Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Spouse Speaks

Denial: A Comfy Place

I choose to give freely of some painful prior experiences to state my bona fides to recognize sin. Back in the late sixties, I cleverly managed to conceal from nearly everyone, including myself, my alcoholism. One of the cruelest characteristics of the disease (Yes, I believe it is a disease) is the promotion of denial. Although the Ten Commandments appears not to mention it, it really does. We are advised to forbear giving false witness. We easily recognize the evil inherent in telling lies to others. The hardest to acknowledge is the falsehood we tell ourselves. This trait has a name. It is denial (please skip the river in Egypt jokes.) This practice can lead down the slippery pathway to degradation. The addiction to alcohol, and other sins, is bad enough, but self deception is even worse. I am certain that this flagrant violation of God’s commandments breaks His heart.

Why would an individual decide to yield to self delusion? Yielding to worldly temptations is not unique. To assuage one’s guilt is, I suppose, a natural response to thoroughly enjoying the pleasures of the flesh. Real personal comfort is exemplified by a life without guilt. If one does not admit to sin then it must not be sin, right? Wrong! Sin—separation from God—is still sin no matter what name is applied. To deny it is only to exacerbate the magnitude of the sin, and the extended separation from God.

Unlike Old Testament figures who were dispatched without ceremony, we live in a time of forgiveness and redemption purchased with Christ’s blood on Calvary. Twenty seven years ago, I begged God to assist me in shaking my addiction. As usual, he answered my prayers and provided me with a richer, fuller life. He provided inner strength, logical goals and a superb support group—AA. Most important, He provided the avenue to truth in my innermost self. He allowed me to grasp the concept of facing life’s problems one day at a time. Like Restoration Gospel, there is no real end point. It requires continued study, prayer, self-improvement and the realization that God is in charge and only through His good offices can life hold real meaning.

Once the recovering alcoholic is on track to a successful life, realism forces him to contemplate the damage he has done to himself and to others. This often results in extreme guilt. The wisdom of the Almighty takes care of this in James, with the assurance that once we repent and make amends, He forgets it. This promise is as important as any other in the recovery from the addiction. Can we then proceed as though nothing ever happened? No. We must always be vigilant to avoid that which displeases God.

One of the conveniences of alcoholism is that it is a highly visible sin and therefore treatable, if not easily, at least possible. What about the less apparent sins? What about concealed inner jealousies, overwrought concepts of self, holding impure thoughts, and all the other well-concealed barriers to a full enjoyment of life with our Maker? The solution to these problems lies in the sufferer’s ability to acknowledge their existence. After years working with other recovering alcoholics we all agree that the most difficult step is actually acknowledging that a problem exists. These other deviations from the will of God are in the same boat. Strong self-examination requires that we realize, deep within, that problems exist. Denial is a great provider of excuses. “I followed this or that path for the greater good.” No, you followed it for self-aggrandizement. You did it because it enhanced your own self-importance. You put your own goals ahead of the work of Kingdom building.

If you do not recognize yourself in any of these assessments, that’s great, and you can sign on to the “Enoch” experience. However, if you can stand in the vestibule and accept the plaudits of the congregation for your sermon, or, bask in the praise of all who enjoyed the church dinner you hosted, or believe that your musical presentation was your own doing, you may be in need of some self-examination. You have exercised the gifts of God-granted talents and may be reaping the glory which belongs to him.

What has this to do with the problems facing the church today? For one, I sense a lack of humility in some individuals who would lead us. They would of course claim denial. When ever possible, I take the opportunity to shake the hand and look into the eyes of these individuals. Somehow, I find it comforting to be with some of these people. In other cases, behavior and body language betrays their real purposes. Do I have any special gifts? No. Have I in a past life come in contact with grifters, con men, fast buck artists and other nefarious characters? Yes. As a result, unlike many blessed sheltered saints, I am ever on the alert for those whose motives will thwart the works of God. My fellow congregants have not been exposed to these folks and are willing to accept on faith many of the schemes put forth by some of the “leadership.”

The above paragraph is to no way imply a general condemnation of the hierarchy. But, the late President Reagan worked successfully with the Soviet Union by exercising a constant policy of, “trust but verify.” One of the first warning flags is any hint of secrecy. Virtue operates best in full sunshine. Another warning would be decisions related to the spiritual direction of the church which are unsupported by the common consent of the greater body. Another flag goes up when there is a suggestion of disbelief in any of the scriptures which have served us so well for so many decades. The Book of Commandments is not scripture.

The last signal I will mention is the ingratiating manner in which the Community of Christ is being approached of late. Any desire to express anything past the respect we would afford to any church in our area and to re-embrace those failed doctrines which lead to the painful breakup in the first place is unconscionable. This does not mean that we should not pray for them, nor should we be rude to any of their members. They know who they are and we should clearly understand who we are, and I for one don’t see how the twain shall meet.

So here we are back to denial. Much of what is outlined here would be vigorously denied. Shakespeare said, “Methinks, thou doth protest too much.” When all else fails, claim it isn’t true. Twenty seven years ago, I looked in the mirror while shaving and came to a startling conclusion. The man I was shaving was not God. Relieved of that responsibility I could then go on to an enriched life and less denial.

Cecil Moon

1 comment:

Patricia said...

I think that those who have worked the steps, with complete honesty, have learned a lot about spirituality that others have yet to learn. Without my particular program, isolated as we are in Texas, I wouldn't have a sense of a "spiritual community" that I need. Thank God for Bill W. and Dr. Bob.

Pat Ragan