The Good Addiction

One of the things that always amuses me about being a pastor’s wife is that people think they have to be careful around me. As if I have a delicate condition that can’t handle the realities of the world. In order to protect me, they shuffle, they fumble, they apologize and then use euphemisms to describe situations that I could paint in living color. What they don’t understand is that, behind this genteel exterior, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen the brokenness, heard the sobs, and felt the ache of a creation waiting for redemption. In this kind of work, you lose your innocence pretty quickly.

Those who haven’t probably aren’t doing their jobs.

The other amusing thing is how quickly my conversations with my pastor-husband turn from the prosaic to the profound. One moment we’re discussing the rotation of children’s workers, and the next we’re talking about how to apply the realities of theosis to counseling.

Just last week over our dessert and coffee, we found ourselves discussing the nature of addiction. Whether it manifests itself in substance abuse, eating disorders, gambling, or pornography, the roots and overall structure of addiction is fairly consistent. And one of the most dangerous characteristics of addiction is that it always leaves you wanting more. You tell yourself this one thing, this one game, this one look will be enough. But it never is. You are left craving the next hit, the bigger fix, to achieve the high that you felt the first time.

I wonder if this is something of what Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount when He taught that if you lust after a woman you’ve already committed adultery (Matt. 5:27-28) and if you hate it’s as if you had murdered your brother (Matt. 5:21-22). Clearly, Jesus was internalizing the Law, moving it past externals to show us that God is just as (more?) concerned with our hearts as with whether or not we act appropriately. But Jesus was never one to teach one-dimensionally so I can’t help but wonder if He was alluding to something else about the nature of sin.

Could it be that Jesus was also teaching about the nature of addiction? Could He have been echoing the truth that once lust conceives, once the cycle starts, there’s little that can stop it (James 1:15): that lust is the gateway to adultery; hatred the gateway to murder. Like a seed, the natural course of any addiction is to sprout and eventually grow into a full-blown plant that bears fruit. Fruit that itself will contain seeds that have the potential to replicate themselves in another generation if the course of nature is left unchecked.

But then I thought, what if the problem isn’t addiction itself but the object of the addiction?

What if we are made to be addicted to something—Someone? To love Him with our whole hearts and souls and minds and bodies (Luke 10:26-28). To be driven, panting, thirsting after Him (Psalm 42:1). To be consumed, not with wine, but with His Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

What if we are made to be addicted to God? And what if His eternal, boundless nature is the only thing that can promise a world of unending highs so that even as we need our next “fix,” He will never fail to provide it. Even as we press further and further into the mysteries of His nature, He will always be enough. He will always take us to the next level. And just like any other, this God-addiction will grow from a seed—even the size of a grain of mustard—into a full-blown plant that produces its own fruit. Fruit that itself has the potential to reproduce into another generation of faith and good works.

C. S. Lewis once famously described Christianity is a “good infection.”  Taking a word that normally has a negative connotation, he taught that Jesus “came into this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has.” In keeping with this, I can’t help but think that the Christian life could also be described as an addiction. Unbounded, full-flung, unfettered addiction to life with God.

An addiction from which we will never recover.

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