Chapter 2--Change of Heart and Redemption

          We may find ourselves impatient for change to occur because we are anxious to stop hurting.  Our loved ones may choose not to change. They may struggle with having the motivation to change, may relapse, and may continue to be tempted. While we need to allow them time and space to change and repent, we do not tolerate abusive behavior in any form   No matter our situation, we can actively hope and pray.  

            As we try to make sense of our difficult situation, we may speculate why and how our loved ones became addicted. We may feel we are somehow responsible. As parents, we may worry about what we could have done differently. As spouses, we may wonder if we failed to meet the needs of our husband or wife and ask ourselves such questions as “Am I not good enough?” and “What more could I have done?” When things do not turn out well, we are tempted to blame ourselves. This type of thinking may lead us to improperly feel responsible for other people’s choices, resulting in undeserved guilt and despair.

How can faith help us heal even if our loved ones fail to maintain recovery?

          A vital element is the principle of agency—the ability and privilege to make our own choices. As we study and understand this principle, the Spirit will testify to us that we are not the cause of our loved ones’ addiction.   While the exact reason for their addiction may be complex, they are responsible for the choices they make. They are likely to make bad choices when dealing with their addictions. Part of the process of recovery and healing is to make mistakes but to take full responsibility for their decisions. Our success and happiness in life is not be measured by how other people choose to exercise their agency. 

Have you felt responsible in some way for your loved one’s poor choices? If so, how has this affected you?

          Our loved one’s addiction may impact how we see ourselves and how we see life. We may begin to define ourselves by our experience with their addiction, as it can sometimes seem all encompassing. We may feel powerless because we have little control over the consequences of those choices. We can use our agency to better our situation and make righteous choices regardless of our circumstances.  It is important to remember who we are and why we are here on earth. God is not only our Ruler and Creator, but also our Heavenly Father.  No matter what is happening in our lives, we can focus on the eternal stability of His love for us. This is where our process of healing begins. In the midst of our trials, as we turn our hearts to our Father in Heaven, His love and the healing power of His Son’s Atonement can help us gain courage and hope.

What are some things we can do to strengthen our relationship with God?  

   God said "Be still and know that I AM God."    God speaks as I AM and calls himself I AM.   The 2nd commandment admonishes not to take the name of God in vain.  By His own words, He was specifically referring to the words I AM.   He was instructing the people in the power of I AM and how anything attached to it contains the  power of the name.  Whatever is named becomes manifest. Therefore, it is perilous to use the words I AM carelessly or attached to anything negative.  A commonplace misuse of that power would be to say--"I am unhappy".  Such a statement invariably calls forth more unhappiness. If people say I am weak, poor, depressed, afraid, sick, addicted and so on, they continue to attract that in their life. Far better to acknowledge any situation and follow up with I AM going to do something about it.  Observe language and thought patterns around the words I AM.  Regularly take inventory on thoughts and  words. Notice how many ideas were originally suggested by well-meaning others, dating all the way back to childhood, up to and including today.  Feelings are often hurt or there is upset or anger about something that happens or what someone says. These moments bring negative beliefs to the surface that are untrue and become fuel for any addiction in us.   In most of us, they boil down to "I am unlovable, I am invisible, I am wrong, I am worthless, I am a bad parent, bad spouse, or I am an addict." The list goes on and on.

          Bring speech habits fully into consciousness so that there is intentional respect for the higher power of I AM. Such phrases as: I can't help it, I've always been that way, I am hard wired that way are statements about the past.  Phrases such as I don't deserve prosperity, I am unlucky, Things never work out for me, I am unhealthy and cannot be healed are often  what we don't want . Jesus showed us how to use the words I AM:  ”the door"  "the good shepherd"  "bread of life" "light of the world" "way, truth and light"  "true vine"  "Alpha and Omega", beginning and end"  "resurrection and the life" and so forth.
          Circumstances don't have to dictate how we think about something. We have a choice of what we think. We can select a different thought. When experiencing discomfort or sadness, rather than trying to change the thought, just put it back onto the conveyor belt and select a different thought.   Keep doing this until a thought is selected that allows good feelings and there is no more self-condemnation for creating unhappy thoughts. This is what can enable us to choose happiness and follow God's plan.  Some replacement possibilities include: I am capable, I am strong,  I am free from all unhealthy cravings, I am happy. I AM supremely grateful for all my blessings. I AM a son or daughter of God.

Can you think of any other positive "I AM" statements?  

            The apostle Paul informs us that hardness of heart is behind all the addictions and evils of the human race (Rom. 1:21-25). Oswald Chambers writes, "It is by the heart that God is perceived [known] and not by reason . . . so that is what faith is: God perceived by the heart." This is why God tells us in Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." He knows that to lose heart is to lose everything. Sadly, most of us watch the oil level in our car more carefully than we watch over the life of our heart.

