8.27.2007

Making Choices -- or Choosing My Addictions Wisely

I am lucky to have an intimate view of life from so many perspectives -- all the perspectives shared with me by friends and family and all the wonderful and horrible perspectives I have exposed myself to. When I add that variety to my own very-active imagination, I can project a pretty complete view of life that satisfies my desire to see the whole map before I chart a course, and also allows me to pick my goals each day from that perspective.

I am friends with someone who is romantically attached -- passionately can't-let-go attached -- to someone who has multiple illegal-drug addictions and many other dysfunctional habits. She can't let go because she knew him when he was young and full of potential, and because of the frequent glimpses she gets even now of that man she knew and fell in love with. She feels like letting go of today's reality is to allow that potential to go to waste and never have the possibility of being lived out. And we women are so very bonded to the men we fall for, aren't we?

We each get to make many choices, but I don't think there are choices any more significant than the passions we allow ourselves to cultivate, and the order we allow them to assume in priority in our lives. There is a huge degree to which this is intuitive and not something we feel like we can control . . . but even that intuitive side is something that God and His wisdom can redeem for each of us. We are not simple rational creatures, but are creatures empowered by the emotion that God has gifted us with, and so a big part of "obedience" and "abiding" is in doing what the psalmist did . . . pouring out our emotion to God, so that our motivations and actions will flow out of our intimate conversations with Him, and not out of repressed or illicit emotions.

"Illicit emotions" -- what do I mean by this? Well, "illicit" is normally defined as something contrary to the rules of the game or the law of the land or the generally accepted ethics of the group. I think it is a perfect way to categorize emotions that are not accomplishing the purpose of our Creator in our lives . . . emotions that drive us away from His best for us, rather than emotions that drive us toward the abundant life He calls us to enjoy. Although I can choose a course of action by my rational and analytical thoughts and decisions, I will not have the power to keep going in the that direction without the motivation and power provided by my emotions. And it is exactly that purpose for which God created human emotion: to give the power and drive to change direction when called for and to persist in a direction when that is called for.

I think we have minimized this understanding of emotion and glorified our cognitive, rational minds, and that that is one of the major causes of depression and other mood disorders among us, as well as the cause of ineffective living. Our depression could signal a need for real change, but because we have locked up our understanding of life and faith in tight little categories that we refuse to even let the Holy Spirit challenge, we deal with the depression with either medical help or self-medication, and avoid hearing the Holy Spirit's words to us that would draw us closer to truth and closer to the abundant life.

God made us to be passionate about "addictions"! But we get to choose the addictions that we believe will most satisfy, and cultivate them. Some addictions end in a swirl of despair, and some addictions end in the joy of seeing their fruit in the light of His Truth, today and tomorrow. And we are made to be passionate about something, so a choice to stop being passionate about the dysfunctional addictions just doesn't work. What works is to cultivate new addictions until the satisfaction from those new addictions eclipses the old addictions, and the old addictions fall by the wayside because they can't hold a candle to the satisfaction provided by the new passion.

I am cultivating these addictions:

1) I am passionate about Jesus. Everything I do goes by Him for conversation about it and for direction or for a plea for help of some kind. And I am learning to listen for His plans and goals and to ask for my place in His purposes -- right here and right now.

2) I am passionate about the people I love, in all their varying ways of being connected to me. I am learning to show them love in the ways that they will appreciate when they look back on it 20 years from now.

3) I am passionate about this moment -- right here and right now. I believe in an eternity where I will live with Jesus and all the other sinners who He allowed to follow Him, in our resurrected bodies in the new heaven and new earth that He brings. But I also believe that even there I will only possess the moment in which I find myself, and that His call to me today is to be faithful and grateful right here and right now . . . or the promise of eternity will be one that goes unappreciated and unfulfilled.

Condemnation of myself or others for the "sins" we commit misses an understanding of His Kingdom. We are not to focus on getting ourselves or others to stop doing all the "don'ts". Even when we're willing to do that -- stop doing the things we are repenting of -- it just doesn't work. "Repentance" requires walking on. It requires movement. And so "fixing my eyes on Jesus" I move on in the direction He calls me to move this moment. And the "sin" I repent of goes unnoticed, because the new vision I have of something that satisfies (Jesus!) actually DOES satisfy.

If I step back into an old addiction (like a recovered heroin addict being stupid enough to inject himself again after 5 clean weeks or after 5 clean years) the way to satisfaction and peace doesn't disappear. He calls to me and offers me everything I've been experiencing with Him, and points the way to new heights of satisfaction. Salvation . . . Healing . . . His Kingdom Come . . . They are not a stern religious leader or parent or therapist standing and shaking their finger at me, admonishing me about my sin. They are the greatest passion -- the passion that really satisfies -- within my view, beckoning me away from something ugly and unsatisfying.

(Christians don't keep on sinning . . . not because of great will-power that keeps them from doing what is wrong, but because humans are made to pursue what satisfies and neglect what doesn't satisfy, and Christians know the One Who satisfies and over time see the futility of all the other things that just don't.)

We are all so hungry for love and acceptance and encouragement. We should be! We were made for relationship with the God Who provides the ultimate in love and acceptance and encouragement. And we point the way to Him for others by being His channel of love and acceptance and encouragement to every other sinner . . . both the ones still very mired in sin and the ones struggling to overcome some new obstacle in their walk after Jesus.

So the call of obedience each day is easy! Spend time with Jesus. Tell Him how you feel and ask Him to change that or use that in the ways He sees as best. Let Him tell you how He feels and what He wants. Do what He asks you to do -- right here and right now. And offer to your fellow sinners that love that He has given to you.

He isn't asking you to "get your act together" -- either before you follow Him or even as a result of many years of following Him. He doesn't want you to finally figure out how to do it right without His constant help. He wants to give you His constant help and His constant presence, and what He's after is for you to finally let Him have that constant intimate presence in your life.
And, just like any addiction, and addiction to Jesus will have results that everyone sees. Like it or not.

But you will. He is the only addiction that will satisfy. He is the One you were made to be addicted to.

You get to choose your addiction, not choose to be a rational being who can motivate your will without the inconvenience of those bothersome things called "emotions". If you insist on trying to be motivated by anything less than real genuine emotion, you will be prey to the parts of reality you are trying to pretend aren't real!

But the addictions God created you for -- the things you were made to be passionate about -- will motivate you toward all that was right and pure and satisfying.

Choose to be passionate about the One who created you!

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