Restoring the Soul with Michael John Cusick

Episode 273 - Brian Boecker, "Finding Life: Letting Go and Embracing the Father's Love"

August 04, 2023 Brian Boecker Season 12 Episode 273
Restoring the Soul with Michael John Cusick
Episode 273 - Brian Boecker, "Finding Life: Letting Go and Embracing the Father's Love"
Show Notes Transcript

 "I think sometimes that feels like this journey that we're on is that sometimes God asks us to let go of something, not for the sake of because that thing is bad, but he's like, there's something more that is even deeper, what you long for and desire in that." - Brian Boecker

In this episode of Restoring the Soul, we dive into a fascinating conversation between Michael and Brian Boecker. Brian specializes in intensive counseling, particularly with missionaries, expatriates, and individuals who have lived abroad.

Today's episode takes us on a deep exploration of the concept of finding one's life by losing it. Drawing inspiration from a passage in the Gospel of Luke, Michael and Brian debunk common misunderstandings about dying to self and losing oneself. Particularly in the context of addiction, many individuals mistakenly believe that dying to self means suppressing their own needs and desires, leading to feelings of worthlessness and a loss of self-value.

Michael and Brian uncover the truth behind this misconception, revealing that unwanted behavior often stems from a deep desire that needs attention. They discuss how people often attach their desires to things they think will fulfill them, only to find that these attachments fall short. Through letting go of these attachments, one's true desire can be fully awakened.

So get ready to be challenged and inspired as we delve into this thought-provoking conversation about finding life and discovering our true selves.


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MICHAEL CUSICK:

Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the restoring the soul Podcast. I'm Michael John Cusack here with my friend and colleague, Brian Becker. Hey, Brian, and Michael, for those of you that have not listened to a podcast with Brian or Brian and I, Brian is a licensed professional counselor and one of our intensive therapeutic, Clinical Social Care Specialists restoring the soul, meaning he does intensive counseling. And, Brian, I love the fact with your background of living and working overseas, you do a lot of work with missionaries, and expatriates, and people that have lived abroad. And we just had some great conversations on the podcast. So today, I want to unpack and explore something that I've been giving a lot of thought to for a while, this idea of finding your life by losing it. And I want to start by reading a passage out of the Gospel of Luke chapter nine. It's a passage that I memorized as a young Christian. And I'll tell you why I'm reading this passage in just a moment, then Jesus said to His disciples, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me, for whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life, for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit his very self? I won't go into all of what I could unpack in that passage. But it seems to me in counseling, the work that we do, and this has been long term over 30 plus years in my work, and I want to hear if you've heard this from people, too. There's this sense that people have a misunderstanding about what it means to die to self, and to lose yourself. Because with addictions, for example, I've heard men that I've worked with in intensives, and especially men that come to our weekend, that they're really sincere about wanting to change and they say things like, if I just died to self, that I wouldn't do this anymore. If I just lost my life, like Jesus talks about, and I wouldn't do this anymore. That's one concern. The second concern is how misunderstandings around losing your life, or finding your life by losing it misunderstanding around this leads to this theology that says, I have no worth, I have no value. I just I my needs, my desires don't matter. I just need to suppress all of that. And really, as a result, they believe that, that dying to self and losing your life is to become less human, instead of more human. It says if there's anything about our humanity that has to go away, and then the spiritual has to come in.

Brian Boecker:

Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think the image that comes to mind and I, you know, it captured my imagination, when I first saw it probably back in, it's probably ad for something like that was the movie chariots of fire. In You know, it's a story of Eric Liddell and his, you know, he's, he's set to go be a missionary over in China. But he's also a really good rugby player. He's also a good runner. And he gets asked to run in the Olympics, right? And his sister is really annoyed with him. And there's a scene where she's confronting him and saying, like, you forgotten, what's most important, you know, why are you doing all this stuff? Like, you need to just kind of basically pony up and get with the real mission, right? And he just stops her, and he has this great set. And he goes, God's made me for a purpose. And that purpose is China. But when I run, I feel His pleasure. You know, and that was so true of him like you see it in the movie, but it was true. You look at pictures of the real Eric, he ran with utter abandon, he flailed his arms, he threw his head back. And he just enjoyed running and living life. And there was something about that statement, right? Like, I know, I'm made for a purpose. But there's more to me than that purpose. There's, there's just this sense of God's delight and desire when I run, like, there's part of me that comes alive. And I reflect His glory. And I think that's, I can't you probably know who says this, but it's, that's the glory of God, man fully alive. Right? And I just think that that's where that kind of gets sideways, right is because it's like, I need to die to that. And it's like, no, I need to come alive to that. What I think it needs to let go of is maybe I've clung to something that I thought was life. And sometimes that's ministry, right? And I've clung to this thing, and I thought it was life and I actually need to let go of that allow his life to come in me in a way that is really life giving.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

I love that I love the story of Eric Liddell and I never thought that you and I would be on up podcasts and you would be the one impersonating a Scottish accent, I always thought it would be me. So I don't know. I want to refer to three scripture passages and then to have you and I kind of debunk the myth within this, so that people can understand how they're finding their life by losing their life and to understand the myths and the erroneous ways. The first is, I already referred to Jesus in John, or in Luke chapter nine, and that same invitation to lose your life in order to find it, or to lose your life in order to save it that's in two of the other gospels. But in Romans, chapter eight, verse 13, I memorized all of Romans eight as a young Christian, and this one in particular I clung to because I thought, Man, if I do this, if I die to self, then that's going to give me the victory that I want over the shaman, the addictions, but Pelle says, Therefore, put to death, the misdeeds of the flesh. And so one of the myths or the misconceptions about dying to self is that it's actually dying to self. There's nowhere in the Bible that it says we're to die to self. That's our interpretation and our response to these passages that talk about either putting off the old self, or to put to death, the old self. What's really clear in Romans is, in Romans chapter seven, Paul goes so far as to say it is not I who is sinning or doing what I don't want to do, it is sin living inside of me. And so he makes this distinction between his true self, the redeemed, God loving part of him, the part of him that has experienced this, this Damascus Road encounter with God. And then this part of him that clings to the old ways that clings to the law that clings to the, if you will, the rigidity of his Judaism, and all that that held for him. So what this verse tells me is that what we are to die to, is to the sinful nature, and the misdeeds of the flesh, are those things that separate us from God, that are that we're we're stepping away from God, rather, and I want to be very clear, nothing can separate us from God, if we're in Christ. Yeah, the scriptures are very, very clear about that. Psalm 139, where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? But it's the misdeeds of the flesh? That's our autonomy. It's our independence. It's our sense of self sufficiency. It's that sense of No, no, I don't need you. I'm going to do this my own way. That's what we need to die to. And so it's never a diminishment of the true self. The verse doesn't say, put to death, your true heart, put to death, your inmost being or put to death, that part of you that God knit together in your mother's womb that says, You are fearfully and wonderfully made? Right?

Brian Boecker:

Yeah. I really liked that. I love your distinctions in that. I think that's where I would say, you know, I go back to the prodigal son story. And to me, it feels really connected, right, both the younger son and the older son, in a sense needed to die to something to enter the party. Right in there was life there. And there was something they needed to let go of, but it wasn't fundamental to who they were right. It was,

MICHAEL CUSICK:

what was it? What was it they needed each to let to go let go of,

Brian Boecker:

