.
Sad to say, I have often done the same thing in my life with things not related to my teeth or throat! How many times have I had a situation where I just "knew" the answer only to find out how very wrong I was? Seems like I'm often in need of a second opinion, whether it's from the Lord, or a brother or sister who can see things more clearly than me.
Specifically, I have often been in need of a second opinion when it has come to my recovery. For years I stumbled through my addiction. About 23 years to be exact. I had my own way of dealing with things, and my own diagnosis. My diagnosis was that I must just have an unusually high sex drive (especially for a female), and the way to fix it was to just try harder. Yeah, my remedy and diagnosis were so spot on that it kept me "sick" for 23 years.
Finally, when I realized that I just wasn't getting free, in desperation I shared my struggle with a lady from my church. Neither one of us really knew what we were doing, but God was faithful to lead and guide, and she came up with the idea of being accountable. I then went on a fast, and God led me to a ministry in California that deals in sexual addiction issues where I began counseling. On more than one occasion my counselor told me, "You may not understand now what I'm saying, or why I'm giving this advice, but if you trust and continue walking you will be free." Well, he was right. I often didn't understand the advice, but I chose to listen and finally set aside my arrogance and let someone who is farther down the road from me speak into my situation. What he also was right about was that in trusting I did find freedom. In less than a week I will have my 11 year anniversary of being free. I didn't realize at the time that what I diagnosed as "simply being too horny" was actually a God given need for relational intimacy. My remedy of "trying harder" didn't work because a God given need requires a God given solution: being relational.
I wish I could say that I don't still struggle with this disease of self-diagnosis. As someone who has been free for 11 years, and now helps others I sometimes forget that I am still broken and susceptible to falling. At times I will let my accountability slide, making excuses and telling myself, "You are just fine, you don't need that anymore." LIES, LIES, LIES! This whole strep throat incident has served as a wonderful reminder to me that a second opinion is always in order. I hope it serves as the same reminder to you as well.
“He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Today during my time with the Lord this scripture just seemed to leap off of the page at me. Maybe because it’s along the same lines of a quote I heard about a week ago (by Pastor Chris Hodges) that I can’t stop thinking about: “Temptation is not a test of your will power. It is a test of your relationship”.
I have a new client who came to me after one visit with a different counselor. For her sexual behavior that has lasted nearly thirty years she said that the counselor told her they were going to work on some cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I certainly am not opposed to CBT, but I believe that more than just a behavior needs to be changed for any type of addiction. Somehow, my client knew she needed more and questioned the counselor about meeting the underlying needs that led her to act out in the first place. She intuitively knew that just being strong and changing the behavior wasn’t the only answer.
Apparently the Word of God agrees. God is not impressed with our will power. Although at times we may be, He is not. This is hard for us to grasp in a society that embraces strength and a “do it yourself pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude. Those of us though, who have been at this game of recovery for a while know that white knuckling it and relying on our strength can only get us so far. We have an endless need at the core of our soul. An endless need can only be met by an endless Resource. There is only One endless resource, and that is our God and His unfailing love.
True transformation comes in the area of our addiction when we learn to trust in God’s unfailing love, not our own strength. I can almost hear someone thinking, “Well, I do rely on His love, Kim! Yet, I’m still stuck in my addiction”. If that’s you I’d like to challenge your thinking on that, as I’ve had to challenge mine. If we are really relying on His love we’re not going to need our sinful coping mechanisms. (For me currently God is dealing with me about this regarding food.) What does it look like practically to rely on His love instead of acting out sexually? Well, it looks like being raw and honest with God about our temptations. Ie: “Lord, right now I’d love to look at pornography. But I know that what I see in porn is a cheap substitute for Your plans. I don’t need to see a naked body God, that won’t meet my deepest need. Only You can meet my deepest need, God. My heart and my flesh feel that this is what they are crying out for. But truly my heart and flesh cry out for You. I will fight against this lie and stand here in tears if I must while I wait on Your unfailing love.” I’ve found myself doing this probably a thousand times. Sometimes in tears as I fought through my temptation to stand on God’s truth. I’ve gotten even much more explicit with the Lord than I’ve listed above. He can handle it. He isn’t ashamed of our sexuality like we often are.
There are many things that I’ve learned and have done on my journey of recovery. But learning to trust (and continuing to learn to trust) in His unfailing love has made the biggest difference!
"So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them;
male and female created He them."
Male and female, we both are created equally and uniquely in God’s image. As a woman there are unique ways in which I represent God that a male does not. As men, there are unique ways that they represent God that women cannot. Men are amazing at portraying God as strong, a protector, a provider, and a father. Women uniquely portray Him as nurturer, gentle, tender, and relational. Not that either gender cannot represent God in ways that are typical of the other sex, but it is wonderful to see God’s unique design for the genders. I likely will address this more in the future, but want to talk about another aspect of our unique design that can and has gotten many of us into trouble.
