For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.
1 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honour.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.
Though the bulk of the psalm describes man and his dominion over the universe, the first and last verses make clear to the reader that the psalm was written primarily to exalt the Creator. “A little lower than the angels” (verse 5), is literally “a little lower than God” (the Hebrew word “Elohim” is used, which is the normal generic word for God). The Septuagint translated the word as “angels”, however, and this translation is quoted (in Hebrews 2:6-8). The word may be taken in a loose sense,” divine beings”, in which case it could refer to both God and the angels. Three interpretations of man’s position are described (in verses 5-8):
(1) It refers only to man’s original condition (Gen. 1:26-28);
(2) It refers to man’s present, actual position, though ruined somewhat by the Fall.
(3) It points to man redeemed and restored in the future to his exalted position.
The second view is preferred since the psalmist seems to be observing life as it is in the present. The words “When I consider”, being the give away (verse 3).
The theme of Psalm 8 is “how excellent” is the creator. It blazes across this Psalm from start to finish (8:1, 9). The psalmist wants to understand that their meaning starts and ends with the glory of God and who He is.
The beginning and ending of the psalm suggest that it is essentially a hymn of praise. Yet, a major portion qualifies it as a so-called nature psalm, i.e., a psalm of creation. There is also a significant focus on the importance of man in God’s eyes.
Another instrument is referenced in this title, most probably a guitar-like harp associated with Gath in Philistia. Maybe he used music from Gath.
As a young man or even as a boy, David had kept sheep. He would have very likely been with the sheep in the hills at night and able to see the stars in the sky. Perhaps this is something that inspired this Psalm fuelled by thoughts of the vastness and beauty of the night sky. It’s rare to see the fullness of the stars in the sky above London but on occasions when I have been able to spend time out of the city and in more rural areas I have seen a night sky that is breathtaking and beautiful and in those moments can be filled with wonder and in awe of God as well as being aware that I am merely dust, water and gas.
Verse 1 offers direct address to God with the use of twin nouns, the first is His specially revealed name Yahweh (Exodus 3:14), and the second puts an emphasis on His sovereignty.
The name of God refers to the revealed Person of God, encompassing all of His attributes. It is an enthusiastic and powerful expression of praise, a “wow” moment, a moment of amazement and awe. His name is above all names. All of creation bows down to him.
The Psalmist acknowledges that there are enemies of God and yet they are levelled through the simple praise of children. The introductory irony about children sets the stage for a contrast between the dependent and the self-sufficient.
The question about the value of man in God’s sight is brought to the table. What is man that you are mindful of him? What can he bring to you? If the whole universe is diminutive in the sight of the Divine Creator, how much less is the significance of mankind! Even the word for “man” used in verse 4 alludes to his weakness.
Verses 5-8 consistently emphasise the significance of man, who was created in the image and likeness of God to exercise dominion over the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26-28).
The psalm closes with the same sentiment that it begins with.
Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015
Lord, our Lord. How majestic is your name in all the earth
Today’s Psalm had nothing of special relevance but I love the way we sing the song as a congregation. I am not a fan of many songs / hymns that we sing but this one I love. My other favourite is “Be still my soul” to the tune of “Finlandia” by Sibelius. I found myself singing them both this morning.
I went to find a Church that had been recommended to me by our local minister. Our movement had come out of this movement, we were vaguely related, sharing key doctrinal positions.
It appeared that they had no access to their building and decided to meet on Wanstead flats. I felt very insecure. I am an introvert by nature but usually a confident introvert. My confidence has been smashed by everything being exposed but it will be rebuilt through authenticity.
Some of my insecurity was about the culture of the congregation. It was an all black congregation. I am used to a mixed cosmopolitan congregation that at least resembles some of the demographic of the city that I live in. In time a second white person appeared. I sat on the outside of the group, didn’t talk to anyone and no one talked to me. It was a strange experience. The sun was out though and it was nice to be on Wanstead flats.
