Choosing Wipe Outs Over WineNov 25, 2023
Today, I’m incredibly relieved and grateful for the strength God gave me these last few days of deep sorrow and temptation. I believe these tough days were full of opportunities to deepen my trust in God and His promises. However, in the moment, these opportunities felt terrifying, raw, and full of weakness. Another reminder that God is strongest in our weakness.
We arrived in Southern California last week, after a long, snowy, drive from Colorado. Relieved to get there, we headed to walk the strand. Our view of the beautiful sky full of pink and orange, waves crashing on the shore, and Christmas lights lining the pier was the welcome I was excited to receive.
Although, it was breathtaking, the emotional heaviness in my chest, I arrived with, wasn’t lifting. Tears welled in my eyes and my breath still felt hard to grasp.
“Snap out of it Whit, you’re in one of your favorite places, with people you love” I thought as I wrestled with the unwanted heaviness and tried to shift my focus.
I’d struggled with waves of anger then sadness and ready for my state of mind to be off of this wild roller coaster. To add to my struggle, my mind kept dwelling on unhelpful questions: why is this so heavy? When will I be done grieving? Why can’t I shake this off?
Yet, I had no answers that brought understanding or relief.
As we passed an upscale restaurant with people socializing with one anther, drinking wine, I thought, “Gosh, a glass or two of wine would sure take my edge off”.
Tears welled in my eyes as I brought my attention from people drinking back to the reality of my heaviness.
“I’m sick of feeling sad and heavy, I just want to be done with this stupid grief” I thought.
We sat down for dinner, people laughing and smiling, the atmosphere full of holiday cheer but I felt disconnected to the joy around me.
As the waitress greeted us another urge to order alcohol popped up, feeling shame, I thought “You should be stronger than having these temptations Whit”
The new cravings of having a drink, after eight years of sobriety, were quickly increasing with frequency and intensity. The rawness felt vulnerable, like it was shaking the confidence I'd felt in my sobriety, God, and healthy coping habits over the last several years.
“Am I really strong enough to handle this?”
With each urge, more self-doubt creeped in. My old identity of someone who numbed seemed more familiar and the reoccurring fantasy of being relieved of these intense emotions became more attractive.
Then it dawned on me. These temptations were invitations to rely on Gods Promises and Presence even more. They were the pathways to make me stronger in Him, even though it felt horrible in the moment.
The next morning, while walking along the ocean, God reminded me of Romans 8:5-6 “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death but letting your Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
I’d been struggling with urges to numb with wine from being on this emotional rollercoaster because I'd been looking to feel better from worldly, fleshly, things. I needed to change my focus to the things of His Spirit. Set my heart and affection on Him. The truth was that my normal Jesus time in the mornings wasn’t enough for this tough season.
I knew, deep down, I needed to be immersed in Gods creation, inspired by Him, completely focused on His goodness, and in awe of His beauty. My Spirit was calling me to spend time with Him... in His creation.
When I got back I told Jake, “I need a wetsuit. We’re going surfing in this cold water”.
Remembering we’d need to find and purchase a wetsuit, get a babysitter for Maverick, and knowing I’d be wiping out more than surfing. These obstacles felt daunting but a still, quiet knowing from inside, affirmed this was worth pursuing.
Jake took me to the best local surf shop to get my first wet suit and booties for my feet. Then we grabbed our surf boards and drove to the beach. We found a parking spot a block away, changed in the camper then walked down to surf. As we walked I felt the heaviness breaking loose.
In awe of the crashing waves, I felt both fear and excitement coming up. Gods beautiful creation and the anticipation of wiping out had my mind focused on Him and no longer on my sorrow.
The cold ocean was invigorating as we paddled into the perfect sized waves, picked just for us. As Jake and I waited for waves talking and savoring the scene I felt God near. When I looked out in front of my board Dolphins popped up only twenty feet away. So close, it felt like I could touch them. Wow!
I said an inner prayer, “Thanks God for never leaving me and for giving me the strength I needed to choose You” I was in awe of the experience we were having and felt God smiling on me.
Life boils down to choices. Like Romans 8, allowing your sinful mind make your choices leads to death. Although, not every choice leads to life or death, often times it’s the many small choices that lead us to a life of peace or of fear.
I believe, an art of life is seeing this power we have of our choices and the authority we hold in making them.
When we practice this awareness of either living by the flesh (fear, pleasure, impulses) or living by the Spirit (peace, love, His Presence) we’re able to navigate the darker seasons of life with strength and integrity.
Here are some questions that have guided me in this dark season, that I’m still journeying through, that may also help you in times of trial, struggle, or conflict.
Who do I want to be when life throws punches? What habits do I need to help me?
What does God want my life to be an example of?
In the tough seasons of feeling weak, how do I want to respond to big life events?
We all go through unexpected seasons of difficult, breath-taking, events. The way you and I choose to respond is one of the greatest opportunities we have.
My prayer has been "Father in Heaven, help me to go through this tough season well so I bring you honor. Help me to navigate these trials and tough emotions keeping my focus on You and everything Jesus gave me access to by His strips. Give me more of your grace and peace, so I can rely on You moment-by-moment. In Jesus Name. Amen."
If you're going through a challenging season, then I want to encourage you to invite God into every aspect of it. Tell Him, with vulnerability, how you're struggling. Then ask Him to show you how He wants to connect with you on a deeper level. Maybe He will invite you to spend time walking in nature, gardening, or doing something outside you enjoy. He is so good, faithful and personable.
How we respond is a beautiful doorway to greater intimacy.
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