IN FAITH

REFLECTIONS ON BREAKING THE BONDS OF ADDICTION

 

Gerald G. May, who is a physician, and one of the supervisors at Shalem Institute in Washington, D.C., which is a training center for clergy in the area of spiritual direction, has written a vital little book called, Addiction & Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions. You may wonder why I have chosen to address the issue of addiction in this column. The answer is that one of the most common forms of enslavement that human beings are susceptible to is addiction.

Usually when we hear the word addiction, we think of drug addiction, alcohol addiction, or tobacco addiction. And, before anyone reading this column jumps to the conclusion that I am going to moralistically come down hard on people struggling with addictions, please realize that the approach I want to use is not moralistic, or scolding.

Gerald May writes: “After twenty years of listening to the yearnings of people’s hearts, I am convinced that all human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and our most precious treasure.”

Dr. May is right. And when we get right down to the nub of being human, deep down, in the most private and sensitive recesses of the person, in our souls, if you will, the greatest yearning we do have is for God and for God’s peace and wholeness. The problem is that many people do not realize this, and in an attempt to meet this deep yearning for wholeness, we sometimes substitute other means to achieve this peace. The means may be alcohol, drugs, food, tobacco, illicit sex with many partners, too much exercise, or overwork: You name it. We substitute all kinds of things in order to try and find the deep inner healing and peace that all of us desire.

But, what happens is that when we choose these other routes to wholeness, we find that we become very dependent on them, and eventually become enslaved by them, and find ourselves more empty after we are addicted than before we tried to substitute what we really need, a deep, loving, caring relationship with God.

In the fourth century, St. Augustine wrote in his Confession: “Thou hast created us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” In writing his Confessions Augustine, too, addressed the very heart of our humanity: Human beings were designed to be in a deep relationship with God. And there really is no substitute for it, because we were designed for this relationship, because God is our Creator, and we are God’s creatures. But, even more importantly, we are God’s beloved children.

As children growing up, many of us found happiness in the arms of parents or grandparents. I can say for myself, that being with my grandmother (Selma), was one of the greatest opportunities to find the peace I needed. I would rock in her big rocking chair when I was small, and I felt safe, content, and at peace. (It didn’t hurt that she made homemade baked custard for me. And I always found it in her kitchen, warm, just out of the oven. I still miss that custard!)

What I experienced from my grandmother was grace! And what we can receive from God is grace! And, Gerald May states (and I agree with him): “Grace is the most powerful force in the universe.”

That is truly good news for the human race, because it means that God knows our deepest needs, and wants to supply what we need, just as other loved ones care for us, whether in the form of baked custard, or simply spending time with us, because we are loved by them.

So, I would invite those who read this column to reflect on their freedom, or lack of it, should they find themselves enslaved to anything. Dr. May is right. Grace is the most powerful force in the universe. It is unconditionally offered love. That is what the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross represents. In the Cross, we hear the Creator of the universe say that even though there are forces, which would destroy us, not even death itself shall win the day!

So, I would offer this simple memory verse: “…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20b RSV)

The good news is that we are loved, in spite of our sin, and in spite of our addictedness. And God has acted to provide what we need in Christ. All we need to do is turn to God, and ask for help, and then, in the company of others, claim the grace, accept the love, and stay accountable and not return to things which would harm us.

Thanks be to God for what God provides each and every day!

The Waynedale News Staff

Rev. Chris Madison, Senior Pastor First United Methodist Church, Wabash, IN

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