Addiction and trusting in God

I wrestle with addiction. Thankfully I’m no longer enslaved to pot. I also used to smoke clove cigarettes. But addiction can take many forms. Addiction is any time that we feel helpless to control our actions. It’s as if we are puppets being controlled by an outside source.

There are a few things that you can do to defeat addiction. One is just do something. Wash the dishes. Sort your sock drawer. Write a letter. Go for a walk. Doodle. Make sure it is something where you are being active, even a little. Watching TV and reading don’t count. Those are passive activities and won’t help in this situation.

There is a method of education called the Waldorf method. One of the things that they hold to be true is that the environment reflects the inner nature of the child. If the child is being disorganized and chaotic in play, then the way to fix that is to tidy up the area around the child. Sometimes we have to re-parent ourselves. So in this instance, if you are feeling scattered or sluggish, then what you need to do is start picking up your area. Start moving and tidying up. You don’t have to do your whole house, and in fact I suggest that you not even try all it right then. Balance is important. But rather thanbeing afraid of doing too much it’s also bad to not do anything at all. Get started. Have small goals. That way you can see progress.

I like to think about Judas. He didn’t want to betray Jesus. He was one of Jesus’ followers, disciples, and friends. When Judas realized what he had done, he hung himself. But earlier on in the text we read that Judas didn’t even do it. It wasn’t intentional. An evil spirit entered him and made him do what had to be done. I’ve written about this extensively in a previous post so I’m not going into all of that here. But where I’m going with this is that sometimes despite our best efforts things don’t go the way we want or plan or expect. Sometimes we mean to do well and yet we do the exact opposite. It’s entirely possible that we are being controlled by God, and there is another part of the plan we aren’t aware of.

Now that may sound backwards in light of what I just said about Judas. Remember how I said that he was controlled by evil spirit? If we truly believe that there is only one God and that God made everything, we also then have to understand that there is no such thing as an evil spirit. It is simply an agent of the Lord acting in a way that to our eyes seems backwards and not correct.

How did this does not mean that we are off the hook from trying to do our best? We should always try to do everything we can in our power to do the right thing and to improve ourselves and the world. But part of what I’m saying is if you have tried your best and yet you still fail don’t beat yourself up. Don’t be Judas and kill yourself. We kill ourselves all the time by making fun of ourselves or attacking ourselves with disparaging words.

Think of Balaam and the donkey. Balaam wanted to go forward and yet the donkey he was riding on saw an angel standing in the path in front of them. The angel meant to kill Balaam if he went any further. The donkey stopped and Balaam got really angry with the donkey and started to beat him. Then the donkey talked to him and said “Why are you beating me?” Balaam then saw the angel who was going to kill him if he had continued on that road.

Maybe if we keep trying to go forward and we are blocked perhaps it is best to trust that God is in charge. That maybe there is an angel standing in our way preventing us from getting hurt or doing something wrong.

The beginning of awakening…

I am always amused when strangers quote Paul to me to justify why every word in the Bible is perfect, specifically that it is “God-breathed.” I’m not a Paulian, but so many people are. They love Paul because he’s against everything they are against.

Paul was against women who asked questions and against gay people in general. He was also against marriage, but people seem to forget that. Paul was all about everybody being single and celibate.

Somehow people are getting confused by my posts, which is the last thing I want. I’m for the Bible. I am Christian. I also believe that God is so big and so amazing that all sacred texts have the “breath of God” in them. I believe that God loves us all, across time and across cultures, and has tried to reach us all in various ways throughout history and all over the world. I believe that God is still revealing truth to us.

I don’t expect everybody to follow along with me when I say these things. I’m no Bible scholar. I’m not an expert in anything. I have no credentials. So if you don’t agree with me there is no reason to get your bloomers in a twist. Arguing with me in the comments section won’t further your belief system. I encourage you to write your own blog post. You’ll reach more people.

It is my belief. My opinion. I’m not going to back it up with “proof” or quote chapter and verse. If people get it and agree with me, great. If they don’t, I’m not going to argue with them.

Jesus says “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. (Matthew 10:14)

Either you get it or you don’t.

My view of God is bigger than a book. My view of God is bigger than any denomination or creed. My view of God isn’t locked down to any one belief system. God is bigger than all of that.