I met the chairman of the board of my former employers that I had stolen all the money from. He kindly bought me lunch and once we started to talk it was very easy talking with him. He asked me about my awareness of what I had done and the impact of it.
I told him that apart from the obvious financial hole I have created, I am sure there is a lot of hurt, anger, disappointment, sense of betrayal and broken trust. Inconvenience, potential damage to the reputation of the organization and it’s relationship with it’s stakeholders. I hadn’t connected with the full gravity of that because I am in the early stages of processing myself and I had not been privy to people’s reactions.
I said that my intent at this point is to repay the money and do all I can to repair the relational and other damage. I am long way from being in a position to do either and because of the nature of my emotional, mental health and “addiction” I could not guarantee that I will do this.
In my experience of working with addicts about 40% at some point or another find recovery too overwhelming and they bolt. I could be one of the 40%. I don’t believe that I am today because already everything is exposed and I think I have enough in my emotional tank to do the repair work. My spiritual training has perhaps equipped me to handle a lot more than the average addict and the fact that I have a better spiritual grounding but the truth is I don’t know if I will fulfil this.
It would be a better conversation to have in 12 months time. Today I intend to do this. It has been my intent since the beginning. He also asked if prison would help me or hinder me from recovery. I said that I really don’t know. I think I stand a better chance outside of prison because I have great support and I feel I am making slow but steady progress. I would lose that in prison but who knows what that would bring up. Maybe it is what I need, maybe I will meet someone there who would be a great support, maybe God will refine me more there. Prison scares the life out of me. I have been in prisons assessing potential clients and representing the organization I was working for and it really intimidated me even as a visitor. Last time I was in Brixton prison, a couple of months back I thought I could be here soon as a resident. That thought actually went through my head as I was contemplating coming clean. In the end the meeting with my former employer was seasoned with grace and positive.
I was still wrestling with the idea of going to the SLAA meeting in Brixton. The thought quite overwhelmed me and the guy I had spoken with the previous day had left me a message in the morning reminding me of the meeting which triggered “Old school” heavy accountability thoughts in me. I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. I went home and went to sleep.
I woke up just in time to go to the meeting and I decided out of curiosity that I would go. There was also a part of me that thought at least when he calls tonight I can say that I went, there was also a part of me that thought if I try this then at least it shows good intent to others who have a vested interest in my recovery or are watching me in judgment. These however were not my dominant thoughts. Curiosity was my primary motivator. As I set out I started to worry about being in Brixton that I would meet former clients or volunteers.
I read the SLAA beginners pack on the journey to the meeting. A lot of the material I was very familiar with, perhaps too familiar with for it to have any impact because being around this stuff in the rehab made me very familiar with recovery jargon, slogans, tag lines and philosophy. This causes a loss of the “Wow” factor …if indeed there is one.
I pasted some quotes (in italics) and my reflections on them, from the section about “Withdrawal” that really resonated with me.
“The addictive experience has been so mind altering for most of us that, once enmeshed in it, we have lost track of ever wanting to be out of it!”
To think about sex and love addiction being mind altering is a bizarre thought when I think about the comparison with drugs and alcohol but really it is and perhaps more intoxicating in some ways because it is a legitimate need and the shift from fulfilling the legitimate need to addiction flies under the radar, it’s harder to detect and therefore more subtle. It used my normal feelings and in some ways a normal human social experience to give me a hit. It’s a lot more deceptive and a lot harder to recognize the problem. I knew what I was doing was morally wrong and wilful sin but at the same time the feelings were seemingly authentic feelings, perhaps more intense and more passionate than normal but nevertheless authentic “real” feelings underpinned by deluded sense of entitlement that said I deserve this. Everyone should be able to feel this. Those feelings of course were manufactured by fantasy and imagination, fuelled by the fact that I knew I could never really possess this love or this intimacy or this passion however I viewed it in the moment. I really didn’t want to be out of it until I began to see that it was unsustainable and becoming increasingly demanding on my emotional and physical resources.