they need to let go of is that life is somewhere found outside of the Father. Right, like that's again, you can you can add to that, but that's what I see is I see a younger son that's going life's out here lifeson this, I need to come back, and that's where he's confessing his sin. It's almost like the father doesn't even need to hear the confession. He's just glad his son's back. Right. He's just glad he can enter in the party. I think the older brother and I think that's actually who the story is told for was for the Pharisees, because it says early on, Jesus told these parables, because the Pharisees were having a hard time with him hanging around with with senators, right. And I think the older brother had to let go of his equation, right? If I do these things, I'm gonna get this out of it. And he had to let go of that that actually what He desires is the father he doesn't a party, a goat to hang out with his friends. Those are representations of what he really longs for. It's a poor substitute. Both of those were poor substitutes for what they really liked. which was the loving embrace the sameness of being with the Father, the care and the joy of celebrating them.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah, so letting go of the older brother letting go of his self righteousness and his belief that his dad would love him and give him the inheritance because he was a good kid. And then the the younger brother, letting go of this, the sense that I through wild living, partying and squandering my dad's money, that I'm gonna find happiness there. And then, as you mentioned, he prepares this religious speech to come back. And now that's what's going to do it for me. And so the point is, is we're not saying that there's no dying, that's part of the equation and spirituality, I would argue that most of the world religions have some aspect of something dies in order to live. And of course, the pinnacle that is the crucifixion and resurrection and ascension of Jesus. We're not arguing that there's not a dying, but it's what we die to. That there's so much teaching that I grew up with both in the Catholic church growing up, but also then in evangelical churches, that frankly, I think this is why a lot of people are walking away, a lot of people are saying, hey, if this is a kind of Christianity, where I have to become less, where I'm diminished, where my desires don't matter, that doesn't line up with my sensibilities. I want to read another passage. And it looks like you had a thought, but I want to let you integrate this. So Colossians, chapter three, for people that kind of live in moving the stream of spiritual formation in spiritual direction. This is a classic chapter. And the heading for this in the NIV. And a lot of the modern translations will say something like, rules for Holi living, that's what it says in chapter three, and that's manmade, right? That's not the scripture. But it says, since then, you've been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. And then the next verse says, For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ and God. And so there's an important point here, that when we are united with Christ, by faith, everything inside of us that needed to Die already died, when Christ died, and God doesn't look at you and I, or at anybody that is a follower of Jesus and says, Well, you know, you need to work on this. And you need to work on this, and you need to work on this. Rather, the way that the Spirit works in us is all of those things have died in terms of what's ultimately true about us. And now there's a needing to work that out on a day by day basis, on a body basis. And so it goes on, and it says, When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory in the very next verse, Therefore put to death. whatever belongs to your earthly nature, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires agree, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. That's an intense sentence. And we could do a whole series of podcasts on that, right, because there's people that are nuns, and done, and people that have deconstructed that God, that's why I'm not a Christian. You know, Paul is just saying, Put to death, who you are, and any of that stuff you can't do. But what he's saying is, there's this life, of truth, of goodness, of beauty, of abundance of living in the Father's love, of being able to live in the river of grace, and to have a life that inwardly there's a sense of rest, and grounding in peace and contentment. In order to be at that place. We've got to align ourselves and align our hearts, like the younger brother, and the older brother, we have to align ourselves with with the source of life and the way that the Kingdom operates. So these things like sexual morality, greed, malice, slander, that policy being put to death, those things take us away from that. And you have a little story that you shared earlier in the day about the horse and the little boy and it on one level. It's it's kind of a simple illustration. But I really resonated internally we share that.

Brian Boecker:

Yeah, I think it goes back to right. And this is fundamental principle that I know you teach in your book. I know others teach right that underneath unwanted behavior is usually a deep desire. That's really good. And that needs attention, right? I think sometimes we take that desire and we attach it to something that we think is going to provide us the meaning of that desire, but it's not and then we have to, in a sense, die to that thing. We've attached our desire to, so that our, our desire can be fully awakened. And I said sometimes, like in my life, it feels like I'm a little boy riding on the pony, I put my quarter in outside the grocery store, and I'm rocking back and forth. And I'm just like, so excited, like, this is the coolest thing. And I imagine myself as a cowboy, right? And my parents come and grab me and they go, Hey, we're gonna go take you to a real horse. Why don't you get off of that? And it's like, no, I want to stay here. Like, I fight them. Because I think this is real. Right? This is what I think I really wanted. And, again, the whole car ride out there I'm vetting and kind of even right. And even maybe when I get to the place and serial horse, I'm sitting on it. And I still might be, my mind might be back to going, I want to, I want to go back to the old horse, right? But when I start taking in, it's like, oh, my gosh, this is like the complete and utter beauty of something that was just a little machine that comes into a real life. Being right that I'm riding on a horse, it's breathing in and out, that's galloping, that I'm controlling with the reins, right? Like that. becomes this aliveness and awakeness. To me that I go, Oh, that's what they were doing this whole time. This is where they were leading me to. And I just think sometimes that feels like this journey that we're on is that sometimes God asks us to let go of something, not for the sake of because that thing is bad. But he's like, there's something more, that is even deeper, what you really longed for and desire in that.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah, over a century ago, the spiritual writer, Watchman Nee, who I was exposed to as a really young believer almost 40 years ago. And discipleship groups, wrote about the exchanged life. And here in Denver, there was a ministry called exchange Life Ministries. And that idea of the exchange life is this exchange, that I think is as simple as exchanging what I define as life with a capital L. What will bring me a sense of being seen, soothe, safe, secure, what will bring me happiness, satisfaction, for what God says is life. And it seems like that's one of the one of the rhythms of heaven, is God's grace is not just leaving us to fend for ourselves or leaving us as we were when we became Christians. But this work of almost like a parent working developmentally with their child that as they get older, you take away the security blanket, or at least you give the kid opportunities for that. And you take away soft food, and you let them eat solid food, and you let them ride a bike before they drive a car and things like that. And so as part of the way that God works is, he has these gifts for us. But it feels scary to let go of the things that we've taken for ourselves. Yeah. What I want to do to end here, is I want to read a passage that may seem like where does that come from? And why does that fit but I want to read Psalm 139. And, Brian, we've talked about this before, as we've talked about our work here at restoring the soul. But in contrast to this idea of dying to yourself, that diminishes us, and actually does harm to our soul. This dying to our sin, nature and dying to the right things. That's our self sufficiency and our cleaning. When we read Psalm 139, we start to get a picture of the preciousness, the value, the intimate knowledge that God has toward us and with us in how he blesses this deep part of who we are. And far from dying to this true part of who we are. We're called to be known in it, and to grow out of that place. So I just want to read this for our listeners. Psalm 139, of David. Lord, you know, everything there is to know about me, you perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind. You are so intimately aware of me, Lord, you read my heart, like an open book, and you know all the words I'm about to speak before I even start a sentence. You know, every step I will take before my journey even begins. You've gone into my future to prepare the way and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. You have laid your hand on me. This is just too wonderful, deep and incomprehensible. Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength. Where could I go from your spirit? Where could I run and hide from your face. If I go up to heaven, you're there. If I go down to the realm of the dead, you're there to fly with wings into the shining Dawn, you're there. By fly into the radiant sunset, you're there waiting wherever I go. Your hand will guide me your strength will empower me. It's impossible to disappear from you, or to ask the darkness to hide me for Your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night. There's no such thing as darkness with you. The night to you is as bright as the day. There's no difference between the two. You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside and wove them all together in my mother's womb. I thank you God for making me so mysteriously complex. Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it. How thoroughly you know me Lord, you even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place. Carefully, skillfully, you shaped me from nothing to something you saw who you created me to be before I became me. Before it even seen the light of day, the number of days you plan for me were already recorded in your book. Every single moment you're thinking of me how precious and wonderful to consider that you cherish me constantly. And your every thought, oh God, your desires toward me are more than the grains of sand on every shore. When I wake each morning, you're still with me. God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart, examined me through and through, find out everything that may be hidden within me, put me to the test. And sift through all my anxious cares. See if there's any path of pain I'm walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting way. The path that brings me back to you. So dear listener, has Brian and I have had this conversation today about finding your life by losing it. If you're wondering what it means to lose your life, look to this, this beautiful, beautiful, epic Psalm, which does not say all of this that David declares, all of this wonder that God knows all of the blessing that God imparts, as he lays his hand upon him, all of the rescuing from the path of pain. None of that God says now died to that. Instead, it's that's the part of you that I know and love, and I bless. And so until next time on restoring the soul, Brian, thanks for being here. You bet and we'll talk to you soon