I was asked by a friend to speak to his seminary class on Desire & Addiction. Knowing a bit about both I agreed. After hearing that the class is one hour and fifty minutes long I recklessly do a cannonball into the pool of diminishment.
I don’t have an hour and 50 minutes in me!?*$ What am I going to talk about? I mean really… How am I going to get out of this without being exposed as The Man With Nothing to Say? *
I’ll break them into discussion groups, or have them take a 45 minute time of silent reflection alone with God. I’ll talk r e a l l y s l o w… show several film clips… read the book of Leviticus together, ask them a zillion questions. End early!!!
My prep time for the class becomes a rendezvous with God as I muse over my story of desire and addiction, of my looking in all the wrong places for that which God lavishly offers. He’s smiling, we’re communing and my yearning/craving of intimacy Him surfaces. I’m drawn to Psalm 73:25…
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Ahhh… I could scream I want that so bad… to only and simply; truly and purely desire God at the most crucial governing level of my being.
Oh God may it be so! Lord, come, overwhelm me and make me that man… I desire you alone, nothing more, nothing less… I long for you to be my all.
So aware of His presence I’m basking in grace as I read old journal entries and ponder my story of wandering… of unfaithfulness… of spiritual adultery… of turning to other lovers. There are my affairs with drugs as a fine young Bohemian, my soirees as a redirected young Christian with endorphins (from running) and wild adventures (with all prerequisite gear). Then, a few years later, as a reverend pastor my serial liaisons with sports talk, alphabetizing my wife’s spice cabinet;** the mistress of theological astuteness, the applause of others and books (what an office I had… rich dark floor-to-ceiling bookshelves surrounding me accented by warm hued lighting… over-stuffed chairs, the mahogany desk… it all said, “come in… relax, let’s talk, I can help… I really am somebody… somebody godly”). More recently my third rate romances have been indiscriminate unprotected tangos with food.
It’s pretty easy for me to minimize my idolatry… or addictions as merely a few bad habits. No big deal, in time they’ll simply fall away. And besides, it’s not like I’m a pre-civilized pagan who makes a stick of wood his God!
Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
Over it he prepares his meal,
He roasts his meat and eats his fill.
From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
He bows down to it and worships
He prays to it and says,
“Save me; you are my god.” – Isaiah 44:16-17
Now that’s ridiculous! And yet, as I mock the foolishness of another’s addictions I’m the one gobbling down a bag of Cheetos after a difficult conversation with my wife (or while: balancing the checkbook, anticipating an upcoming confrontation/decision, or awaiting the pathology report on that funky looking mole they removed, or thinking about my daughter’s school work or…).
Cheetos! I’m actually choosing a wad of fluorescent artificial orange enriched corn meal, vegetable oil, whey, salt, cheddar cheese, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, maltodextrin, disodium phosphate, artificial flavor, monosodium glutmate, lactic acid, citric acid over the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Over the God of all comfort, strength, hope, peace and joy? Over the One who says come… trade in all your sorrows and burdens, worries, doubts, losses and concerns? Now that’s ridiculous!
I find myself grieving my idolatry and addictions, expressing again to God my sorrow in choosing innumerable hussies over Him… my heart was repentant.
18 hours later I’m waxing eloquently on desire and addiction to a class of about 30. It’s going phenomenally well. As I’m speaking I realize I have a lot to say about this topic… that whole diminishment thingamajigger that shadows me is exposed once again!
I’m sharing my story of desires and addictions and offer one of my favorite quotes on the issue:
Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believers soul and they promote sanctification. We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God. The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones . . . The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers . . .” - Maruice Roberts
That’s it! (Read it again).
Designed by God for so very much we appropriately desire much. We’re pursuing the ecstasy… the delight… the life we are fashioned for… and we’ll either find it or die trying; thus we turn to chunks of wood, extra crunchy Cheetos, the pleasure of endorphins or pornography, shopping or success, our spouse or kids, morality, indulgence or control. Our idolatry/addictions are the misdirected/sinful/foolish pursuits that expose our deep and profound need for God… that hasn’t yet been satisfied fully.***
The class is going great! I’m clear; I’m “on”… God is present… I’m blessed – flying free, soaring in the updraft of God’s Spirit and all I understand of the topic. The only bummer was, surprisingly, I had too much to say. I still had an hour of sagely insight with 5 minutes of class time left. That threw me off kilter. The last 5 minutes was not a clean ending… a rather bumpy, turbulent landing lacking the hallmark closing illustration, point of personal application and appeal to action. It was cut and paste on the fly. I hit the ground hard, blew a tire, bent my prop and slid for a while. The prof and a few people were gracious with their words to me at the end of the runway.
Driving home I kept thinking about my crappy finish.
YES I shimmered for 1 hour and 45 minutes… God was there for me and them… it was great!!! Thank you Christ!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
At the same time and gaining volume that thingamajigger was rasping, Yuck, if only I had said this, or that… used the story of the cookies in Minneapolis, shared my insights about Jeremiah 2, why didn’t I think of that or this … Dang I left my best stuff out of the talk altogether!!! I cannot shake the feeling that I stunk the place up in those last 5 minutes ruining everything I has said to that point. Always intertwined with shame/disappointment is desire… and so mine rose, I long to bring the life and truth of God to others… to disrupt, open eyes and ears to Christ, to introduce men and women to the God who is and always has been pursuing them… to lead people into the richness of all God offers us… to know and enjoy Him forever. I want that! I’m ping-ponging between genuine elation over God’s goodness in using me and the self reproach of not finishing strong.
After holding up traffic on the interstate as I pokey along for about 30 miles I exit off the freeway. I’m in some sort of conscious-yet-sedated state lingering between desire and disappointment. I pull up to a Sonic Burger, drive through and order a shake and onion rings.
In that moment I’m unaware there’s a God, the angels seem mute, whatever holiness I possess is impotent, I have no conscience… I’m on a mission… kill the pain supplement the joy.
Ten minutes and half an order of onion rings later I’m alert, regaining consciousness, flying down the interstate at 80 with congealed grease all over my finger tips and a vanilla mustache. I’m back! And before guilt/condemnation/shame can chime in God shows up! He’s smirking… like a parent who, while disapproving of their child’s behavior is holding back the laughter for fear the child would understand the grin and chuckles as an approval of the misbehavior. Oh, He’s disappointed that I, like Judah, would turn to other lovers, my
unfaithfulness… my adultery concern Him. AND yet through the smiling eyes there is grace; an intimate understanding of my heart/desires; forgiveness; and the same invitation I gave the class. An invitation into the love of Christ; the savoring of the felt comforts of the Savior’s presence; a heart satisfied, delighted and at rest in the love of The Father.
The last 5 minutes of the drive were the best 5.
– Craig McConnell
* “Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.” – George Eliot
** The dilemna was: where do you place Black Pepper? Under “Black” or under “Pepper”?