There is great truth to this. Usually, however, by the time we let the concept of withdrawal into our thinking, the addiction was not reliably delivering the oblivion or pleasure we sought so ardently.More and more energy had to be poured into the emotional and sexual activities just to break even, let alone “go to the moon.” It was as though an inner voice was saying, as we embarked on each new sexual or romantic episode, “Wherever I’m ‘going’ with this new face, or body, or mind, I’ve already ‘been there’ a thousand times before!”
And this is the bottom line of the beginning of my recovery journey. It really was no longer delivering. The cost of breaking even emotionally was crossing over from a well managed and contained double life that I skillfully kept secret from everyone and bleeding over into my real life.
The amount of money I needed to sustain it was increasing, the communication level demanded of me in this latest relationship was unsustainable. It was causing greater problems with my time and exposing me to greater risk. The time away was harder and harder to justify. It was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain the lies and even make them consistent. The problem was that I was at the point that the addiction, the mental obsession and compulsion to act had gripped me like it never had before. I can pinpoint many opportunities where I could have walked away from the double life along the way and the fall out would have been minimal. I even contemplated it at times and I am sure I could have prevented myself from acting out in such an extreme way. I remember stopping for months at a time between 2011 – 2013 but I never really engaged with the idea that this was an addiction for me, so I kept open doors and opportunities to go back to it again. I think in the end it had to crash and burn in the way that it did so that everything could be exposed and I could be stripped of everything, so I am in a position to restore the real me.
By May of 2015 I was beginning to let out subtle cries for help in the form of half truths and I talked about this woman first with my wife and a handful of others. By June I was depressed and almost suicidal as I was attempting withdrawal. I went to the doctors and asked for a mental health assessment, my behaviour was erratic and I was sure that I was having some kind of breakdown. I started entertaining the idea of just pressing the destruct button and exposing all and started to look at ideas on the internet about how possible it is to run away to a foreign land and live an anonymous life. In this modern age it’s really not easy to do that. Especially from such a well protected border as the UK.
I would need a lot of cash, no contact with anyone and either a fake passport or someone who could give me safe passage to somewhere. The problem was that I was in the grip of addiction. I had met my match in this latest encounter. I now think that she has the same problem so there was ongoing manipulation, obsession and compulsion both ways and everything was turbulent, chaotic and destructive between us but I was at a crossroads.
I had two choices (1) Come clean about everything and risk losing everything … family, friends, job, addiction (yes, there is a grieving in that), freedom or (2) Give myself over to the addiction fully and risk losing everything. The problem was that I could not decide. I did not want to lose anything. This intoxicating relationship was pushing me to decide and in the same way that heroin beckons the drug user …she promised everything and I was confused. Of course I knew she would not deliver, my experience of her up to now had already proven that. This was the addiction calling and I was sitting right on the fence. I knew about powerlessness and this was it. The only way now was to be impulsive and see where it landed me knowing that it wasn’t going to be pretty.
I wanted to please my mistress, I wanted to please my wife, I wanted to keep my family, I had lost interest in church but I wanted to somehow find my way spiritually again, I wanted to be a musician again and I saw that opportunity in this country I kept travelling to to fuel my affair, I had lost my passion for the work I was doing in the rehab. I began to feel more like a political figure to connect the church and charity than someone helping people. Always my favourite moments in the rehab were with the clients. I hated playing politics and trying to meet and impress stakeholders. I had begun to trust one of the members of staff and I desperately wanted to draw closer to him. I saw in him someone who could help me but he was too close to home but perhaps he could find me a therapist that could help me so I started to give him half truths of my story. I desperately wanted out of this but at the same time I felt I was being sucked in deeper. I knew that the end was near.
