Results of the Withdrawal of an Emotional Addict
By: Theresa Arluck
Jesus, as Lover of our souls, has ways of wooing even the most impenetrable hearts, abiding faithful even when we deny Him. Often this same, constant love is sharp, painful, and perplexing, but is the same love, and the same God; as the wounds of a friend are faithful so, too, the purifying trial of our faith shall scorch, and cut, and discard, so that what remains is clean, fresh, new, holy, raw, real, and whole.
Over the last few weeks I who have been consistently adamant against His sweetly persistent advances have finally allowed some of my callus to slough off and offer tender newness to Him and to others. What was once a cognitive understanding of several truths is now an experiential reality, God having worked purgation in my soul. May this testimony bring release and healing to others trapped in similar bondage!
Concurrent with my reading of The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis was an evening spent with my dear sister, Robin Watts, who ministered truth to my falsified perceptions and whom God used like a scalpel to cut away purulent, putrefying matter which was causing decay of much of my ego and self-image, and thus marring my image of God, as we are to see Him. Through these two tools the Lord has revealed His nature to me, convinced me of my intrinsic value as a human being, child of His, and woman, and has given me the glorious liberty to live out by application these truths.
The usual course of my relationships with men was thus: Man finds me attractive; man lures me with kindness; man gets my clothes off; man achieves his goal; man sees the REAL ME; man becomes vacant; man rejects me. This naturally led to the following course: All men are merely a repository of the sex organ; men seek images; men hurt; men cannot love me; women accept me for who I am; women do not frighten me; women love me.
My heart had felt beaten, like meat drained and tenderized. The ache, the longing, the frustration! How I longed for the open void to be filled by an embrace, a warm kiss, a body next to mine in the morning, by patient ears; but each time I tried to fill with someone else the gaping wound left by the last disappointment, the packing lasted only a brief while; it would dry and fall out; it could never replace the actual tissue damage in my ulcerated heart.
And yet, each new fancy was to me what methadone is to a heroin addict – not the real stuff, but something to keep the pain of withdrawal from happening. This act of substitution never erased the actuality that a binding, urgent, compelling need had been created that had to be filled by SOMETHING. I had to have a filling, anything, and in that frenetic state of panic – the instant withdrawal was to occur and my level was low – I would reach out, and grab what was available, until the pain, however falsely, subsided.
Mixed in with this addiction was the desire to know Jesus above all things, to love Him above all things. But I incessantly argued with Him, telling Him how wrong it was for Him to create me with needs and desires and cravings and drives and then call it sin when I try to meet or satisfy some of them, and on top of it, even destroying attempt after attempt I made to quench the burning thirst within me, the thirst He Himself created me to acquire when liquid to refresh is sparse!
Over the course of time, however, I noticed that even the better relationships left me vacant and empty. Somehow, after I had bitten and chewed and swallowed and drunk with seeming satisfaction, the gnawing gurgles within my gut would indigest once more leaving again the vacant soul.
In an attempt to understand the nature and workings of the very area in which I seemed to do so poorly, as well as for the sheer enjoyment of the mind of Christianity’s greatest modern thinker, I completed The Four Loves a few weeks ago. Part of Lewis’ dissection and description of the loves of man is his parenthetical on the existence of what he calls “Need-love” and “Gift-love”. According to Lewis, Need-love is present in each of the human loves, “needing” to be coddled, or cuddled, or made feel special or important – a dependency, of sorts, which should be directed and satisfied by God foremost and nearly totally. He then describes “Gift-love” as the pure desire to make someone else happy, the giver’s happiness lying in that making of the other happy. Finally he declares that “In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give”. And again, “God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them”.
In that instant I saw God for His LOVING NATURE – that His desire was to give to me, to reveal Himself to me, to fulfill me, that He had no other reason for creating me, having Himself no need to fill. Oh, the glory of it! How the fright of Him dissolved! God was not exacting!
And so the tender Love of Jesus became real to me that day – the meaning of the Cross as the expression of this pure Gift-love; the warm fire in my bosom that remained after the Lord gently kissed me there.
Shortly after this was my evening with Robin. I told her on that Thanksgiving night about the types of behaviors I permitted in many of my heterosexual relationships – the abuse, the disrespect, the carnality, the rudeness – and for the first time what I had heard from probably a score of tongues and hearts before made absolute and full sense to me, to the point that I was able to see another way of conducting things and had hope enough to change. Her words were thus: “Theresa, you are WORTH MORE than that. You should not compromise what you want from a man because you think you won’t find anyone else. You are WORTH THE VERY BEST, GOD’S BEST MAN FOR YOU.”
And shortly after the talk, warm wetness dropped to the pillow as quiet sobs went up to the throne of Heaven. I really WAS worth more than this! I really WAS worth waiting for! I would hereafter have the strength to say, “NO” and the self-esteem to say, “I mean it”. And from that moment I knew I was never going to have another relationship with a man or woman which would infiltrate my heart with disease, mutilate and mangle it with abuse, or poison it with impurity.
But, then, what was to fill that familiar void about which this whole article has been written? I saw in that instant that even the best people and fullest relationships never really fulfilled or satisfied me; that any joy I experienced came not from fellowship with them but from communion with Him; that when I had the worst, and the best, that humans had to offer – which is what I thought and told God I really needed – I was still empty, for the Lord became the only satiety of my hunger and my only quenching Drink.
And how did I know this? I realized that all the loneliness, despair, isolation, loss of material comfort, situational perplexity, which I underwent for months and months were His means of breaking me from the dependency of human beings. During the course of it I thought I was farther from Him than ever, but it was that purging of fire and the surgery of the sharpest scalpel that have both purified my carnal desire and excised the diseased, decaying material from my heart, that I might enter a little more fully into the secret Place of the Most High.
As a result of repeated pressure and friction, redness had led to swelling which led to callus and eventually scar – the natural response to protect from and prevent further injury. To this Lewis in The Four Loves offers this supernatural alternative and urgent caveat:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will
certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure
of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an
animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; a
void all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your
selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will
become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to
tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place
outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers
and perturbations of love is Hell.
“Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the
natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not
uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he
is none the more likely to be so towards God whom he has not seen.
We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings
inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him:
throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken,
and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.”
However, it is not entirely a question of whether or not one is to possess or nurture any love for a human, but it is one of “inordinacy” – a disproportion of human to divine love. “We may love [the human] too much in proportion to our love for God; but it is smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for man, that constitutes the inordinacy”, states Lewis. And when this inordinacy metastasizes throughout the soul, the cancer, however painfully and at whatever cost, must be treated, must be destroyed.
As I mentioned before, it was because I had mixed with the addiction the desire to know and love Jesus above all things that He was able to do this work of purging, in spite of my arguments. It hurt. It was lonely. My heart felt like it would rip apart and spew its redness on passers-by. To those who are bound by emotional dependency, either sex to either sex, God’s method for your healing will not entail the use of emotional methadone, filling your need with substitute goods; you must go cold turkey. It will seem like you are losing your wits; you will think no one cares; you will often break out in deep crying; the ache between your breasts will feel like a puncture stuffed with cement; it will be scary, for this is new and unknown. But God will hold you through that dark night, even if you cannot reciprocate, bracing your twists and turns as the poisons drain from you. Your own cries will be loud enough to drown out His still, small voice. But when the morning comes, you will awake, clean, pure, free. You will know the One from Whom your delight can only come; He Who has been your surgeon and your metal-smith is ready to be your Lover. Enjoy Him.