A note from Marie:
It has been a while! I hope you have missed me even a smidge as much as I have missed hearing from YOU. It’s been a crazy year with finishing a very challenging book, starting my women’s Christian life coaching business and ministry (check the link for information and testimonials) all while dealing with some pretty tough health issues. If you don’t currently follow my blog via email and want updates about my upcoming book Papier Mâché Princess, go ahead and subscribe. And feel free to share with others 🙂
With gratitude, Marie
VISITORS! (Three Tips for Getting Rid of Unhealthy Habits and Addictions)
I watched for them, right around 4 PM.
The rain was coming down fierce, like a thick, opaque curtain of water. It was the kind of rainstorm that allows my Colorado, usually-brown-in-August yard to pose like a Vermonter, wearing lush, green swag. And it was the kind of rainstorm that can soak you to your core in a millisecond, so I opened the garage door, anticipating my daughter and grandchildren’s arrival. I didn’t want them to get drenched going around to the front door.
The old overhead door had no more than finished its clunky, complaining dirge when my daughter’s car pulled into the driveway. My grandchildren threw open the passenger doors of the Outback, and made a dash for cover. They were shouting all at the same time, using the child-energy that multiplies on the first day of school, tripled by the lot of them, and then amplified by the excitement of the downpour. It was impossible to separate and make sense of the individual words.
“Hold on. Hold on! One at a time,” I laughed before squeezing each one of them in a grandma-sized hug.
A few days after that rainstorm, I surveyed my dining room table – coffee mugs. water goblets, nectarines, strawberries, blueberries, and a bowl of dark chocolate almonds were carefully arranged in anticipation of a friend’s visit. Satisfied with the table setting, I ran downstairs to the basement in search of coffee filters. Before I even had a chance to forget what I was down there for (it’s an age thing, y’all) the doorbell rang and I bounded up the stairs, marveling that my typically late friend was actually early. I yanked open the door, not caring that I hadn’t found the filters. I was ready for some girlfriend time.
But, staring back at me was a stranger. With a clipboard.
I politely explained to the salesman that no, I was not interested in new windows. No, my husband was not available to talk, and no, he was not interested in new windows either. No, not this evening. No, not tomorrow. The young man had persistence to rival that of a toddler’s in the candy section of a grocery store. I kinda felt sorry for him. ‘Cause he didn’t know that I have had quite a lot of experience with persistent toddlers in candy sections. After a few minutes of verbal volleying, the young man with a clipboard gave a brief wave of surrender and headed across the street. I closed the door and gave myself a victorious fist pump and raced back downstairs in search of coffee filters.
This time, when the doorbell rang, I peeked out of the blinds just in case. It was only after I saw my girlfriend’s car in the driveway that I opened the door ready to spend time with an invited guest.
That week continued with different folks ringing my doorbell, and each receiving a different response from me. “UPS, if that’s our new lawnmower, you are soooo welcome here!” Seriously, visits can make a day brighter. Or they can be exhausting when they arrive uninvited. Or stay way beyond their welcome.
There is a scripture in the Bible about visits that used to discourage me. It is found in the book of Exodus.
And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7 NKJV, emphasis mine.
I always loved the first part, where God declares that He is merciful (meaning full of compassion) and gracious which comes from a word that has the idea of “bending or stooping down in kindness, bestowing favor on the undeserving.” Yes, please, I’ll take all of that You want to gift me with, Lord. Forgiving my iniquity and transgression? My hands are thrust out – and up – to catch that with gratitude.
I still feel that way.
But I used to get tripped up on the last part – “by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generations.” No fair, Lord” My heart used to cry. I have enough of my own “iniquity” to deal with, why do I have to take on my ancestors’ stuff too? And what about passing my sins down to my children? When I thought of my past, that was a particularly horrifying thought to me. But God is not just merciful, He is also just, and doesn’t ignore sin.