In “going public” with those whom we had routinely deceived about our activities, the motive was not to punish. We were relying on these people, and their reactions to the disclosures of our shoddiness, in order to guarantee that we would encounter the consequences of our actions right away. We were choosing to pull the rug out from under our inclinations to cover up, segregate, or manage our intrigues and liaisons. It was often the cumulative result of these consequences in our relationships with those people who mattered to us which finally forced us to an awareness of the lack of control in our behaviour, and the need to label it as addictive. This inner commitment to sustain a stringent standard of honesty with others about our sexual and emotional behaviour seemed to be sufficient, in itself to start the inner process of self honesty which finally delivered us over into unconditional surrender and withdrawal.
My wife was always going to be the first person I told. I did not have the courage to bring everything in one go but knew that it all would have to come out in the end. Whilst all this was happening, my mistresses pursuit of me was getting more intense as she began to sense that she was losing me. I was being pulled back in by the lure of more and the possibility of escape and running away. I was feeling the pull in both directions and my head was gone. I was one moment longing to have my old life back and in the other being lured by a false promise of something more exciting, more thrilling, more creatively engaging and I was trying to appease both women at the same time whilst I consider my choice. I wasn’t in a stable enough mental state to make any choice. I feel intense sadness when I think about how cruel I was to my wife. The truth is that I was cruel to both women and the other women I encountered in these years.
Of course, to speak of “ways” of entering withdrawal from active sex and love addiction is a bit misleading, because we are not really the conscious architects of how we get there. Most of us can identify with some parts of each of these paths into withdrawal. Finally, it is important to emphasise, again, that however honest we became through any last ditch efforts at “control,” our sobriety did not really begin until the last reservation had been let go, and we gave up the right, for one day (or one hour) at a time, to have “one more” liaison with our addiction.
It’s hard to speak of sobriety days as we do in NA or AA. Abstinence from a substance is a lot easier to quantify and measure than abstinence from a sex and love addiction.
Perhaps it is easier as a Christian because I can use the Biblical standard as my guide. The bottom line for the Christian is lust which I have heard defined as “the second look” which doesn’t really do it for me. It’s more about entertaining thoughts. If I use that as my standard then I am not yet fully in withdrawal but the process of withdrawal has begun. The thoughts are less frequent and the grip of my mistress is no longer there though I have moments where I am tempted to fill the void with a new “adventure” I know also that it would be the death knell for all I am trying to achieve.
If I allow myself back into this I will lose myself completely. The addicts mindset is one of “the next time will be different. I can manage it better” …and even more so after some sobriety and feeling well for a bit. I don’t want to go back but the call of addiction is there. It’s present. It’s alive promising an easier life, a more fulfilling life and a life where I will feel more “alive” but I know the reality and I know that sin when it is full grown gives birth to death. Today I am resolved to not act out, not entertain and focus on recovery.
We can not go through your withdrawal for you, nor would we, if we could. Who would ever knowingly volunteer to go through it again? Certainly none of us! Yet the pain of each withdrawal is unique and special, even precious (although you probably don’t now think so). In a sense, the experience is you, a part of you which has been trying to surface for a long time. You have been avoiding or postponing this pain for a long time now, yet you have never been able to lastingly outrun it. You need to go through withdrawal in order to become a whole person. You need to meet yourself. Behind the terror of what you fear, withdrawal contains the seeds for your own personal wholeness. It must be experienced for you to realise, or make real, that potential for you and your life which has been stored there for so long. There are different ways sex and love addicts have started this process. The end result is the same: addictive sexual and emotional behaviour, on a daily basis, stops.
I am beginning to discover myself again. There are little green shoots surfacing in the dirt. I can see them. Though the embers are still burning and the smoke is still rising from all of this, the flames are subdued and new life is already emerging. Of course it would not take much for a spark to ignite it all again and destroy everything. I have moments where I feel the pain of withdrawal and there is an emptiness, a sadness, a grieving for what I have lost. The grieving is in part about the loss as a result of the consequences of my life and part the loss of the addiction itself as my coping mechanism to deal with the emptiness and void in my soul. I know that walking with God is the true solution to that puzzle. Even the 12 steps recognise that. I remember sitting with one of the recovery clients after supporting him with a court case three months after completing treatment and he told me that praying was an alien concept to him at the beginning of his recovery journey but now it was the most important part of his day and he knows that without prayer he cannot survive.