Men, as creatures made in God’s image, love and are drawn to beauty. God loves beauty, and so do men. Women, as creatures made in God’s image, are beautiful. God is described as beautiful throughout the Word, and women reflect that beauty.
What an incredible design our God has made. Men appreciate beauty, and women are beautiful and love to be beautiful. This aspect of creation has been the basis of some of the most awe inspiring romances that make all of our hearts flip flop. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Man in his strength, goes after the beauty that is woman. Seriously, what a glorious and brilliant design this Mastermind of a God came up with.
As most of us know, where God has a plan, the enemy has another plan set up. He has had a plan in the area of our sexuality for as long as man has been alive. Every aspect of our sexuality that is positive he in some way uses against us. In our generation, one of the biggest ways in which he does this is through pornography. He has taken women’s legitimate God given characteristic of beauty and has used it to lure in man with his God given love for beauty.
Women who willingly are placing themselves in pornography are not doing so because they are perverts. The enemy has lied to them about the way to display their beauty. Men who look at pornography are not doing so because they are pigs as many people proclaim. They are doing so because they have an appreciation for beauty, but the enemy has lied to them about where to find that beauty. When we settle for pornography, we settle for a lie.
Obviously, we are sexual beings so there are many aspects that go into our porn use. However, one way we can begin to defeat this is by renewing our minds and understanding who we were created to be. For a man, to view pornography goes against the very image of God as protector. Men are to protect a woman’s beauty, not exploit it. As women, the fullness of our beauty is to be veiled for the man who is willing to fight for and protect it. Let’s ask God to help us see ourselves as we truly are, made in His image. Let’s not settle for the enemy’s counterfeits of that image. We must settle for nothing less than the design by which we were made. Anything less will leave us empty.
“No more __________”, I wrote across the top of the January page of the following year’s calendar on New Year’s Eve approximately 15 years ago. I didn’t fill in the blank, but I knew what it stood for. It stood for something that had held me bound for about 15 years, since I was 11 years old. It stood for something that I had let become my safe place since my dad’s death at the same age. It stood for something I despised, and had countless times tried to stop. But this time, I was convinced; I would be done with it. I had my fill and was disgusted with myself. So, I vowed that New Year’s Eve, for the 1,576,382nd time, that I was done with the habit of masturbation. This time would be different. I just knew it. I would be steadfast in my resolve. Unfortunately, that New Year’s resolution didn’t make it past January of that year.
And so it went. I continued to stumble over this sin (the Lord showed me that for me, this was sin) for the next several years, even as I was a recent Bible College graduate and involved in several ministries. One evening during service in the church I attended my pastor preached about a character I had never heard of. It was a man named Hazael and his story mentioned in II Kings 8. Essentially, this man was sent to Elisha to get a Word from the Lord for his king. God gave a Word through Elisha, but also gave a word to Hazael. Elisha prophesied to Hazael of the future sin he would commit. Hazaels response was not one of humility. Instead, he stated, “Am I dog that I would ever do such a thing?” Well, as the Bible records, Hazael ended up doing what was prophesied. During that message the Lord dealt with me that if I didn’t stop the masturbation it would lead to other things. I wish I could say I responded differently than Hazael. My heart became hardened as I ignored the conviction. Within less than two weeks I became involved in my first anonymous sexual encounter. That encounter led to approximately 9 more years of stumbling over masturbation, porn, and countless more anonymous encounters. And it all started with the “innocent” habit of masturbation.
Masturbation for many is a coping mechanism and addictive. For those who say it isn’t for them, I would argue that even if that is true, it still is not God’s plan for sexuality and I believe ought to be avoided. If you’re reading this and even questioning it, then it is likely that the Holy Spirit may be trying to pin point this area of your life that He may bring true freedom.
I am happy to say that I am off of the cycle of continually vowing to stop masturbating. In a short month it will be 11 years since I engaged in it. The difference did not come in “white knuckling it”, trying harder, or making more vows. The difference came when I finally hit rock bottom and cried out to Jesus, willing to do whatever it took. Thankfully, Jesus led me to the right resources to lead me into freedom. Like the old Chinese proverb says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” What did it take? Well, for me it took a willingness to submit myself to counseling for several years. It took me humbling myself and sharing my struggle, and being accountable every day in this area for over two years. It also took me allowing people to connect with me. I was looking for true connection, not an orgasm. An orgasm is the easy way out. Being truly relational takes real risk and hard work, and as painful as it was God helped me to do it. Many people on this journey want to continue trying it on their own. My question would be, “How has that worked out for you so far?” God, for the most part, uses someone to present us with the gospel. The way that our journey started, is the way that it continues. He uses people. It is not just God we need, nor is it just man that we need. We need both on our journey. If it were not so, scripture would not be full of admonitions such as, “Exhort one another daily”, and “forsake not the assembling together of yourselves”. But it didn’t just come in learning to be relational with other people. It came in learning to be relational with myself in healthy ways. It also came with learning to be intimate with Jesus. I spent hundreds of hours at his feet crying out to Him asking Him to meet me in the place of my heart that caused me to go after my sin. He was faithful to meet me. I have found Him and all His provision enough.
