Friday, December 22, 2006

Are YOU sober?

Several years ago I read this article on Ladies Against Feminism. At that time, all of my hopes and dreams were being pulled out from under me. I had been engaged and planning a wedding. When that relationship fell apart, I began to face all kinds of doubts, questions, fears and insecurities. I knew it was a crucial time spiritually for me.

I had a choice to make. Would I allow the fleshly emotions to control me or would I rise up in truth? The easiest path would have been to wallow in self-pity, misery, anger and bitterness. It was a battle like I had never faced before and haven't since.

This article was a key turning point for me. Would I be a sober woman? The answer was, "If I want to obey Christ, I must." It was painful for a while until true joy began to shine through!

When I started this blog I remembered the article. As a woman, what did I want to convey about myself? What do I want people to know about me from the first time they look at my blog? Three things, besides my deep love for God, were the result: purity, sobriety and simplicity.

Several people have asked me, "Why is your blog address 'sobrietyandsimplicity'?" Well, the first answer is, "pureandsimple" was alreday taken. The second answer is that I want people to know I am seeking sobriety of mind, will and emotions. I want to be a woman that has her heart based in truth- not emotions.

So, read on and maybe you will discover freedom like I did!
(Guys, you can read too, the Bible commands sober men too!)

Wanted: A Few Sober Women
By Miss Christie Ballmann

Sobriety is not a trait that attracts much attention among women in our generation. Typically, it brings to mind Prohibition era rallies, off–the-road Breathalyzer tests, or AA meetings. If a pollster were to walk up and ask if I consider myself an overall sober woman, I’d probably give an amused grin. I don’t even walk down the liquor aisle at the grocery store, of course I’m sober. By God’s grace, it is just not an issue for me.

But that is going by my definition of sobriety; God’s definition is a whole other matter.

What is Sobriety?
Two words translate “sobriety” or “sober” in the New Testament. Nepho, the first, carries the most popularly understood definition of abstaining from wine. It is the Greek word used in I Tim. 3:11, “Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderes, sober (nepho).” Nepho is also used in I Thes. 5:6,8; I Pet. 1:13; I Pet. 5:8.

Second, there is the sophrosune sort of sobriety found in Titus 2:4, I Tim. 2:9; 2:15; 3:2. Sophrosune (So-fros-oo-nay) is the Greek word used in Scripture to describe the beautiful character of a self-controlled woman, a woman who by definition moderates her opinion and passions with truth and is sound of mind. This lady takes her emotions and thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

The glaring opposite of sophrosune sobriety is extreme or unbridled emotion. Sadly, examples are prolific. We don’t have to look far to spot an emotional woman or girl. The world, the flesh, and the devil are experts at throwing the most outrageous, albeit subtle, lying emotions into a woman’s mind. You may recognize some of them:
"I’m a failure."
"I’m ugly."
"I’ll never be able to change."
"God can’t handle this situation."
"I deserve better."

Lack of biblical sobriety is displayed when we fail to bridle these un-Scriptural emotions. Rather than putting the lies to death by confronting them with truth, we tolerate them. Sometimes we even embrace them. This tragedy is the fountain of all the yucky emotional quagmires we face: selfishness, condemnation, pride, envy, guilt, etc... Consequently, strife and spiritual defeat leave us wanting to pull our hair out, cry in shame, or run away to the remote ends of the earth. We feel angry and then we act on mere emotions, then we feel worse yet, and the cycle continues. It delights the enemy to see women caught in such a trap.

Of course, not all emotions are bad. Some are wonderful gifts we can offer back to God, like the love that swells in our breast when we hold an infant close, or the delight of looking at a sunset painted across the sky.

The striking deficiency of sober women has set me pondering the tendencies of my own heart. Do I pass God’s sobriety test? Sobriety is certainly not a natural inclination of my flesh. My mind will no more spontaneously go God-ward and dwell on truth than my dog, Beau, takes to having a bath. "The carnal mind is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7). Sobriety is hard work; my flesh and my mind are inclined to sloth!

Both Old and New Testament brim with passages that let me know God is very much concerned with what I allow my mind to dwell on, all 86,400 seconds of each day. He sees the innermost ponderings of my heart—lying on my bed in the darkness of night, standing in line at Wal-Mart, or driving to church each Sunday. He longs to be glorified in my mind; He longs to see me express my love to Him with my entire mental capacity. I can’t do either when I let emotions have free reign.

How then, does a woman adorn herself with sobriety in a culture that is completely given to whimsical indulgence of emotions?

Cultivated Sobriety
The most beautiful promise for women desiring sobriety comes from John 8:32 “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” It is the Truth of Scripture that sets us free to be the feminine, joyful, creative, gentle, uncompromising women God desires us to be.

Cultivating sobriety requires intentional feeding on truth. “Teach the young women to be sober (sophrosune)…” Titus 2:4 is not just a passive suggestion, it is a command. Sobriety is built into our lives as we discipline ourselves to act upon God’s Word as truth.

