In my last 2 blogs (here and here) I’ve been discussing where we usually go when we avoid responsibilities, boredom or relational pain. Usually to not so great places—like headlong into our coping mechanisms and addictions. Well, I’ll just speak personally. Addiction is all about avoidance. Now you’d think the opposite of addiction is “sobriety”, but around WGA circles our mantra is “the opposite of addiction is connection”. Thank God.
It’s like if you’re filling your tummy with a big ol’ bag of microwave popcorn every night for dinner (anyone with me on this one?). The solution is not to avoid eating, but to consume healthy substantial foods that are nourishing and fulfilling. What’s good for the body is good for the soul. Instead of detaching from ourselves and others at the twinge of pain which makes us dive into destructive quick fix results. How can we work hard at staying connected—to pass on the popcorn and go for the broccoli? What are some tools that might help? In my last blog I shared some quick “in the moment” tools when feeling tempted.
Fast, Easy and Painless, Please
I’m always a little amused when a newcomer to our community believes that just a few short months of work at WGA will bring all the healing they will ever need. Hmm…a quick support group hiatus and they will be back to their life again? I often wonder where they get these unrealistic expectations. It didn’t take a few months to acquire a slough of coping mechanisms, unforgiveness, wounds and self-protective relating styles. Why think a few months is all it takes to heal this long laundry list?
But it’s not surprising, really. We live in a quick fix culture when it comes to our problems and it should not involve any effort or pain. Christian culture doesn’t help much either with the emphasis on “victory in Jesus” testimonies. Do I think God can heal a person in a snap? Of course, but even biblically this seemed to be the exception and not the rule. We would miss all His benefits and lessons if we trade the healing process for an easy, effortless solution. I’ve been at WGA for 30 years and God is still doing a deep work on my stubborn heart. Sanctification and healing have been a life-long affair.
Working through Wounds—Past and Current Struggles
“What if I told you that your specific pornography searches, infidelity, or the sex you’ve bought can actually reveal your way to healing? That’s what my research on nearly 4,000 men and women found. Our unwanted sexual behavior is not random—it is a direct reflection of the parts of our story that remain unaddressed.” This quote is from therapist and author, Jay Stringer who wrote the book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing. So according to Jay, our paths of addiction are not arbitrary but connected to and formed by our past wounds and current circumstances. Fascinating and oh-so helpful.
Seasons in therapy or a support group might be needed to connect the dots about how our wounds are attached to our unhealthy behaviors. WGA has been in relationship with many wonderful and qualified counselors over the years. They help create safe environments to find resolution and healing from abuse, trauma or neglect. There is also a need to stop the problematic behavior. But as I mentioned in my last blog, healing is not just about “stopping” something but replacing it with a healthier alternative. What would it mean to create a new sexual story for ourselves? How could we reclaim our bodies and see them as good instead of connected to our abuse or trauma? We need to learn about intimacy and restorative ways to nurture ourselves and others. Therapy and support groups are perfect places to explore these things. Please contact us if you need of a referral.
Creating community is another long-term tool in the battle against addiction because it’s all about connection. God never intended for us to fight our battles alone. This, I understand can be bad news for those of us who like to do our work secretly and alone (notice the term “us”?). I am definitely from the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” old school of thought. Yet, that has never really served me very well. Creating community offers us structure and support. It gives us an opportunity to being known on a deeper level, to practice vulnerability and authenticity. As we let people know our very flawed selves, it fights against shame and an army of false beliefs. We suddenly feel worthy and loved. We also practice having healthy boundaries. Not everyone needs to know everything about us.
Creating community around us also lets us be involved in others lives. We begin to exercise empathy and compassion when others vulnerably share their pain. In community we find out more and more who we are and our place. We learn about our gifts and talents and have occasions to use them for Christ and on His behalf. Suddenly, we live in a bigger story and have a bigger purpose in that story. I’m using the word community a lot, but I think it’s really about cultivating family and isn’t that what Jesus said? When asked about His mother and brothers, Jesus redefines family as those who do His Father’s will. As Christ followers we are baptized into a new family.
Now I know I’m rhapsodizing about something we all struggle to find—a real place of belonging. Though that is Jesus’ ideal for His bride, sometimes the reality is far from the ideal. We’ve also been wounded by this family, so that can feel scary. This is why I put it under the long-term tools because it can take time to cultivate a (safe) family if we’re patient enough and hang in there.
Where Grace Abounds as Community and Family
Speaking of family, this has always been the intent behind Where Grace Abounds. Mary was wise when she began the ministry in 1986. WGA has never really been a “program” to walk through and arrive on the other side in some glorious fashion. It’s been a community, an environment for flailing around in and figuring out all these complex things around sexuality, gender and relationship. It can be a family—a place to be known, be authentic and loved. A space for healing to take place—all that I rhapsodized about above. Now isn’t this bigger and more fulfilling than microwave popcorn living? Hopefully.
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