I used to smoke.
Two packs a day, in fact. My cigarette of choice was Salem Ultra Lights. My wife told me that the menthol made my breath smell a bit more tolerable, and I could fool myself into thinking that because they were "ultra light" that they weren't bad for me.
I enjoyed smoking a whole lot.
The first thing I reached for when I got up in the morning was my cigarettes.
I liked to smoke when I drove. It passed the time and it made me feel cool.
I pretty much had to have a cigarette after I ate.
I also lit up after... you know... "business time" if you know what I mean.
Sex... for those who don't know what "business time" is all about.
You know, come to think of it I pretty much smoked to reward myself for all of the things I accomplished during the day. Getting up. turning on the TV, drinking coffee, finishing an assignment...
I guess you could say that I was addicted.
Every time I thought of quitting, I got anxious. I would wonder what it would be like to not be rewarded for all of the things I did every single day. What would it be like to just... do stuff?
I did quit. Finally. It took several weeks of wearing nicotine patches, chewing lots of gum and eating. I gained weight like a beast when I quit smoking. Then I realized I had just traded one addiction for another one.
So I started working out every day at the gym.
And then I got addicted to that (that addiction didn't last too long, sadly).
And then I got addicted to online communities and downloading music.
And then I got addicted to my iPhone.
Maybe I should start smoking again to break the cycle.
I actually had a hard time writing those things down even though I am so far removed from the struggle that surrounded them (except for the last couple of things). Addictions are difficult to talk about--even with people you know won't judge you for having them.
I asked a question on the sermon website for the Baggage Sermon Series about whether Church was a safe place to talk about Addictions. I think that most people who commented on the site agreed that it should be a safe place, but not many actually thought it was.
One person wrote this:
Church does not have the best reputation with me and I believe that is because of past hurts. Jesus calls us to accept everybody and not pass judgement, but not one person can say that they have not judged or looked at somebody differentI looked up Addiction in the dictionary.
addiction: (a) being abnormally tolerant to and dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming (especially alcohol or narcotic drugs)
(b) an abnormally strong craving
There's another definition that is linked to the ancient Roman understanding of addiction:
surrender to a master;
a word used to describe justification for slavery
I wonder sometimes how many "Christians" come to church and sing songs about being set free from sin by Jesus Christ, proclaiming his as Lord of their life, but are secretly surrendering to some other master every single day of the week.
I wonder if it's most of us.
But we don't talk about it, though. Because it's not safe to discuss such things with the people who call themselves Christians, worshiping beside us in the things that we call church.
The Apostle Paul, the greatest 1st century theologian, and the person who God used to launch a revolution of thought, word and deed when it came to following Jesus (really following Jesus) wrote this:
We know that the old way of being died with Jesus when he was crucified, and our old way of being died with him. But because he was raised from the dead, anyone who is "in" Jesus was raised with him, too. So you are dead to sin, and the way it drags you away from a real relationship with God, and alive in this new way of being and knowing. For this reason, you don't have to bow your physical knee, your physical body to another master. Even your body has been redeemed and brought into a new way of being. - Romans 6:6-14 (my paraphrase)All of those addictions that have tried to claim ownership over you?
They don't own you.
And the so-called Christians who would judge you and maybe kick you out of their little club for sharing what doesn't own you? Well, the addictions they are bowing to in their private moments don't own them either.
Jesus doesn't judge you.
Being part of Jesus--following after him the best you can gives you a new life.
Jesus redeems your past. Jesus changes your present. Jesus gives you a new future.
Religion doesn't do that. Christianity doesn't do that. Jesus does.
But it costs you, and you know it. To live that new life you have to stop bowing your knee to that other master whatever it is. Jesus told his disciples once, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Sometimes the old life, the old way of being needs to be reminded that it's dead and gone. We need to lose that life in order to find the real life that we've been given.
Those bags that you've been carrying around. Those bags of addiction.