8.30.2007

What are your addictions?

We do live in a culture of shame, don't we? Otherwise people wouldn't be so hung up on insisting they aren't "addicted" to anything or "obsessed" with anything or unhealthy in any way. I have had some interesting conversations in the wake of my post on "choosing our addictions". I had forgotten what it was like to live in a world where we are supposed to hide anything that doesn't fit the "perfect Christian" or "successful and happy and productive" man or woman image.

I don't have anything too horribly shameful to hide that's part of my daily life these days -- or that's even something I "relapse" into. There's nothing that my most pharisaical acquaintances would be able to judge me for, even if they had the view from God's perspective of what I do at every moment of my life. There's no sexual acting out, no drugs, no alcohol, nothing outside the ethical norms of my very-conservative-evangelical upbringing, no obvious sick behavior, nor even any "sick" stuff going on in my mind -- so there's nothing to hide. My kids and husband know all the details of my day-in, day-out reality . . . and my friends know as much as they want to know, and sometimes much more. But all that says is that our standards are all screwed up! Our view of what's shameful is shameful. It doesn't reflect things the way God sees them, and doesn't reflect a "good life" that has anything to do with the abundant life that could be ours.

And my use of the phrase "illicit emotions" in my earlier post was interpreted as a synonym for lust, when in reality most of us 40- and 50- and 60-something women (and men) have much more powerful "illicit emotions" in their anger or greed or jealousy or pride or self-righteousness and desire to be seen in a favorable light by others. My own most powerful "illicit emotions" are all bound up in my desire to be respected intellectually and to be able to influence and direct others toward the TRUTH as I see it . . . so this blog is fruit of my own worst addiction! But, like all emotions and desires, there is a time when they are in proper perspective and fulfilled out of obedience, and a time when they rule and are acted upon out of ignoring my Creator. "Illicit" is not so much a matter of the nature of the desires themselves as it is a matter of how they are handled in submission to God's agendas in my life and the lives of those I impact.

My other worst addictions are to your "good life", but I am struggling out of them! I have let go of the idea that a happy marriage, a beautiful home, a successful career, financial security, beautiful kids, smart and successful kids, a "successful ministry", wonderful friends, a nice car, a nice body, a pretty face and hair and nails, nice clothes, nice jewelry, "making a contribution to a just society", figuring out a true systematic theology or a sound and true world-view, achieving educational goals, living by the ethics I have chosen, etc, etc, will actually satisfy me. (Yes, those are the addictions that I am referring to in all my earlier posts!)

All those "addictions" are to good things, though, aren't they? But the good things become bad things when I am going after them at the expense of obedience or out of the belief that any of those things will fulfill the hunger that was designed to drive me to know and enjoy the God who made me.

So which of those things are you most addicted to?

I could tell you what I think, person by person, but I'd be way out of line to do that . . . even in private. Because you could be acting out of faith and obedience, and not out of a need to satisfy a hunger for meaning in the wrong way.

God is the One Who sees each of us -- sees our hearts and minds and actions with complete clarity! And He is the Judge . . . the Judge Who wants us to let go of all of those things when they get in the way of knowing Him, loving Him, and following Him. He is also the Provider Who delights to give us many of those things, when they are in the right order in our lives.

When all of those good things are really received in faith and gladness, but our drive is for Him, then all of those things that He gives us satisfy in a way that they can't otherwise. And when any of those things is missing -- not because we are lazy and disobedient, but because of some other reason -- then He is there, and the pain or disappointment are bearable. There is grief, but His presence is of much greater value than would be anything that we could go after.

So now, what are your addictions?

Are you the woman addicted to her kids and their success and pleasure and freedom from pain? Can you leave the parts of their lives that should be under God's control and their control and the control of others at His feet, and just do your part to be the mother He wants you to be . . . and the servant to Him that He wants you to be?

Are you the man addicted to being seen by everyone as the perfect husband, even at the expense of obedience when the expectations of your wife or the culture you live in make being that "good husband" cost you more than God intended marriage to cost? Can you risk a disappointed wife or a judgmental group of friends and obey in the things that a "good marriage" keeps you from obeying in?

Are you addicted to appearing to be the perfect Christian man or woman? Or are you addicted to a pretty and perfect house? Or are you addicted to a successful career? Or are you addicted to good friends? How about a nice, healthy body? Or a pretty face, nice hair, pretty nails, nice clothes? Or to always being up-beat and nice? Or just to the most balanced presentation of the "Evangelical American Dream" you can pull off?

Don't get me wrong here! Sometimes knowing God and obeying Him does mean doing everything I can to achieve one or several of these goals. I obey God when I work on meeting my husband's needs and desires. I obey God when I decorate and clean my house. I obey God when I enroll in an academic program and complete it. I obey God when I take a job and work responsibly and skillfully to do what I was hired to do. I obey God when I care for my children well. I obey God when I am a good friend, and when I care for this body He has given me. I obey Him when I am a good steward of His resources.

But, just as often, limited time and resources means obedience calls for moderation or even chosen or accepted failure in one or many of these "good goals". Perhaps that means forsaking academic or career goals to care for a sick parent. Perhaps that means living in a messier house than you would like, having fewer close friends than you would like, and never having time to go to the gym -- because obedience is calling you to use your time for someone or something else . . . like simple survival for many single working moms!

I asked my husband what he thought I was addicted to. He said: coffee, antihistamines, decongestants, church, friends, and being right. I can cop to all of that, but I actually think my earlier list of addictions is much more of a distraction to knowing God -- right here and right now -- and a much bigger impediment to Him doing in me all that He would want to do in me and to Him doing through me anything He would like to do through me.

I would just as soon not hear what my sons -- either the young adults or the little guys -- think I'm addicted to . . . but I do frequently, because kids see things the way they are, and my kids aren't afraid to hurt my feelings.

Real love isn't afraid to speak the truth, either. And so, even though my boys' motives are not always kind, God uses them to speak His truth to me regularly.

And I am learning to give up all my addictions daily to the One Who created me and loves me. Maybe it will be "catching", and my boys will find themselves doing the same!

How about you? If you have to choose either to keep "being nice", "being responsible", "being successful" or to surrender all that to just being whatever He wants you to be today as you walk after Him, which do you value more?

Choose your addictions wisely!

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