It also does not matter what the specifics of your own pattern of sex and love addiction have been, although it is important that you do identify your own pattern. Some of our patterns have included “one night stands,” frantic sexual liaisons with no emotional tics, or manic masturbation, exhibitionism and/or voyeurism. Others have involved obsessive intrigue with, or dependency on, one or many people (serially or concurrently) with the conviction that without an “other” we would be at death’s door. Regardless of which pattern is yours, it has to stop. No matter how powerfully your thoughts and feelings are tugging at you to continue indulging, you cease acting on them. It is this point when you finally stop that really signals the start of your recovery
The acting out has stopped. I could say that this is my first clean day (after yesterdays relapse) if acting out is the benchmark. The intention to act out has stopped and the more I reflect and engage in spiritually focused reading and writing, my head is beginning to become more quiet with the obsession I have.
I went to the SLAA meeting.I am not sure if it was helpful or not. I was bored for much of the meeting. There was a lot of rambling as people shared. I don’t know that much of value was shared. I found myself judging people.
There were some very attractive women there that made me feel quite uncomfortable. One of them shared very vulnerably and started to cry and I could feel myself being drawn to her. She was sitting next to me. This is an area that I was very skilled at connecting with emotionally vulnerable women. I felt a strong temptation but made a decision not to make eye contact with her or talk with her in the fellowship afterwards. I am mystified at the wisdom of having mixed meetings for people with sex addiction issues, but then some of the participants were gay and there was at least one transsexual person there.
Another thing that made me feel uncomfortable was the presence of a former rehab client and volunteer. We did not acknowledge each other. Everyone read from one of the SLAA books. The focus was around Step 6 and everyone shared something that connected with them from the passage that they read. I read and shared candidly and honestly. It felt very therapeutic to share so vulnerably …at least all I could pack into the three minutes allowed. Overall I came away thinking that I am not sure if this is for me. I didn’t really enjoy the meeting. I felt uncomfortable in the presence of attractive women sharing this stuff and hearing them share. I felt the expected commitment reminded me of the church and considered that when I do get on my feet I want to be part of a fellowship that helps me to connect with Jesus.
On the way home one of my good friends and confidants called me and I am glad he did because what we talked about was everything that I had been subconsciously thinking but not fully processed at this time. He suggested that perhaps I was doing too much and trying to systemize my recovery. We talked through my rebellion as a result of my conversation with the guy from SLAA. We talked about doing things because people suggest them and though it’s not necessarily a bad thing I need to think through do I really want to do that. Will it be helpful and is it what I want to do? I thought about it and saw that God was putting assertive, even domineering people in my path to test my resolve.
I really want to be someone who is his own man and makes decisions because I believe in something or I want something and not simply to allow me to fit in. I want to belong and not fit in.
I spoke to the SLAA representative on the phone when I got home and though he was very persuasive and at times I felt a strong desire to appease him and tell him what he wanted to hear I told him that I was not certain that SLAA is for me. I want to work the steps and I may attend a couple more meetings to see but I would initiate any further contact with him should I desire it. He was quite pushy for a bit but softened a bit when I explained my situation and saw that he would not move me on this. I felt good.
Reflections two years on
This was written just over a week into coming to something that might resemble my right mind. The journey back was not pretty but repentance is rarely anything less than a bumpy ride. It is amazing that we are made a little lower than the angels, it is amazing to me that I am chosen, I am picked to share in God’s work on this earth and that this God who created the universe thinks of us flawed, broken, rebellious humans as the crown of his creation.
The truth is that God works in the most amazing way through human darkness. Once we know and accept that our demands for our own autonomy have failed then we are in a position to be moulded into something more Christlike, something more in line with the original intent of being in the image of God.