Your journey may not look exactly like mine. But I have no doubt that it will not be a complete journey without taking many relational risks and inviting others into this area of your heart. Our sexually addictive behavior is really about an unmet relational need. Unmet needs don’t just go away. They manifest themselves in ways they were never intended to.
Let’s let Jesus and the body of Christ do what God intended all along. Let’s risk laying down our coping mechanisms, and understand that He is our shield. Jesus and His ways are more than enough.
Earlier this year I was reading through the books of I and II Samuel. One thing I noticed about David that amazed me was that he always sought the Lord prior to engaging in any battle. Countless times He would essentially ask the Lord, “Should I fight this battle, will You go with me and will I win? If so, what strategy would You like me to engage in”. As a result, he was known as a great warrior. Really, he developed the sure fire strategy of victory: Ask God, and do what He says.
Interesting philosophy isn’t it? What’s more interesting to me though is how glaringly obvious a path to victory this is, yet we continually choose our own path. I’m speaking to myself here too. Right now I’m even thinking of something very specific that the Lord has spoken to me, yet I keep stumbling over it in disobedience.
I intentionally am keeping this blog post very short and to the point. I will close by asking us all, “What has God spoken to you, and are you being a good steward of that Word”. If He hasn’t spoken a clear battle plan, it’s time to ask Him for one. He will speak clearly to you. Listen for His voice, read His Word, and seek Godly counsel. Then go forth, act on His Word, and be victorious.
Lord, Speak Your plan to me,
As I obey I will walk in victory
Grant unto me a listening ear,
And a heart to obey all I hear.
Most people who know me well know that I’m a sucker for stray animals. Much to the chagrin of my next door neighbor I leave a bowl of cat food right outside the door of my third floor apartment. Many times when I’ve been coming home and walking up the stairs one or more “scaredy cats” have come tearing down the steps past me, not wanting any interaction with humans.
One day this week as I rounded the corner from the second floor up to the third I saw a cat that was not yet full grown by my door coming toward me on the stairs. It froze in place when it realized it was going to have to run past me. It began to panic, and looked around for another way of escape. The cat was backing up looking at me with terror as I approached. I just kind of chuckled and said to the animal, “So, what are you going to do now?” The closer I got to the top of the stairs, the more frantic the cat became. He kept backing away from me, and was looking over the 3 story balcony on which he stood. He was so terrified that instead of risking me touching him, he dove off of the third floor and landed on the concrete below with a loud thud. He just stood there for a moment, re-gathered his composure, and took off running. I felt so sad knowing that he was running in fear from a place where there was no danger. Not only did he run in fear, but he took a pretty drastic measure to escape a situation that in reality provided no threat to him. Honestly, my heart broke for the little guy (okay, don’t judge).
Later that evening as I was reflecting I heard the Lord quietly tell me, “You do the same thing”. How many times have I run in fear where there was no real threat? Just before coming home I was in a situation where I felt insecure and walled myself off. There was no real threat, but instead of facing it I dove off of a 3 story building in the form of walling myself off. The ways in which I’ve done this are countless. Usually my fear comes in the form of some sort of insecurity. Fear can cause us to do some pretty foolish things. I’ve walled myself off, backed out of relationships, gone on an eating binge, blew up at people and acted out sexually just to name a few of the brilliant ways I’ve dealt with my fear. What a lie we believe when we cling to our fear! I would have been so much better off if I would have just sat still, turned to Jesus, and let Him draw me so close to Himself until I realized He was the one that alleviates all of my fears. Moving forward, I am challenging myself to not get overtaken by the panic that comes from fear, and to invite Jesus in instead of running. Will you join me?
As I raised my hands to worship, I heard it echo through my mind, “You’re such a hypocrite. Put your hands down, you know what you did just this week”. I obediently responded, “Right, right, how dare I think I can worship after what I did.” On another occasion I was about to take communion and heard the same voice, “You’re such a hypocrite. You’re going to take communion after what you looked at this week online? Really?” This time I didn’t yield to the voice, instead I went ahead and took communion. However, I spent the next several days fearful that I had taken the Lord’s supper unworthily and that I was going “to pay for it”. And so it went. After a fall if I would go to pray, “You’re such a hypocrite”. Or if I’d listen to worship music in my car, “You’re such a hypocrite”. Even if I’d want to tell someone of the benefits of Calvary there came that familiar voice, “You’re such a hypocrite”.