“The name that can be named is not the eternal name.” – Lao Tzu.

If you feel a need to argue and debate, stop. Think. Why are you so upset about this? What makes you feel like you have to fight these ideas?

Is it perhaps that deep down you are afraid I’m right?

The beginning of awakening is heralded by just such a struggle.

Hat. (This being human is messy)

There is a guy I know who drives a hover round. It is essentially his everyday car. He is too disabled to drive his truck, but he does it anyway in the winter or when it is raining.

It is summer now and it is very hot. I saw him today when I went to the post office. He was riding around with shorts, in a short sleeved shirt, and no hat. I thought about giving him my hat. I can get another.

He isn’t well off. He’s nearly died a number of times. His ex wife just died, and he is mourning her terribly. He’s been homeless before, for at least two years. His living conditions aren’t ideal, but they are better than a shelter. He’s a veteran. He lives on Social Security.

So I feel sorry for him. But then I remember his tales of going to Tunica, Mississippi and gambling. I remember how he’s constantly buying lottery tickets. I remember that his wife divorced him because he was cheating on her.

He’s made some bad choices.

He has chosen to spend his money on gambling rather than a hat. He was homeless because he chose to cheat on his wife. He is retired from the military and has chosen not to seek aid from them.

I dislike the term “enabling”. It really should be “disabling”.

To assist someone in their addiction is not loving. I’ve called it “aiding and abetting a sin.”

I know other people who are getting older and have some chronic health issues that are getting worse. They moved to be closer to their children. One of their children suggested that they move into a condo or an apartment so they wouldn’t have to worry about yard work or maintenance on a house. They ignored this advice and bought a house. Now they call their children to come take care of the yard work and the house maintenance. They have both become infirm, and this situation will only get worse the older they get.

I feel that they have made a bad choice and that they are abusing their children by asking them to rescue them from a preventable problem.

I’m very frustrated. I want to help people, but I want to do it in a way that really helps, instead of keeping them in the same old ruts. I want to prevent problems rather than treat them. I don’t want to cure anything. I want to stop problems from happening.

I’m frustrated when someone gets surprised that they have lung cancer after smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for twenty years. This is how my Mom died. It was sad that she died at 53, but not tragic. She did it to herself. It wasn’t an accident. She knew that what she was doing was harmful but didn’t quit.

I took care of her after her diagnosis. I drove her to her chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I cooked. I cleaned. I watched her die, bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day.

That takes a lot out of you, to watch someone die from making bad choices. It takes a lot out to see their pain and regret and fear and know that you can’t rescue them. She put herself in that hole, and because of it she put herself in her grave.

It is Christ-like to help others without question. Jesus didn’t ask people if they created their own problems. He didn’t say to the lepers – why didn’t you stay away from lepers? You knew it was contagious.

I’m finding it hard to be Christ-like. I can’t just touch them and they are healed. We humans heal people in slow motion. We have to get involved. We have to get into it up to our arms. It is messy work, this business of healing.

I wrestle with it. Am I healing someone to make it easy for them to continue to make bad choices? Why should I wake up every day and go to work just to give someone else money when they refuse to look for work?

This isn’t very nice, but it is honest. This isn’t very Christ-like, but it is human.

All the child rearing books say there have to be repercussions to bad decisions. If you let them get away with it, you are encouraging it. They advocate tough love.

“Difficult Conversations” tells you how to speak up, so you can navigate the balance between not being a doormat or a tyrant. “Boundaries” says that Christians are taught to sacrifice their own needs and wants to take care of others, and that this isn’t healthy for either person. “Codependent No More” says something similar but it doesn’t go into the issue of Christian guilt.

Somehow this sounds like an excuse to ignore someone else’s pain. But then it is important to encourage them to stand on their own. If someone has to lean on you all the time, you aren’t helping them grow as a person. And you will find you are not growing either.

This being human is messy.

I think it is lucky for Jesus that he died at 32. He didn’t have so many issues to deal with. He never had to juggle work and aging parents. He never had to deal with his own chronic health problems. He didn’t have a history of being abused by his family.

It is hard to follow Jesus, and it is messy. We don’t do it right even half of the time. But when we figure out the balance it is beautiful and amazing. I’ve given up the church but I’ve not given up on Jesus. I don’t understand the Way but I feel it is a good path.

