Reflection: NLT Life Recovery Bible – Brutal Intimacy

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My mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict. Her life ended when she crossed a yellow line, taking a 53-year-old grandmother with her, almost 15 years ago now. In talking with her before that time, I remember getting the sense from her that she alone was going through these struggles with alcoholism. After all, all her other friends were drinking and could stop. Have you encountered that with others who are addicted? They see others who seemingly do not struggle with addiction, able to enjoy things in moderation.

Part of the behaviours I have seen develop in those struggling with addiction is the inability to control other areas of their life. Part of this is the life of intimacy. Things are misplaced. Priorities and self-control, non-existent. Many times, this area of life is seen as a means of escape, relief, and love in a life spiraling downward. Sometimes, because of a loss of innocence in this area of the life, other addictions arise.

I note as a matter of administration, sponsors are generally a different gender than those who are sponsored.

One of the books in the bible, often times purposely covered up with theological premises of God and Israel or Christ and the Church is the Song of Songs which is Solomon’s. It is more wonderful than any other and explores a very human concept, that of emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy between two lovers. It is poetic. (As a matter of fact, I used to use passages of this book in love letters in high school. That’s right, using the bible to write love letters. Style, I had it.) It is plain. And it is awkward to those of us struggling with Victorian prudence.

From the outset of this book, the authors of the added material do not shy away from the things that might make us blush. Using the ‘s’ word in the introduction, the authors begin the process exploring the everyday application of the Song of Songs:

The primary focus of the Song of Songs, however, is the celebration of sexual love in the context of marriage.

With each introduction, they include a bottom line which includes a purpose, author, date, setting, key verse, people and relationships. Here, the purpose is given as,

To tell of the love between a bridegroom (King Solomon) and his bride, affirming the sanctity of marriage and the richness of physical love.

This is followed with a section on Recovery Themes which helps to connect the text to a life led in Recovery. Here, they speak of past experiences, abuse, molestation and the damage done to our natural boundaries. It speaks of pain and fear about the loss of innocence. The authors go on to explain about the uniqueness of a committed love and the joy that it brings but without painting a picture of marital bliss.

I mean, if you have been married, you know that there is bliss and then not-so-bliss. Sometimes marriages fail regardless of the effort applied or the love held. Rough spots happen. Bright spots happen. No point in denying it.

The running commentary is another brutally intimate picture into the Songs, which speaks of the abuse of the young woman in question and the scars which are created. It does not shy away from such things or applies the standard line ‘It was God’s plan.’ In escaping the theological concepts of the Songs, it moves into a theology which is applicable today.

And what is really startling, is that it allows that nurture can play a part those things which lead us to addiction, such as, dare I say it? Parents:

If our parents have had negative effects on us, our progress in recovery may demand that we set stronger boundaries between us and them. This may be instrumental in freeing us from some of our destructive patterns.

Skipping to a different passage, in Mark 14.53-65, we read in the commentary:

Jesus was a victim of abuse and injustice: he was lied about, falsely accused and convicted, and physically assaulted. But instead of returning words or blows in kind, he entrusted himself to his Father’s care.

Let’s not be timid here. Christ was abused throughout Scripture. As John would later write in 1st John 4.4, we can overcome these things. Other writers say the same thing – because of Christ, we can.

At the introduction to Zephaniah, we read,

If only…is a haunting phrase. It implies that we have failed and that we wish we could go back and do things differently. As we work through the process of recovery, we often become sad and ashamed when we reflect on the past. We regret our irresponsible and destructive behavior and wish we could erase past mistakes. This must have been how the people of Judah felt when they heard the prophetic words of Zephaniah. If only they had obeyed and trusted God!

Indeed. Don’t you sometimes do that without being addicted to anything except maybe a bad attitude? If only I hadn’t snapped that him or her?

Last Friday, I was taking my daughter to her 4 month check-up and shots. My son was sent home early from school for being ‘sick.’ (Amazing, he perked right up when he got home. I used to do the same thing on days when my favorite soap stars where getting married or something.) We were late because I was in a budget hearing and had to power walk about half a mile or more to my vehicle to rush home, pick up my family and then rush to the doctor. So, I was already late.

We get there, and the primary parking lot was full. You had about 4 security guards there, just standing around. Finally, as I was pulling into the secondary lot, one motioned me into the secondary lot. Great! Except that the one spot that I found the cars were parked too close to one another. (I had already dropped my wife and daughter off at the door.)

So I sat in my truck and watched a security guard on his cell phone. I stepped out and yelled ‘Hey, you!’ He motioned me into another spot. Good for him. I would have hated to run him down.

I get out, and another guard approaches me and asks for two dollars. I never carry cash. My wife had the check book. (Safer that way) So I said, ‘I’ll have to get it when I come back down.’

To which he meekly responded, ‘Sir, I need it now or you can’t park.’

I stuck my finger in his general direction and with a loud voice I said, ‘No!’ and proceeded to walk away. I told him that I would go get the money and bring it down to him, which I did. He said fine as he backed away quickly.

If only I had been the person that I try to be I might have presented a better picture. That guard wouldn’t be able to convict me as a Christian even if I showed him my baptismal certificate. Yeah, it was a minor ‘if only moment.’

I was seventeen when my mother died. She was a full-blown alcoholic and was using prescription pills like candy. On a Wednesday in a long ago September, I told her flatly, over the phone, that I no longer wanted to have anything to do with her. ‘As a matter of fact, ‘I said as I puffed my chest out,’the next time I see you, it’ll be at your funeral and you’ll be lucky if I show up. Goodbye.’ Click. That following Saturday night, I was sitting in a church service listening to a preacher speak about forgiveness and release from sin. ‘If only,’ I thought, ‘my mother could hear there, I know that she would kick that habit. I’ll give her a call on Monday.’ A few minutes later, I was informed that she had died some hours before. Yeah, if only.

I have had my share of addictions and bad behaviours. Part of the value of the Recovery Bible is the fact that it doesn’t hide the causes or the additions to the causes of these things. It doesn’t bind everything up in Adam’s Fall, but presents cases from Scripture for those things which harm us, and connects the dots to recovery. Sometimes, those people who are hurting need something more than prayer. Sometimes, often times, more times than not, they need to be reminded that they are not alone. Others have experienced these problems. Others have recovered. There is no shame in standing in the need of recovery.

I am in awe of the brutal honesty of what the authors have written here; they don’t shy away from realism so often missing in other works.

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4 Replies to “Reflection: NLT Life Recovery Bible – Brutal Intimacy”

  1. Ah, some people may not like it, but me, I value transparency. One of my most fulfilling, but also most disappointing experiences in ministry was working with a recovering crack addict. He became a part of my life and I became a part of his. I no longer know where he is, but I hope that wherever he is that I helped him make some sort of progress. He relapsed, but maybe he made an effort to get back out of it sooner. I don’t know. I think the step for him that was the hardest was #8, making amends. I don’t know if he ever really made it through that one. I can’t imagine the guilt some people have to deal with there, that we all would really if we tried it.

    1. Thank you, Jeremy.

      No, guilt is not easy to overcome, especially because it is easier to ignore it than to deal with it. I remember the old Star Treks, the ones which Kirk would get split into two, a good and a bad. (You know, out of 79 episodes of the original series, I think 63 of them were along these lines.) He refused to continue like that, believing that he was the sum of the two parts. Granted, not ‘biblical’ but I tend to believe that we are the sum of our actions and if we can add to that correction, moderation, and humility.

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