I was recently talking to a friend about relapses and I really empathized with the idea of “falling down… again”. With being frustrated because I felt like I disappointed God again. With believing that I had no excuse for my sin because it could not have been committed out of ignorance- “I went through this before!”, I tell myself. With feeling out of touch with myself, not trusting myself, and spiraling into the ‘whys’ with no real answer.
*Sigh*. The shame and guilt of having done it can even overshadow the magnitude of the act itself.
Maybe this happens because we think the right ‘walk with God’ or spiritual path is supposed to be progressive like a positive linear equation- we learn, we grow, we move up. So anything that looks like we’re moving backward-like a relapse- can seem like scary stuff… Doubt may creep in. You may even begin to consider whether healing is for you (believe me, it is) or whether you are deserving of God’s love and healing (you are!). It can be quite discouraging.
When we speak about relapses, certain addictions first come to mind, but it can really be anything- a pattern of angry behavior, a particular spending habit; really any repeated “offense” whether it was replicated 1, 2, 3 or 50 times. Bottom line: circular struggles are tough and it seems that most of the battle is just dealing with the guilt, shame and confusion.
Anyway, I started to become really curious about the idea of a progressive relationship with God and our preconceived notions about it (namely, how we as a church and wider culture conceptualize the “onward and upward” path). So off to Google I went and found this: Towards a Theology of Relapse. It might serve as a good intro to start thinking about how we see ourselves and our struggles as followers of Christ.
This is definitely an area I would like to explore more. Like how perhaps the imagery, ideas, and concepts of “ascension”- whether it be to heaven, a higher universal plane, in the world of clergy, or even in sainthood- throughout religious history and Biblical history has affected how we conceptualize and assign value to a relationship with God. I’d also like to learn more about the history of sanctification.
Anyhow, as I finished chatting with my friend, I kept thinking about this:
I’ve come across it several times. Maybe it’s also fitting for “spiritual success”, whatever that means…. :)
And if that doesn’t encourage you, here’s a fitting quote that always gets me:
“I know about the despair of overcoming chronic temptation. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience, etc. don’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.”
— C.S. Lewis (via thywordistruth)