I fall, and I get up. I get distracted. I run away, just like Jonah. And yet I’m still on the path, all along. I think this is part of what it means to hear the call, and to follow Jesus. I want to do it right, and I know I’m not going to.

This is like exercise, like training for a marathon. But I’ll never get there because of the nature of the path. That is the price of being human.

Elevator

Today I’m going to meet Anne Lamott. She is signing her new book at the main branch of my library system. She is the author of “Traveling Mercies,” “Grace, Eventually,” and “Plan B.” All of these contain her thoughts on faith. She and Sara Miles are two of my favorite Christian authors. They both get into the trenches of faith and don’t pull any punches about how hard it is to live this life.

So many Christian authors talk about how wonderful their life got when they became Christian. They write that everything got better and easier. They live in really nice houses and drive really big cars. They write about the huge churches they started and how their congregation is growing every week.

This doesn’t synch up with what I’ve experienced.

I do not know what floor they got off on when they got on the elevator of Christianity. They must have gotten off on the floor that was marked “fancy stuff” and “easy street.” When I got on the elevator, I got off on the “broken people” floor. I got off on the “time for hard work” floor.

So many authors I’ve read have left me feeling like I didn’t do it right. That maybe I didn’t press the button hard enough. Maybe my prayers weren’t heard because I wasn’t trying correctly. Maybe my connection is faulty.

I feel like Anne Lamott and Sara Miles are my sisters in the trenches. They talk openly about how hard it is to be a Christian. Things break. New things don’t just start appearing. People are mean. Sometimes those people are the ones you go to church with. From reading Anne and Sara’s work, they’ve let me know I’m not alone in my experience. They’ve let me know it is OK for me to write about it too. They’ve affirmed me, and given me permission.

I feel that once you become a Christian, everything gets harder. You are aware of your responsibility. You realize how much you have not done well and it is time to make amends. It is like getting sober. In AA, part of the twelve steps is making amends to those people you wronged when you were drunk. Now you are aware of all the damage you’ve done, and now you have to try to fix it. There is no twelve step program in Christianity, or at least, not openly. But the same rules apply. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the same thing. Part of showing love is making amends. You have to go rebuild that bridge if possible.

Anne and Sara both tell about how hard it is to go slogging into that muddy, raging river and digging up those stones to try to rebuild the bridge. They talk about how the person on the other side yells at you because they like the broken bridge just like it is, thank you very much. That person hasn’t been through the same experience you have, so he doesn’t want the bridge rebuilt.

But what about those who have decided to follow Jesus? Is it any easier to live and work with them? No. Not at all. You’d think we’d all be on the same team, working from the same playbook. You know, same Lord, same Bible. You’d be wrong, sadly. There are many times where I wonder what they are thinking when they say and do crazy things.

I just read about a lady who objects to the term “Deviled eggs” and they call them “Jesus eggs” in her house. It is this kind of stuff that I’m talking about. Then there are people who slaughter elephants to then take the ivory from their tusks and carve them into statues of Jesus. I can’t even begin to tell you how horrified I was when I read that story in National Geographic. It was a blog post from a local Rabbi that gave words to my feeling. Rabbi Rami Shapiro said “True religions teach you to see the Lord in the elephant, as the elephant, and not collude in the murder of the elephant to honor your Lord. Jesus died for your sins, not to excuse them.”

I’m not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think that Christianity has gotten a bad reputation, and it is often due to really whacked-out Christians. I feel the need to apologize for all of Christianity. We have sinned against God and our neighbors by not showing love. We have gotten sucked into the materialism. We have gotten greedy. We have gotten tripped up by the legalistic nature of religion. We’ve forgotten that Jesus came to fulfill the law – but by getting to the heart of it. Rather than fulfilling the letter of the law, he fulfilled the spirit of it. He worked on the Sabbath to heal a crippled man. So he broke one rule, but honored the real rule.

We humans often lack Jesus’ keen insight into what we are supposed to do. This is an understatement. The bad part is that there are a lot of sins that we Christians do, and we do them in the name of God. We are hostile to people who aren’t Christian. We are hostile to people who are Christian but aren’t members of our denomination. We are hostile to people who are in our denomination but don’t share our views. We argue over interpretations of the Bible – should we or shouldn’t we do this? We argue over whether we should have stained glass. We argue over whether women should be ministers. We argue over how old the Earth is. We argue over who can receive Communion.

