Holding Back the Tide: Part Two

Shifting Impulses)

Yesterday I spoke about how trying to overcome one addiction might simply cause it to shift to another area. Recognizing this tendency is important if we want to live an actually healthy life, not just a life that is unhealthy in a different way.

As I suggested yesterday, slipping into our vices one way or another will always be easier than being healthy. Just as gravity is a constant downward force in the physical world, there is also a constant downward force in the spiritual world, making it easier and simpler for us to fall than to rise. And like gravity, this evil force can pull at us from all directions.

Fortunately, from the times when I have been the most sincere in my recovery, I have discovered some things that can help a great deal. Today I’ll be taking a look at them.

Emptying the Cup)

If I were to ask you to empty all of the air out of a cup, how would you do it? Obviously tipping the cup upside down wouldn’t suffice. You could suck the air out with a straw, but of course other air would flow right back in to take its place. You could make a seal on the top of the cup and then suck out all of the air, creating a vacuum, but this would likely cause the cup to collapse inward and destroy itself.

However, there is one, simple and non-destructive way that the task can be done. Instead of only trying to get the air out, you can simultaneously put something different in. If you pour water into the cup, for example, then the air will naturally be replaced, thus fulfilling the task.

So, too, with getting out a vice. That vice took up a certain amount of your time and energy, and if you just try to scoop it out of your day you have now created an emptiness that will be filled with something else. If you don’t give any thought to what will make use of that time and energy, then it’s probably going to be some other vice because, as I stated above, vice is easier than virtue. If you try to take the vice out and then seal off that freed-up time, not allowing anything to make use of it, you will eventually collapse under the pressures of boredom and frustration.

So, for every evil thing you want to take out of your life, you’re going to need to replace it with an equal measure of good. You need to deliberately start doing something new, something that carries the same expense of time and energy that you were using for the vice.

For me, that led to starting this blog and writing stories. These were very large undertakings, but that was appropriate, because they were replacing a large addiction. It definitely took some work to get my writing going, but once it became a regular practice then going back to the addiction wasn’t even an option, because now it would have to displace the writing that had taken its place and I just couldn’t accept that.

Preserve What You Have)

But if you are going to start a new practice, then consistency is absolutely key. Have you ever found yourself rotating between life-changes that you want to make, shoring up one, just to see the others slip back out of control? I might go on a rotation between things like exercising, getting to bed on time, and saying meaningful prayers. I’ll make a real effort to start exercising, and I’ll make progress there, only to realize that my bedtimes have been slipping later and later into the night. So I’ll focus on when I get to bed, while trying to maintain my exercising, but then I realize I’ve totally forgotten about having a meaningful prayer in the morning. So I focus on that, only to lose my grip on exercise.

In some cases, this is a result of trying to do too much. Yes, a healthy, well-rounded life requires balance, but you only have so many hours in a day and so much of a reserve of willpower. By pouring it all into one area at the start of the day, you may not have enough resolve remaining for all the later tasks. And this cyclical pattern of restarting and abandoning practices only serves to ensure that none of them become a part of regular habit.

So as I’ve already said, one needs to fill their day with deliberate, good things, but they also need to not overfill it. One must put together their core practices with judgment and care, and perhaps their first plan doesn’t work perfectly, and needs to be revised over time.

A Work in Progress)

This is still an area that I am working on myself. I think I have learned and understand some important principles, but the knowledge alone is not enough to make me a perfect practitioner. I am, at least, aware of my shortcomings, and committed to fixing them. I’ll continue to check in from time-to-time, keeping you apprised of my progress. In future series I will also detail more of how I am creating a schedule of healthy tasks to replace the vices in my life, and some of the challenges I have faced while implementing it. For now, though, I’ll move on to another topic for tomorrow. I’ll see you there.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 24:29, 31-33, 49

29 And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.

31 And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.

32 And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men’s feet that were with him.

33 And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.

49 And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.

The servant is graciously received into the home of Rebekah’s brother, Laban. His camels are unburdened and given feed, his feet are washed, and food is set before him to eat.

But while everything was done to set the servant at ease, he is not going to let himself relax until his charge has been fulfilled. He is here for a purpose, and while its success appears imminent, it is not yet made sure.

So, he tells his hosts about Abraham and Isaac, he tells of his commission to find a spouse for his master, and he tells the events that led him to their home. Then, in verse 49, he says that he must have an answer of them, and if their answer is to not allow Rebekah to return with him, then he must leave this table of food, put his sandals back on his feet, rouse his camels, and set right back to work on his given task! The man has the burden of duty upon him, and he isn’t going to relax until that has been taken care of. He isn’t going to waste his master’s time in vain pursuits.

What Chance Do I Have?- Proverbs 13:20, Matthew 5:16

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

COMMENTARY

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed
That in which we prolong our association tends to rub off on us. I began this study with the question of “if so many valiant souls fell from the gospel, then what chance do I have?” This question, though, chooses to restrict its consideration to only the tragedies that are found in the scriptures. If we limit our view in this way, then of course we will start to grow cynical and doubt ourselves. If we become obsessed with observing Judas, we run the risk of forgetting that there was also a Peter.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works
I believe this is part of the reason why Jesus commanded his faithful disciples to shine forth. There will always be depressing examples that discourage us, and that pessimism needs to be actively beat back with a light of hope. Yes, there are those that tried and failed, but let us not forget that the scriptures also overflow with positive examples: men and women that came from humble beginnings, became spiritual giants, and held their faith to the end. There is sufficient reason to be an optimist, if we will just allow ourselves to focus on it.
If the paths of doubt and hope can each be well justified, then why not choose the better part?