I can do anything, there is nothing that I can’t accomplish, I won’t fail and I don’t fail.
That’s what I used to think, regardless of so much evidence to the contrary, I believed in myself to the utmost. It got me some good things; I white knuckled kicking alcohol out of my life, got two degrees, and a pretty decent job, and I’m a pretty good dad. I was proud of myself and what I had done. But it wasn’t enough…
I used my skills and gifts to glorify myself and try to be a hero to all those around me, I was the go to guy, I was the problem solver, and the deal maker. I always wanted to be the fair haired boy (even as a grey haired man.) I have always genuinely enjoyed helping people especially those who were facing great challenges, but I got as much satisfaction from basking in the glory and praise. But it wasn’t enough…
I sucked up as much attention and praise as possible, when that wasn’t enough I sought out other ways to get attention with body building and exercise, with relationships, with everything. Any kind of attention, whether cheap and shallow or deep and real. But it wasn’t enough….
Part of me was in my head standing on a mountain with fists fixed firmly on hips and cape waving in the breeze… this was the person I acted like, the person I thought I had to be. But it wasn’t enough…
Because there was another person also, the one who was afraid and insecure, his green skin barely visible in the shadows, he was the one who was clawing for all the attention and affirmation, but the other guy was getting it all so it could never be enough.
I used to envision a battle between my two selves, the Hero yelling and shaking the Heel, “Why do you make me do these horrible things? Why do you ruin everything we have that’s good?”
The Heel sobs in return, “Why do you always get the credit? Why do you get the glory?
(I know at this point y’all are probably thinking, ‘whoa, little cuckoo,’ and you’re right but… not that cuckoo. I know I’m not really two people it’s just a method I learned in therapy for internal family systems….really)
Then I slipped badly, had everything going for me, and lost almost everything. It was more than the Hero could fix and it plummeted the Heel into despair. I started to suspect that rather than one evil twin, there were two. I always used to blame the Heel for lies and deceit, but it was the Hero who told the lies and lived out the deceit. (ok. ok. I know I’m not really two people)
The Hero was arrogant and self-sure and refused anyone’s help, the Heel lived in shame and sin and didn’t think he deserved anyone’s help. I realized that both were bad, because I was broken. The more attention the Hero got, the more shame the Heel felt, it was a vicious cycle I’ve been in for most of my life.
I’ve talked about the shame and the sin and how I let God’s love into my heart to burn away the dark and slimy shame. But I haven’t talked about the other side, what’s the harm in being confident and sure?
It depends on what you put your confidence. They say that nothing kills change like moderate success and my confidence in myself allowed me to enjoy moderate success. Not just in life but in my personal problems as well. I was able to quit drinking as I’ve mentioned and my other issues became smaller and smaller. But never were they gone, they would flare up, I’d do damage control, re-adjust my cape and move on. Each flare up resulted in a broken heart though, or at least two broken hearts only I would never take the time to feel mine, I shoved the pain down for the Heel to deal with.
The Hero never had time for pain, he was busy looking for the next adventure, seeking to glorify himself more.
What broke the cycle? I heard the sermon a couple of months after it happened, a guest minister said something in passing that hit my heart and soul, “If you don’t find humility God will humiliate you.” And that’s just what happened. I was humiliated, God used my brokenness and my sin to break me down. I had already started praying for strength to get better but I was still hiding so much and refused to let the truth set me free. I remember the prayer that did it. “God, make me one man and please take away my secrets.” Ooops….
Guess what the best way is to take away secrets? Yup, people found out about me and my secret life and I was torn down. My mountain crumbled, my cape was torn away, and my hands and knees hit the ground, the hero and the heel were on the same level and finally ready to hear the next message. A bible study about David and Goliath, I had always loved this story, as I love the underdog but I had never really understood the base meaning.
I always thought that David was the hero of the story, but in Bible study that day I realized that David had no confidence in himself at all, he knew he could never beat Goliath. Still, David knew he would win. All of David’s confidence was in God’s power and God’s strength to defeat Goliath.
So, there I was, on my knees, cape blown into a corner, I was face to face with myself (remember the twin thing?) and I realized that I am powerless without Him.
The best place to surrender is on your knees and I did just that. I prayed hard to God that I could lean on his strength to do something that I could never do on my own. I decided that I had broken my last heart, and that I can’t do anything, that there is nothing I can accomplish, and that I will and do fail without Him. Suddenly my chest felt lighter and something bubbled up inside me. I felt free, free from the old habits and old ways of getting attention, because I knew that God would always be there for me and always love me, and it’s be enough….
When I need to remember that I can only find strength in submission and can only be lifted up when I’m on my knees I remember the following;
1 Peter 5: 6,7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”