          No matter how difficult it is for us and no matter how relief is sought by our loved ones—through a professional therapist, doctor, ecclesiastical leader, friend, concerned parent, or loved one— those solutions will never provide a complete answer. The final healing comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and obedience to His commandments.

Do what God asks: Strip ourselves of jealousies and fears, humble ourselves before God. Offer what He asks: a broken heart and contrite spirit. That sanctifies us because we disconnect from this place and connect to heaven. Humility qualifies us before God more than anything.   It is our sincere apprehension of just how weak, how vulnerable, and how easily distracted we are.

 The impediment is the pride of our hearts, the hardness of our hearts, the self-reliance we think we have, the traditions that bind us down, the arrogance of our hearts, the unwillingness to cry out mightily to God, and then to be open to receiving an answer.

What is a broken heart and a contrite spirit?

When we become wise, we respect our bodies, our minds, our souls.  Our lives become controlled by our hearts, not our heads.  We no longer sabotage ourselves, our happiness or our own love.  We no longer carry guilt and blame…all the beliefs that make us unhappy, that push us to struggle in life, that make life difficult, just vanish.
          Once we surrender to God, there is no longer a struggle, no resistance, no suffering.  Suffering is nothing but resistance to God.  The more we resist, the more we suffer.  God has come to tell us…to be aware, to make a choice, to have the courage to work through all our fears and change them, so we are no longer afraid of love.

    What obstacles— including attitudes and feelings—keep us from giving away “all   sins” and more fully receiving the Spirit of the Lord?

          In one of the greatest invitations ever offered to man, Christ stood up amid the crowds in Jerusalem and said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:37-38). If we aren't aware of our soul's deep thirst, his offer means nothing.  It was from the longing of our hearts that most of us first responded to Jesus. Somehow, years later, we assume he no longer calls to us through the thirst of our heart.

          The question lodged deep in our hearts, hidden from our conscious minds, is: "Do you care for me, God?"

           What's under that question is our personal stories, often punctuated by Arrows of hurt and pain: parents who were emotionally absent; bedtimes without words or hugs; ears that were too big and noses that were too small; others chosen for playground games while we were not; and prayers about all these things seemingly met with silence. And embedded in our stories, deep down in our heart, is a place so well guarded that it has rarely if ever been exposed to the light of day. There are other grief-laden and often angry questions: "God, why did you allow this to happen to me? Why did you make me like this? What will you allow to happen next?"
           In the secret places of our heart, we believe God is the One who did not protect us from these things or even the One who perpetrated them upon us. Our questions about him make us begin to live with a deep apprehension that clings anxiously to the depths of our hearts . . . "Do you really care for me, God?"

          This question has shipwrecked many of our hearts, leaving them grounded on reefs of pain and doubt, no longer free to accompany us on spiritual pilgrimage. We might be able to rationalize away that question by telling ourselves that we need to be more careful, or that sometimes others are just bad. We can even breathe a sigh of relief when we realize that trouble has come from our own sin. But, still the Arrows seem to strike us out of nowhere. What are we to make of God's wildness in allowing these things to happen?

Have you had arrows strike you out of nowhere?
Have you ever asked "Why Me"?

          The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. May we be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, choose to follow Him, be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and born again.

         Let us close with a plea or prayer inspired by Don Miguel Ruiz in "Mastery of Love":
      We pray that we can open our hearts and open our eyes so we can enjoy all your creations and live in eternal love with you.
          Let us love ourselves without judgment, because when we judge, we carry blame and guilt, we have the need for punishment and we lose the perspective of your love.
         Help us to love ourselves so much that we forgive anyone who has ever hurt us.                    Help us to create new channels of communication in our relationships so there is no war of control, no winner or loser. 
       Help us to enjoy our life, our relationships, to explore life, to take risks, to be alive, and to no longer live in fear of love.  Let us open our heart to the love that is our birthright.   

What kind of experiences might facilitate a "change of heart"?

 Personal Learning and Application

Keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, insights, and plans to implement what you learn. As the needs and circumstances in your life change, repeating these answers will provide you with new insights.  Go back to the questions in the chapter.  Write your answers.  Each time you go through a chapter, your answers might change.

1.  List some of your character weaknesses, and next to them list the strengths they may become as you come unto Christ.

2.  As you study the scriptures listed below, prayerfully consider how you can apply the principles they teach.  Write about them.

          Psalm 82:6 (We are gods, children of the Most High)

          Acts 17:29 (We are the offspring of God)

3.  Can you think of any negative "I AM" statements that you have subscribed to in the past? Can you see how this might be "taking the Lord's name in vain"?

 Write down some positive "I AM" statements.

4.  In your scripture study, see if you can find instances where someone experiences a "mighty change of heart."  Write about them.  Have you had experiences where you definitely felt a change of heart?

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