Listen to the Loving Voice (Not the Voice of Deception)

A friend and priest astutely observed:

The same voice that whispers into the addict’s ear that it is okay to feed their addiction — upon the very instant the addict yields — tells us we are a worthless and horrible person who will never overcome the addiction.

The goal of this voice is clear: to deceive us. Satan is the Great Deceiver. He is full of lies and his goal is always to drive a wedge between us and the limitless wellsprings of peace, love, and mercy God makes available to us. We must rail against the deceiver’s machinations. We must rebuke him in Jesus’ name. Aloud. We must see the lies for what they are. And if we cannot, we must ask God to help us see them for what they are.

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio (1602)
The Inspiration of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio (1602)

Do not just run away from evil. Run toward something. Run to Christ, because he loves us to no end. Run to His divine mercy. His is the better voice to follow. And if we are not hearing the voice of God, we can manage to with time. One simply has to draw more closely to God. To pray and listen for his counsel. There are two readily accessible ways to discern God’s words. The first is through reading the Bible. Holy Scripture has a lot to tell us. We need only prayerfully turn the pages. It may seem like a daunting book to the uninitiated, but a good English translation, like the New American Bible can be read starting with the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You need not read an entire book in one sitting. A few passages, or a small chapter can be enough.

The second accessible way to hear God’s words is by prayerfully listening during support meetings, where we are able to encounter God and hear His voice through other people. The voice of God is the voice of Love and Mercy itself. It draws us to Him and His peace. You will know it when you hear it. It will always support you, encourage you toward loving action, patience, and forgiveness.

There are other ways, of course to hear the correct voice. They involve prayerful reflection during private prayer, reconciliation, mass, and Eucharistic adoration. God sometimes will speak to our thoughts directly. And, of course, on rare occasion He or the Holy Mother will appear to an individual.

In order to hear God’s voice more clearly, we must regularly receive the sacraments, pray daily, and practice our faith. Like any good activity in our lives we must practice in order to become proficient. Bishop Barron has spoken often about how much time, money, and effort we expend to become great at our jobs, sports, video games, and other wordly activities, and yet many of us do not apply the same sustained effort to improve our relationship with our Creator, which is vastly more important.

Much has been written on discerning the voice of God. I recommend books and show segments on EWTN by Timothy Gallagher. But fundamentally God’s voice brings love, mercy, and peace. It never tells you you are a bad person, because God loves you unconditionally. You are His child. He made you. He would never suggest you sin, and He will never reject you when you do sin. He may ask you to repent, but it is always out of love. He is a good Father.

May God bless you, and guide you on your path to recovery.

-Ad maiorem Dei gloriam

The Definition of Insanity

As the saying goes:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result each time.

When we battle addiction  we can sometimes feel like the proverbial lunatic.  We pray and strive to avoid temptation, but over and over again we find ourselves back in the same place.   There’s an interesting secular poem on this exercise of repeated failure called “The Hole in the Sidewalk.”  You can view it here.

The Prodigal Son by Palma (1595)
The Prodigal Son by Palma (1595)

Although it is not Christian, in origin, it shines a light on the nature of the disease of addiction.  The key word here is disease.  When we want to do what is right and good, but find ourselves unable to avoid falling into the same trap, we are suffering from a disease.  We are not moral failures.  We are suffering from a sickness.  And God, ultimately, is the only cure.

To bring us to a point of recovery and long-term, meaningful sobriety, God wants to transform us.  And that requires a lot of changes and effort on our part.  And a great deal of patience.  We may not feel capable of changing.  We may hold onto our current way of life and way of doing things with a death grip.  We may surrender completely to God in some areas, and hold fast to our own ways in other areas.

As they say in the twelve-step programs:  “Half measures avail us  nothing.”  Half-surrendering to God will only get you halfway there.  To walk fully in the light, we must fully give ourselves over to Him.

How does this relate to the Definition of Insanity, and the proverbial hole in the sidewalk we continually walk into?  Change.  God knows how weak we are, and so he does not expect us to become saints overnight.  He only asks of us one thing:  one step each day.

I was in the confessional last week, seeking absolution for falling into that sidewalk again, and feeling the weight of my addiction.  I was looking for guidance, but, foolishly, was not expecting much.  Then the priest said something profound, yet exceedingly simple (Truth usually is simple).  He said:  “Do something a little different each time you fall.  Try one new, tiny little thing each time.  Take one minuscule step for God and yourself.”

How wise!  All addicts know how common falls can be.  But if we transform each fall into a tiny step toward transformation in our lives, surely all those steps will accumulate into complete and radical transformation of our lives for the better.

So,  next time you fall, ask yourself if you can make one new, very small adjustment in your life to become more Christ-like in any of innumerable areas of your life.  Here are a few questions to help us find one area where we can find a small opportunity for new change:

  • Is there some way I can improve my prayer life?  Am I making time to pray in the very first moments of waking up, or before I go to bed?
  • Is there some way I can improve my sacramental life, by more regularly receiving reconciliation or the Eucharist at mass?
  • Am I taking good care of my physical health?  Eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising?  (Mind, body, and spirit are all interconnected parts of ourselves.  If one suffers the others suffer.)
  • Am I utilizing software to filter and provide accountability reports to my sponsor or friend?  If my sponsorship/accountability or software programs are not working to their full potential, is there some small adjustment I can make to maximize their effectiveness?
  • Am I connecting socially with healthy people?  Reaching out via phone/text/email?
  • Am I attending meetings regularly so that I can encounter God in other people?
  • Am I getting out of my head (where my disease lives) and into my heart (where God lives) by praying during the day and deisolating?
  • Am I giving back to God by serving the poor with my time, talent, or money in some small way?

May God bless you, and guide you on your path to recovery.

-Ad maiorem Dei gloriam