We forget that everything that Jesus did was to teach us to love each other. To be servants.

Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do. Please send your Holy Spirit to us so that we can truly hear Your Word and be Your Body on this Earth. Give us the knowledge and strength to mend the divisions between us. Give us patient hearts to be loving and kind to everyone, seeing everyone as Your child. I ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus.

You keep using that word “Christian”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I didn’t want to be Christian. Who would? Everybody that I saw who said they were Christian were jerks. They are rude, self-centered, self-assured. Sometimes they seem like zombies – they just do what they are told by their pastor. They all dress the same and talk the same. They get all twirly-eyed when they talk about their “Savior and Lord”. And worst of all – they read “safe” books and listen to “family-friendly” music.

Even now that I am a Christian, it is kind of embarrassing to admit that I am a follower of Jesus, because there are so many other people who wear the same badge who are flat out rude or crazy. Why would I want to be associated with them?

I don’t, really. I want to follow Jesus. I don’t follow the followers. When I read the New Testament, I’m careful to make sure who said what. The apostle Paul said a lot of really amazing things that help build up the early church, but he also said some pretty judgmental things about anybody who wasn’t a straight male. According to his letters, if you were female, you’d better be quiet in church and subservient to your husband. If you were gay, well, forget it. Pretty much, he excluded anybody who wasn’t him – and that seems to be the trend today. “If you don’t do things my way, you are doing it wrong”, seems to be the way a lot of Christians think.

But Jesus didn’t say anything like that. Jesus said a whole lot about loving (he was for it) and a whole lot about judging (he was against it).

Before I became a Christian, I’d read a lot of books about other faiths. I’d learned a lot about Buddhism, and Sikhism, and Taoism. If it was a world religion, I was there. But then I thought that I was not being fair. If I’m going to give equal time to all these other ways of understanding The Big Questions, then I need to see who this Jesus guy is and what he says.

I decided to give the Episcopal Church a try. My parents had raised me as an Episcopalian but they quit going when I was very young. The service was familiar, if a little confusing. Turns out I’d picked up the service bulletin for the week before in my desire to get there early and settled in. So I had the wrong readings, and the hymns were off, but the rest of the service was straight from the Book of Common Prayer and that was familiar enough. After the service I cornered a priest with this statement – “Buddha is awesome, Gandhi is with the program, and Lao-Tsu also has it figured out.” This was a make-it-or-break-it moment right here. I knew I’d found truth in their teachings. If he dismissed them, then I knew I was done with this foray. So he surprised me. He said “Cool!” with a huge smile. OK, now we were talking. He wasn’t part of a church that acted like it had a monopoly on the Divine.

I then decided to read the Bible. Well, let’s be honest. Very few people can wade through the entire Bible. There are a lot of “begats” that slow most folks down. And there is all that interior decorating micromanagement going on with building the first Temple. So I skipped to the Gospels.

The more I read of the Gospels, the more I wanted to quote from the movie Princess Bride to the folks who said they were Christians but didn’t act like it. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” They kept saying Jesus, but turning it into a dirty word. Their Jesus was hateful and judgmental. Their Jesus was all about getting a ticket to heaven and you were done. Their Jesus was closed-minded and thoughtless. This wasn’t the Jesus I was discovering. The Jesus I was discovering was about love, and more importantly, showing love through service to others.

What would Jesus do? I’d think he’d be totally down with the idea of having friends from all different religions. And I don’t mean having friends just so he can try to convert them. I think he’d learn how to say “thank you” in a bunch of different languages. I think he’d volunteer at a food bank. I think he’d carry around extra bottles of water so he could give them out to folks he saw. I think he’d encourage people and raise them up.

I think being a Christian is about service. It is about living the life of Jesus. It is about taking up the yoke. Sometimes people need a sandwich, not a sermon. I think “being Christian” means to be Christ in this world – to take up where he left off. Saint Theresa of Avila tells us “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” Go forth. Be Jesus, and be the nice one. Be the one that heals and feeds and clothes.

(I have now turned off comments for this post, and updated my comment policy in my About section.)