Most of us will give some thought today about beginning again. We will attempt to throw out the old and begin with the new in 2015. For those of us who have struggled with lust, porn use and other destructive sexual behaviors, we often ask ourselves “What really has to happen for us to let go and really change in this area of our lives?” Is it an inside or outside job?
For me, the answer is both. Unless I have a change of heart, a core realization that lust and its activities are against my highest, best and long-term interests, I will be like the man “convinced against himself.” I will not be convinced at all. In this unconvinced state, all the boundaries, accountability groups and religious activity will not do me any good in this area of my life. I will be doing nothing more than managing lust rather than surrendering it. The deep reality is I must come to an “enlightened self-interest” that tells me I must let go. I must desire to let go. Nothing in the world is accomplished without some degree of passion, of wanting the thing pursued.
There has been much discussion of how this letting go moment occurs. This is what Step 3 is all about. Does it occur because consequences make lust finally distasteful? Perhaps. Some have said so. But many continue to engage in lustful acts despite large and painful events continuing to occur in their lives. Is an epiphany required where the person comes face to face with God or has such a profound spiritual experience that he is propelled into sobriety? Some say they have experienced this. But what is clear is that some inner surrender is required in order to let go and allow God to reorient our inner desires. Perfection is not required. Willingness is.
I have had several discussions with sponsees who have wondered why they have not had a defining spiritual experience that has propelled them into sobriety and empowered them to let go. I tell them I don’t know. That is up to God and I cannot conjure up a formula. What I urge them to do is to pray this kind of prayer. “Lord, I am not willing in my heart to let go. But I believe you can make me willing. I ask you to make me willing and I am open to your work in my heart.” This is part of asking, seeking and knocking in the area of addiction. Jesus himself tells us we will not be disappointed in what we receive as a result. (Matthew 7:7-10)
But this is only half the story. Unless the inner disposition is followed by a new way of life or “rule of life,” we are all likely to slip back to the old life. What we are given in the inner dispositional change is an opportunity to build a new life with new habits and new input into our brains and souls. So we pick up the 12 Steps and work them. We work with a sponsor or spiritual mentor. We invest in the lives of others, a crucial activity so well illustrated by Bill W. in the hotel in Akron. We serve. We clean house. We work on character defects. We let go by working the program of the 12 Steps.
When these two things happen and come together, the inside and the outside, we find a powerful, mutually reinforcing reality. What we have accepted in our innermost being, the need to let go of lust becomes validated by the life we live on a daily basis. We begin to grow spiritually for the first time. We discover what we have been missing and what we have never known. All this is not perfect. We are not perfect nor will we ever be. But it is possible for us to be happy joyous and free, perhaps for the first time.
Which is both an inside and outside job.
Happy New Year!