Without Scripture, any attempt to develop sobriety is frivolous. Sheer will power is not enough to withstand fierce emotional storms. It is the Bible that anchors and moderates our opinions and passions. The more we saturate our mind with Scripture, the less room we have to embrace lies from the enemy.

All this, however, is only offensive preparation. When lying emotions come we must be ready to follow Christ’s plan of defense.

What is the truth in this situation?
Scriptural reference to the mental process of thinking can be divided into two categories: God’s thoughts and man’s thoughts. Our instruction from God is to think less like earth-bound humans and evermore like the redeemed, royal daughters of the Most High that we are. If we are going to do royal battle against the lies that come our way, we must be able to recognize these carnal thoughts for what they are and replace them with God’s thoughts.

The LORD has blessed me with the example of several dear ladies who intentionally mentor sobriety. One of the most useful pearls of wisdom one of these ladies shared was to ask the question, “What is the truth in this situation?” I am amazed how this simple question can calm a sea of emotion.

I faced an emotional battle earlier this week that God no doubt orchestrated for purpose of illustration. These lying emotions came on quite suddenly after an accident in the kitchen. I know it sounds most odd, but I actually broke our new microwave. It had been a long, demanding day and this expensive accident before bed seemed, at that moment, proof that I was a failure. (Self-condemnation is always a brilliant emotional attack, especially when we are tired.) The more time I spent dwelling on my mistake, the more my day seemed to multiply with failures. I am ashamed of my initial response. I was angry; I began pouring out a torrent of condemning tears in self-pity, giving in to all those awful emotions. I certainly didn’t feel like looking for the truth. As the inner battle raged, the Holy Spirit kept calling me to sobriety. Finally, I let out a very weak, desperate prayer, “Dear God, what is the truth in this situation? Help me see the truth.”

As I began to repeat precious truths, out loud, my mind found her anchor. It went something like this:

"I am a sinner saved by grace;"
"I am a work in progress, but He will be faithful to complete that which He has begun;"
"God never gives up on me, and He will never call me a failure (even if I break the microwave);" "Dwelling on me and my mistake is prideful; it does not glorify God;"
"The Lord God is faithful and compassionate, and abounding in mercy."

A quote by Corrie ten Boom came to mind: “Look outward and be distressed. Look inward and be depressed. Look upward and be at rest.” When I turned my mind from self and onto truth, rest came.

Toss the Lie, Cling to the Promise
Once the lie is recognized we stand at a point of decision: embrace the lie or take the lie captive to Truth. We must not hesitate. There is but one battle cry for unlawful intruders into our mind: "No quarter! I am Christ’s; He has purchased and redeemed me for His kingdom with His blood. Get behind me, satan; I choose to trust the promises of Truth."

I faced this crossroad that night as I cried over the broken microwave. I had a choice.

Satan cannot win an emotional attack when we wield the sword of the Truth. There is no lie that does not have a truth as revealed in Christ Jesus. That is why it is so vital that we have our arsenal full of truth. When attack comes, we can have more than John 3:16 to quote back. Our sword must be direct and sharp.

One of my mentors suggested keeping a journal of Truth to record promises of Scripture to read when feeling overwhelmed. This is a valuable sobriety training resource.

Here are a few examples:
Am I feeling guilty? What is the truth? If I have broken God’s law, I must repent, seek restitution, and press on humbly by grace. Anything that demands more is a lie (I John 1:9; II Cor. 2:7; Heb 12:11; Phil 3:13).
Am I feeling discontent? What is the truth?God has provided food, clothes, and a shelter (I Tim 6:8).I have a relationship with Jesus Christ that promises hope and future (Jer. 29:11). God promises to withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11).
Am I feeling anxious about terrorism?
Am I feeling “put out” serving my family, again?
Am I feeling overwhelmed with my “to do” list?
What is the truth in this situation?

Your journal of truth can be as personalized as you want. The key however, is not just having these truths written down, but claiming them when the dishes are piled high, children are fussing, bills are due, and weariness is bone deep. One need not feel sober before displaying this character. Most frequently we will act out of obedience. A quote by Elisabeth Elliot nails the point, “When the will of God crosses the will of man, one of them must die.”

Holiness with Sobriety
Developing sobriety is a life-long assignment; it takes discipline of will over emotion. Most of all, it takes faith in Jesus Christ. However, with God’s Word at our disposal, the Christian wife, mother, and daughter is absolutely capable of soundness and stability in her mind.

Does this mean we are never allowed to have weak moments, times of discouragement? No. But it does mean that we recognize our discouragement when it comes, acknowledge our weakness, and ask for a flood of prayer, counsel, and truth to be spoken to us.

I continue to sit in God’s classroom of sobriety, trying to learn how He would have me apply His Word to every situation without hesitation. I know that when I do fail, He does not want me to linger in my failure. God calls me to repent, get up and press ahead. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” Phil. 3:13.

Jesus Christ is calling for “daughters of Sarah” (I Peter 3:6). He is looking for women who will saturate themselves in the truth and calmly face emotional lies with the sword of His Word. May we each day rededicate our mind and heart to continue that race marked out for us, “in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety” I Tim. 2:15.


ann marie said...

I really needed to read that today! :)

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