Almost every thursday for the past year I’ve gone to this meeting called Celebrate Recovery. Essentially it’s a 12 step program for anything and anyone at any stage in their life. I know that’s vague, but it’s supposed to be. Most people don’t think they need a program (as with many 12 step programs), and they think they are doing fine on their own, so they don’t even give it a chance. This is my shameless plug for Celebrate Recovery; give it a chance. If you find yourself being invited or seeing a sign for it or something about it on social media, think about it. Maybe it’s not for you... but maybe it is.
When I got to Celebrate Recovery, I knew very well that I needed to be there. I was humbled by my mistakes and shortcomings and needed healing so badly. I got a lot of it. In this past year I’ve been set free from so many things that held me captive. Things I never thought I would admit because they felt so shameful. I didn’t want to be a “bad” christian. I set down my pride and self preservation and came clean about all the things that were hurting me, all the things I wanted to let Jesus change and He did. So now I’m one year into this recovery thing and my pride is slipping in again. I’ve gotten healing, I’ve been honest, I’ve admitted hard things, I’m great. Me me me, all my accomplishments, all the things I’ve overcome.
If you see anything wrong with those last couple sentences, then we are on the same page. I do nothing good without Christ. I do believe I played a role, I said yes. But beyond that it wasn’t my strength. Logically I know that but lately I haven’t been living in that truth. I think this is a big part of why Joey and I struggled so much with our boundaries at the beginning. I didn’t want boundaries, I didn’t want rules. I wanted to claim myself healed and victorious without considering there was more work to be done. Oh, but is there work to be done. I wanted to be able to kiss Joey because I like him and it’s fun and I’ve had so much healing... it must be fine, right?
Some people can probably kiss on the lips and be okay but I knew beforehand that it wasn’t smart for me. Dating protip: don’t change your boundaries in a emotionally charged moment. I didn’t anticipate how much I would like Joey. I didn’t expect to be emotionally charged. In recovery we have this saying… if you aren’t working on your recovery, you’re working on your relapse. Something I haven’t worked towards in recovery this last year is making outreach calls. Outreach calls are when you call someone of the same gender in Celebrate Recovery to talk about your recovery. The idea is that you do this when things are going okay so that it will be easier to reach out when things are harder. It’s a habit that helps you form community. It’s vulnerable, and to me it’s scary. I didn’t have this recovery tool when I started dating Joey. When we first started dating and we struggled with our purity I knew I could reach out to a few people but I didn’t want to bother anyone. I didn’t want to reason things out and take up people’s time. And if I’m being honest, I was afraid they would call me out before I felt ready to give up my sin.
I’ve had to set up a lot more boundaries with Joey but I also have had to start being honest with people. I have a sponsor who mentors me in my recovery and I have told her what I have done and what my boundaries look like moving forward. I also have friends who are accountability partners that I can reach out to. When we first started to get our boundaries figured out, I texted someone before I saw him every time I saw him. And I texted them when he left and told them
how it went. I sometimes will text people just to tell them my thoughts aren’t pure and I’m entertaining something that makes Jesus sad. Now I reach out 3 times a week, because if I don’t then I’m not working on my recovery. If I don’t I’m taking a step towards relapse.
Something I told Joey when we started dating was that my purity meant more to me than he did. I wanted him to know I wasn’t messing around. That value was tested and sadly did not stand up perfectly but I stand by it despite my failure. I never asked Joey if I could have accountability, I never asked him if I could tell my sponsor. If he didn’t want to date someone who wants to fear God (even when she doesn’t feel like it) he could find someone else. That’s not an ultimatum. That’s a value, that’s a core belief and it’s one I stick to. I love following Joey’s lead but I as his girlfriend don’t have to submit to him and I intend to exercise that right. That is a really practical way in my relationship to put God first. I took time to write about this because I use to believe I had to get my boyfriend’s permission to follow God’s leading. My stomach turns just thinking about it. I’m all for submission in marriage. If done correctly it sounds sweet. And when it’s hard it seems like it would really sharpen me. But I think too many christians date and play married. I’m not saying I don’t do this in some way, I definitely might. I’m not hiding the fact I want to marry Joey. But I don’t want to live in a fantasy. The reality is that we’re dating and when your dating you don’t get married privileges.
It would be easier to play married though. It was easier to not have set boundaries. Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely more painful, but in the moment it was much easier. I like the easy way, it doesn’t test my character and it doesn’t point out my weaknesses the way choosing to hold yourself to a higher standard does. But that’s not love. Love only exists in reality. Reality is not defined by my feelings in a fleeting moment but by the words spoken by a constant eternal Creator. So the reality I’m trying to be aware of is that I can’t do this alone. I need people that I can confess things to and pray with. In not-so-glorious detail if that’s what it takes. In some ways I need this blog. I need to think through this relationship and have a place to check in. I need to know God is using me for this, and also for something bigger than me. Even if everyone stopped reading this blog I know that when I reach out to my accountability, other people are being blessed too. God is in the business of blessing His children when they work together. He rewards unity.
So as always, I’m learning and growing despite the days that feel like a hopeless dead end. And if I look back through these posts, even a couple months ago I was worse off. I’m learning a lot about self control, love, and the power of community. This life is a war bigger than we can see, but I’m hopeful when I see the small victories. I can’t do this without you friends, even if I wanted to.