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Nothing to see here…

June 6, 2007

The following is my final “self-counseling project” paper for the Dynamics of Biblical Change class I took from CCEF.  

Over the last three months I have sought to address the problem of my compulsively staying up too late at night.  Before this self-counseling project I stayed up too late about 90% of the time.  Now I stay up too late about 50% of the time, and a “bad night” means going to bed between 12 and 1am, rather than between 1 and 2am.  I’m not exactly thrilled with this progress, but I am thankful for the progress.  The following “vignette” tells the story of a good night.

I was out with some graduate students playing a board game in a tournament designed to raise money for one of our missionaries.  The game went late and I’m driving home at about 11:45pm.  I was hoping and expecting the game to be over about 10pm, which would have given me an hour to decompress and then go to bed on time at 11pm.  Now I should really go straight to bed when I get home, and I’m feeling angry about that.  I very much want to spend some time on the computer reading blogs.  Why do I want this so strongly?  I have observed recently that the reason I enjoy blogging is that I love to be the guy who made the witty and insightful comment that wins the admiration of others.  I consider all of this in the car, and then I begin to think about tomorrow morning and how much more enjoyable the day will be if I go to sleep now.   So when I got in the house I spent just a few minutes logging these thoughts and went to sleep.

As I look over the logs of the last three months, I am becoming convinced that my love of the praise of man is a bigger idol in my life than I have previously considered it to be.  It feels very good and right to repent of this.   But this is not the most important thing I have learned through this self-counseling project.  The most important lesson learned is that I do not need to understand why I do what I do in order to change.  As I have searched my heart for idols, for deeper and deeper explanations of my compulsive behavior, I have become convinced that my heart is an endless onion.  If there is anything at all at the center of all these layers, it is an impenetrable black box of dumb willfulness.  It is impenetrable to analysis.  There’s nothing to see here.  I want to do my will and not Thy will.  There is no explanation deeper than that.  It’s not true that if I understood my heart better I would change.  My understanding could be perfect, and I would still be willful.

So if mere analysis doesn’t effect change, what does?  Turning to God in repentance and prayer for help is the essential starting point.  After that, I found it a very helpful suggestion to memorize verses of much shorter length.  “Your sleep will be sweet” and “covetousness is idolatry” are the two daggers I can draw quickly to plunge into the gut of my willfulness and greed for more leisure.  It also was effective to ask other people for help, especially my wife.  And the simple decision to delete all the video games off of the computers made a big difference.  When trying to break a habit, it is necessary to get some distance from the tempting object.

The most unexpected help came from considering question 8, the consequences, the gracious circles that would be started when I put to death my selfish night owl behavior by the obedience of faith.  My own health and happiness are improved when I get plenty of sleep, but those can also be idolatrous desires.  More importantly, I am able to love others when I get plenty of sleep.  I am able to rise before the children and lead them to and through devotions at the breakfast table.  I am able to read the Bible without the excessive wandering of a tired brain.  This means that when I meet with people from the church throughout the day, I am more ready with the “word that sustains the weary” as He “wakens me morning by morning to listen like one being taught” (Isaiah 50:4).    I have begun to see more clearly than ever in my own experience what I have preached for years—that love is the opposite of sin.  Sin dries up love and turning from sin always means turning towards God and others in love.  The unexpected fruit of counseling myself simply to stop playing video games and go to bed has been that both my wife and I are starting to think more about other people.  When we pray together in the morning, we no longer ask so much that we would be blessed, but that we would be a blessing to the people God brings into our lives this day.  This was not part of the strategy for change, this seems to be a fruit of the change.  And this is surely the path of joy, for he who refreshes others will be himself refreshed.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. egana permalink
    June 8, 2007 4:01 pm

    ” The most important lesson learned is that I do not need to understand why I do what I do in order to change. ”

    Amen to that, and thankfully so. Can you imagine how stuck in our stooooopidness we would be if we had to understand ourselves first before we could change?

    Thank you for reminding me of our good God’s faithfullness to change us, no matter how ignorant I am of my own inner workings… it’s dark and scary down those basement stairs. I think I’ll stay up here where He has the lights on!

  2. Oddball permalink
    June 8, 2007 10:02 pm

    For what it’s worth, I was addicted to web forums for several years. I finally walked away when I realized that (A) most exchanges tended to generate more heat than light and (B) I was devoting more time and mental energy to virtual “relationships” than real ones. I really don’t miss hanging out in cyberworld now. I’ve generally limited my web interactions to people I know personally, and your one of my few friends with his own blog.

    Having said all that, I really think you should reconsider forsaking video games . . .

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