Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Religion is Connecting: Part 7

In an earlier piece about barnacles and their clinging, I wrote about them as examples of connections that were not mutually beneficial to both parties.  I used them as metaphors for being satisfied with merely surviving.

In writing I came close to saying something about addiction and how it is the frequent result of that kind of clinging.  You could just as much say that addiction is the cause.

Early biblical writers criticized the idolators for "clinging to their idols." Jonah 2:8 and Psalm 31:6 but what made the idols idols was they were not the one true God.  So clinging was about the only action available when all you had are idols, substitute gods.

Many of you have heard me say that "addiction is a natural response to a life lived on substitutes." Here's what I mean: when we are seeking some sort of satisfaction, attention, affection, or nourishment; really anything that can be a source of comfort or meaning, anything that will make the pain go away or meet a need we often stop at the next best thing.

And the substitute is never good enough.  It never finally or fully satisfies.  But we know where it can be found.  We can repeat those steps.  And for a minute, a night, a season, a life we can forget our hunger, our hurt, our shame, our weakness, our brokenness.  And when the dose is gone we find another.  In many cases it just gets worse and worse because second best is never good enough.

Sadly this describes so much of our lives, all of our lives and not just the lives of those we can recognize as addicted but also those whose lives have a kind of permission to settle.

Let me propose that it is because we are all addicts of one kind or another.  We are all in some way seeking to satisfy ourselves and ending up with second best answers to the questions and troubles of our lives.

Please don't read me as a cynic or pessimist.  There is still the one true God who has shown a love for us like no other.  Who has done everything we need to break our addictions, to end our clinging, to set us free.

It is worth admitting that not all bear the same blame or responsibility for their addictions.  If you are really hungry and you can't find enough to eat, your addiction is not all your fault.  If you are lonely or ashamed and struggle to find true love you may not even know why.  There are all kinds of reasons our hopes won't always take us all the way.

A really sad thing about this addiction epidemic is that so many of us don't know even we are addicted.  We must think that this second-best-ness of life is the way its supposed to be.  We say things like, "get it while you can."

Why else do we allow greed -- an addiction to the power of money -- and why do we tolerate the rhetoric and behavior of our current political culture except for our own thrilling?  Why do we go from relationship to relationship?  Why do we make church into a place we go and not a people we are called to become?

But in every case where someone has settled or been caught or trapped in an addiction there is a way out and because of what God has done in Jesus' life, death and resurrection that way is with every other person in the world.

Thank God for those fellow addicts who are able to break away even if only for a minute.  Especially when their cries "no more!" wake us up to our own enslavements.  And thank God, especially for the people we love that there is more to life than accepting our second bests.

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