Boiling frogs, cross-eyed = “the fall”
Not too long after I was arrested in September of 2009, for going into someone’s home and taking their prescription pain pills, a former student of mine from the Christian discipleship program I used to work for called to see how I was doing. The grapevine does move rather swiftly.
In the early days after my “fall”, I didn’t take many phone calls nor did I return many messages – I was ashamed and embarrassed (if I didn’t call you back…please forgive me) – but, this guy was persistent. He left me several messages letting me know that he loved me, still respected me, didn’t care what I had done, and that he just wanted to talk about HOW this had happened, not the 4-1-1. He went on to say that my fall had got him thinking about his own life, specifically about his relationship with God. I appreciated the candidness and sincerity of his request. I called him back.
This would be the first of many times to come
that I would witness God use the mess I created for His good.
True to his word, my friend didn’t probe me for details about my crimes. He just wanted to talk about how I got to such a point of desperation that would cause me to do what I had done. I explained to him, as I’ll now explain to you, that the onset of my fall started way before I committed my crimes, as well as how it was kindled by unresolved and covered up character issues.
I don’t know when or where I first heard it from, or from who I heard it from – or really, for that matter, why you’d want to do such a thing in the first place. Perhaps it has something to do with cooking….or….perhaps not. I may have heard it from one of my redneck buddies somewhere down the line (no slam intended – merely a term of endearment; I think Lump may have a little redneck in her…or secretly wishes she did). I don’t know. I can’t remember, nor do I think the when, where and who are that important. What is important is the process – the how. The process of how one goes about…
boiling a live frog.
First of all, you can’t just throw a live frog into a pot of boiling water and expect the little fellow to stay in there. Although frogs may not be considered to be the Einsteins of the animal world, they’re certainly not the bottom of the barrel when it comes to stupid. If you throw a live frog into a pot of boiling water, more likely than not, he’s going to jump out – it’s only natural. (Now, I know some of you observant brainiacs have already said to yourself, “put a lid on the pot”…but for playing along purposes, pretend there is no lid. Ok?...good.) On the other hand, if you first put the frog down into a pot of room temperature water the frog will swim around – or sit there as some stubborn frogs do – enjoying his fresh dip in the H2O that he is very much familiar with. Next, as he settles in and makes himself comfortable, slowly turn the heat up on the water until it finally comes to a boil. Completely unaware of the danger of the rising temperature, the soothing comfort of the familiar environment of the water will slowly lull the frog to the point of complacency. Degree by rising degree, bubble after bubble, the heat from the boiling water will slowly suck the energy and zap the life from the unsuspecting amphibian until finally, unable to battle the smothering heat, our little leaping friend will leap no more.
A moral and spiritual fall are somewhat similar to boiling a frog.
I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to become addicted to pain pills again. Like the frog, I slowly boiled myself in a pot of self absorption until I became cross-eyed – my focus became ME instead of God and others.
It all started with getting comfortable where I was.
Now, when I say comfortable where I was, I don’t so much mean location as much as I mean comfortable and complacent in regards to my spiritual life. Some of you may not understand or agree entirely with this next statement – a statement based solely on my observation of other people’s lives as well as experiencing it in my own – but working in ministry at a Christian university can be one of the easiest and hardest places to grow in your relationship with God. Bear with me and let me explain.
It can be easy because you are constantly surrounded by incredible worship, dynamic teaching and powerful experiences. All of this taken in the correct context and applied with your own personal time of meditating and studying God’s word, growing in the wisdom and knowledge of Who HE is will lead to what He promises us – an abundant, free life. But when the incredible worship, dynamic teaching and powerful experiences become the substitute and only source for spiritual growth, comfort and complacency can find a place to root in rather quickly. This is exactly what happed to me – and with my past, this is not a healthy scenario. I became unfavorably comfortable and complacent concerning my relationship with God. It was like I flipped the auto-pilot switch on and allowed my ministry position and complete absorption in the activities of the university to become my sole source of material for personal spiritual growth. I began to completely ignore my own personal time with God and rely entirely on being at numerous weekly services and experiences (that my position required me to be at) in order to keep me spiritually afloat.
My eyes slowly turned inward
– cross-eyed –
the focus of my attention became ME.
Although those around me may not have initially picked up on it, I began to feel the change within myself. I developed a very negative attitude. The joy, peace and happiness I had experienced in my life began to be replaced with envy, jealousy and selfish desires. I became condescending and sarcastic in my mind, not only towards people but towards Christianity all together. I became very critical – a very dangerous place to be spiritually. Like a parasite, my diminishing attitude drove me away from my community of believers. I pulled away even further by relinquishing my responsibilities – specifically mentoring and teaching, two things that I loved very much. Furthermore, just like I did as a child, I began to isolate myself, dissolving all accountability around me – self- centeredness soon gave way to selfish behavior. Slowly but surely, just as the heat from the boiling water sucked the strength from the frog, my gradual pulling away from God left me cold, hard and ineffective spiritually. I was primed for a relapse. All I need was a good excuse – or a half- hearted one for that matter.
My excuse came in the form of an injury and a trip to the doctor. Knowing good and well that I shouldn’t accept the prescription for the pain medicine, pure selfishness kicked in and over road any logic that I had bouncing around in my head. I remember telling myself “just this one prescription and that’s it. Besides, I am injured and the doctor is giving them to me. Yea, just this one and I’ll quit.”
Addiction doesn’t’ work that way. As soon as the beloved chemical hit my brain sending the all too familiar soothing, warm and fuzzy feeling to embrace my body – put a fork in me I was done. Of course, one prescription led to another and another and then…well, you get the picture. Active addiction had been resurrected, and it takes no prisoners. Its goal is to win at any cost. My tolerance level for the chemical picked up right where it left off and it quickly skyrocketed. It was soon followed by the paralyzing fear of withdrawal. I was spinning out of control. Even I couldn’t believe how fast and far I had fallen as well as the depths of what I was willing to do in order to get what I needed (wanted).
Which brings me full circle – September 4, 2009. The events of that day were really an end to something that was very close to taking my life, as well as the beginning to a whole new level of freedom.
God heard my prayer…and He’s still answering it today.
When I started writing this blog series some three or four months ago, I had no idea what direction it would really go. As I stated in my very first post, I simply began writing because I felt as if that was what I was supposed to do. The cool thing is when I got to about part five or six in the series, I realized that God was using the blog to help me get brutally honest with my life and uncover faulty character issues. I never imagined that I’d do this through a form of social networking. I guess, in more ways than one, I’ve grown from this initial series of posts. Who knows?...I may even open a Facebook account when I get out. The end.
Thanks for reading this series!
…from the inside…ray-ray