Fortunately another Scripture explains: If, however, he begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers it but does not do likewise…he shall not die for the iniquity of his father; he shall surely live! Ezekiel 18:14-17
Both Scripture and neuroscience are in agreement that some things are inherited, passed down from generation to generation. Some of us will have a genetic disposition or wiring to certain addictions or habits. Or there may be unhealthy learned habits from the environment we grew up in. But does that mean we have to receive these things? Do we have to keep them? Are we destined to become alcoholics because our parents were? To struggle with food or other addictions? Are we just stuck with an angry temperament because that is what we grew up with?
No. A quick read through of the kings of Judah in the Bible makes it clear – good kings had sons who did evil and evil kings had sons who sought to please God and do what was right.
The scripture says the sins of the fathers will visit us. Just as our decisions and actions will affect those in our sphere of influence, our ancestors’ choices impact us – both the wise choices and the harmful ones.
Some of them will knock on the door but we get to choose whether or not we let them in. We get to choose how we prepare for their inevitable attempt to befriend us, step inside our homes, and make themselves comfortable in our personal spaces. And we get to choose how we respond.
The Scriptures declare that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in His believers. And that, my friends, is enough power to give us victory over anything. It may not always be easy, but victorious living is our birthright in Christ.
Here’s three tips for for overcoming and living victoriously:
Anticipate the visit and refuse to open the door. In the verse I mentioned above – Ezekiel 18: 14 – it says he…sees all which his father has done and considers it but does not do likewise (emphasis mine)
If we know our family history and any strongholds we can be prepared ahead of time. Then we can choose to not even answer the door when we see them heading up the driveway dressed in their recognizable polo, with clipboard in hand. 1 Peter 5:8-9b says “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. ” Even if we don’t know our family history, when we are alert and watchful rather than caught unaware we are better able to make wise choices and live in victory.
Kick ’em out. What if the unwanted visitor is already inside the house, shoes off, sitting in our favorite recliner, and eating the last piece of OUR white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, the one that we had set aside for
dessert dinner? Because that’s what these visitors do. The bad habits and addictions, the sins that creep in – they take over all of the good things in our lives. So what do we do then? Kick ’em out.
Sometimes that is as easy as recognizing the “visitor” or addiction/bad habit/sin and saying “No more. You no longer have free reign in my home. Get out.”
But if these things have been around awhile, they won’t go easy. Sometimes it takes a few rounds in the ring, and we might need to call for back-up. This can mean an accountability partner, a support group, a prayer partner, a mentor, Christian counselor, a coach etc. But the most powerful force behind each of these is a reliance on the Holy Spirit. And our power to choose. Choose to ask for help. Choose to rely on the Holy Spirit. Choose to admit we can’t do it alone. Choose to bring things out into the light, so they can be dealt with. Paul said in 2 Corinthians “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
And then…fill your house with the visitors you want. My grandkids – and kids – are some of the funnest (is that a word?) people I know. I love it when the sound of their laughter and shouts of joy ricochet off the walls and land in my heart, I love listening to their ardent explanations about what they have been up to. I’m also blessed with great friends, family members, and in-person coaching clients that I love inviting into my home. I want to be surrounded by folks that make me a better person. (Visitors also makes me more inclined to keep a tidy house.)
In much the same way, when we get rid of unwanted habits and addictions, it is important to fill the space they took up with other things – healthy habits, hobbies, and activities. Luke 11:24-26 talks about an evil spirit leaving a person, but then deciding to return to “his house.” When the spirit returns, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” We aren’t created to live in isolation physically or spiritually. Emptiness is not an option – space will be filled with something. Let’s choose wisely! David Guzik of Enduring Word Ministries says it like this: “The heart of a man has a vacuum-like nature to it. It has to be filled. If we empty our heart from evil without filling it with Jesus and His good, evil will rush in to fill it again and sometimes worse evil than before.”
So let’s not just get rid of – let’s replace unwanted habits, actions and thoughts with ones that honor God. Ones that fill our homes and hearts with joy. Ones we’ll be delighted to pass down to our children and grandchildren.
We can do this by being prepared, being attentive to the “visitors” we allow into our minds and homes so we can take every thought (and action) captive to the obedience of Christ, and finally giving the boot to the thoughts and actions that have no place in the life of a child of God.
Now these little visitors? They are welcome any time!
Blessings for abundant living in Christ,