This voice long held me captive, until one day I heard another voice speak to me about my hypocrisy. It was the voice of the Lord. He actually did confirm for me that I was indeed being a hypocrite. But I was being hypocritical so to speak, in a way that was much different than the condemning voice spoke to me. Whenever I would hear the familiar internal phrase, “You’re such a hypocrite” it came when I was doing something that would be considered pleasing to the Lord. What the Lord spoke to me was that by definition someone is acting hypocritically when they are living in a manner that is contradictory to who they really are. He spoke to me that when I worship, pray, tell of His goodness, take communion, etc., I am NOT acting hypocritically. I am actually living out my true identity, so those things don’t make me a hypocrite. I am a blood bought, cleansed, free, righteous, and loved child of God. All the actions I mentioned above are consistent with my true identity. What is not consistent with my true identity is my sin. When I fall to temptation, and am sinning, it is then that I am acting hypocritically the Lord showed me. He did not show me this in a condemning way. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite. He spoke it with such love and encouragement. It was as if I could almost see Him smiling, and saying, “That’s not who you are, step up here and see who you truly are, and let me help you live out of who I see you to be”. Wow! What a difference between His voice, and the voice I originally was hearing. .
Dear brother or sister who struggles (uhm, that would be all of us), Please stop believing the lie that your identity is defined by what you do or have done. Your identity was settled 2000 years ago on Calvary. You are a blood bought and free child of God. This life is a sanctification process where we get to learn how to walk out with Jesus who we really are. Let’s pray for the courage to live out who He says we are.
Lord, help me to believe you and not the voices of my sin, my past, or others. I am who You say I am. I am not defined by anything other than Calvary. Give me the grace to understand this. I yield to what you say about me, and will find my freedom by believing Your truth, not the condemning lies of the enemy. I trust You to complete Your work in me, and to lead me to anyone and anything that You have destined for that journey. Father, by faith I choose to believe You! Amen.
"The need to know is in direct opposition to the need to trust".
Last night when I read this quote (probably more like "near quote") at a small group we are having at my church I was momentarily stunned. Like any good counselor who still has some of their own issues to deal with, my initial thought was, "Wow, I've seen this played out SO many times in the lives of my clients". The Spirit nudged me (and I'm pretty sure He was grinning when He did) and said, "Wow, I've seen this played out SO many times in YOUR life, daughter." You just have to love the way God has this unmatched ability to gently rebuke you, and make you feel more loved than anyone who ever lived at the same time.
In that moment I was struck with the reality that this analytical nature (AKA: worrier, control freak, etc.) of mine is in direct opposition to me trusting God. As much as I think I need to "know" ~ I simply need to trust. Yet, what we need most is where we often fight the hardest. Although at some level I already knew the above quote, and had mentioned in it in some variation to countless clients, it suddenly became more real to me last night. That moment where you know that the light has been shown and you are suddenly no longer allowed to plead ignorant or have an excuse.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;"
Boom. There it is, scriptural proof! Me saying, "God gave me a mind to use. Figure it out" is in some ways the biggest lie I've fed myself. Truth is, God did give me a mind. But, He gave me a mind for the same reason He gave me everything else I have. He gave me that mind to submit to Him, so that it could be filled with the life that flows when I trust, instead of the death that ensues when I rest on knowledge. It's the difference between eating the emptiness of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and feasting upon The Tree of Life.
So maybe, just maybe the biggest risk isn't really trusting God. Maybe it's trusting in myself.
In so many ways, 2015 didn't go according to plan (according to MY plan anyway). I got laid off from a job I had for over 10 years, I GAINED weight instead of losing, I lost a dear relative to cancer who I "just knew" was going to beat it, I made some poor (idiotic) decisions that I "just knew" I was so beyond, I had some unexpected turns in the ministry God entrusted to me, and my plans to be in Florida for Christmas and surprise my beloved nephew and niece were thwarted and instead I spent Christmas week at home sick. I know we all have our list of "unexpecteds" this year.
Today I was feeling my brokenness and the lack of control that comes with so many twists and turns and while in prayer I cried out to God and said, "Don't let me forget who I am!" I quickly heard Him say to me, "Who are you?" and I felt prompted to go to my journal and begin writing the answer to that question ~ from God's lens. I sat with tears rolling down my face as I began writing who God says I am. I wrote who the Word says I am, I wrote who He has told me that I am in the past, what others said they felt God told them about me, and what God was speaking to me at that very moment.
I know some are reading, and wondering, "So, what did He say???" Well, I'm sorry but I'm not going to share my list with you. Instead, I'm going to challenge you to get quiet before God and write your own list. For when we hear directly from God who we are, it somehow drowns out all the other noises, and we realize we can face anything and be who we were destined to be!
Will you take the challenge?
Kimberly ~ Counselor, speaker, teacher, author and most importantly broken but beloved daughter of Jesus.