“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self -control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. For these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)
My moral failure was symptomatic of a desire to hurry up and become a mature believer. The past few years of incarceration and re-entry to society has been an unrelenting exercise of discipline. I have felt the Good Shepherds crook slowing my unbridled brain so that I would pay attention to His love.
“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow-that is patience. The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” -Leo Tolstoy
A scripture guiding my recovery and reliable traveling companion is 2 Peter 1:5-9. These wise words are a light upon my path as I slog through difficulties. Peter uses a brilliant form of deductive reasoning to help bring clarity to the white-knuckling emotions that come from the slow pace of spiritual growth.
Peter’s blueprint of spiritual growth is the following:
The first thing learned in treatment is how thoughts and feelings lead to actions. This is nothing new, but what I realized is how much my feelings were controlling me more than biblical reasoning. I had no problem believing that I loved God but how often do our actions work contrary to our beliefs?
Both the Bible and the brain affirm this quandary. Science and scriptures do affirm one another!
The Bible: One of the most revealing scriptures concerning wrestling with the flesh is featured in Romans 7:15 where Paul says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Comfort from scripture is that you must come out of the shadows to deal with your moral failure because you are not alone in struggling with the flesh. If you think your sin is so special that you must keep it hidden you are missing the power of the cross. Your focus remains squarely on idolatry of your own will power rather than trusting God to help you overcome temptation. Self control doesn’t come from willpower it is a fruit given in relationship with the Holy Spirit.
The Brain: The cerebral cortex, the largest part of the brain, is the ultimate control and information-processing center in the brain. The cerebral cortex is responsible for many higher-order brain functions such as sensation, perception, memory, association, thought, and voluntary physical action. The Amygdala is survival central. It processes the information even before the prefrontal cortex gets the message that something has happened. It defines what food is critical for survival and what is vital for you sexually.
“An essential feature of the brain anatomy is the fact that there are more connections running from the amygdala to the cortex than the other way around. That means the amygdala will win the battle every time. That explains why Paul is in such despair in Romans 7. When these two parts of the brain are at war with one another it’s a bit like Mike Tyson facing off with Woody Allen.” -Dr Ted Roberts
The big take-away from this is no amount of willpower I possess can stop my sexual desires. The notion of “just try harder” will not work to overcome the addiction. The only way through is overcoming the idol of self sufficiency by patiently relying on our triune God to provide healing over time. God has given us the blueprint of this process in 2 Peter 1:5-7.
Next week I will take a deep dive into 2 Peter 1:5 to glean nuggets of truth to aid in the long journey to health. Will you join me? Afterall, part of the blueprint is brotherly affection.