paul tells us in 1 corinthians 10:13 - such is common to all - no, not maybe the addiction aspect of the struggle - but the acknowledgment of the problem - we ALL are created as sexual beings, it is a basic, god-given part of our nature. god knew that without that drive we would all be sitting alone in our caves communicating through the internet (wait, isn't that what we're doing??). intimacy is the deep well within each of us that we desperately try to fill. i believe that is one of the reasons why god gave us our sex-drives.
this is a theory in process, i have been thinking about it for over a year now and have never written about it - i don't think i have all of the answers, but i know that the time and work others have taken to earn degrees and diplomas i have poured into recovery and addiction. i am not a theologian or a psychologist, that may disqualify me to some, but i would find that unfortunate as my black-belt in recovery has been earned with books, bumps, bruises and a life lived in the attempt of acknowledging my powerlessness over my addictions.
the base of my hypothesis (please track this all out with me, it's not scholarly, but i think if you read to the end it might explain itself) is that somewhere along the line of our spiritual lives, especially those who choose a life in ministry and receive theological training (i have a bsc in biblical studies and a call of god on my life) something happens between the christian's need for answers to the mysteries of god and their need for surety.
most of this training occurs in the lives of the called at a very tender age. the idealism of youth works against the christian's ability to dwell in the questions. the surety of their education and good grades allows them to leave university or seminary with the confidence that they are able to face any and all of lifes issues.
my theory is that when my answers and surety don't line up with reality and the problems and questions i face day to day (especially in ministry) i begin to separate myself. to doubt is unacceptable. to question god seems sinful, so i give assent to what i "know in my head" but my heart and soul start to withdraw from that aspect of my life. this creates a real inconsistency that when driven apart by crisis becomes the crevasse that so many deeply committed christians begin to fall into.
the downfall of the educational process is that no rewards are given for the mystery. no honors are given for the questions. it is only the answers, and the correct answers at that, that are held up as good and right. and because most educational institutions are supported by denominations only those denominationally correct answers are honored. the others are unfortunately demonized to some level.
so i begin to minister, whether it is lay ministry or paid ministry, it rarely matters, i am fulfilling the call of god on my life. i begin to create the person that i bring with me to church, to my community and into public life. this is the person with all of the answers, the knowing smile and the deep desire to please god and fulfill my call.
this projected personality begins with the best of intentions, with the deepest level of commitment to god and ministry and is born out of an insecurity that comes from the realization that we aren't as prepared for ministry and real life as we thought we were.
what if someone finds out i don't have all the answers? what if they see i am this afraid? what if they see me for who i really am? how will i support my family? who will hire me again? what can i do now?
it is fear that separates us and shame that keeps us separated.
the part i am ashamed of stays back in the recesses. confused, alone afraid and beginning to question everything. life isn't working out at all like i planned it. my marriage is hard work, my finances are a mess, my boss doesn't understand me and my congregation doesn't appreciate me.
i try only to feed the public projection of myself. the part that everyone sees. i work for all i'm worth, meet as many needs as i am able and stand as a paramount to all that god has done in my life. this projection is real, it isn't a mask.(yet) this projected self is who i long to be with all of my heart. unfortunately i am unable to keep this projection functioning without my heart and soul. i am unable to join into the community i have created, to know and be known because it is there someone might realize that i am divided. that i am separate. that i am hiding something.
even the relationships that are most intimate to me, my spouse, family members and best friends must be kept at arms length so that i don't disappoint them, and supremely so that i don't disappoint god.
when that happens i must revert to my hidden self. the self that feels the emotions, the rejection, the pain. the self that grieves the losses and questions the answers and the theology i have been taught. they fail me now and i am unable to come in from the cold. all of my self-discipline, determination and desire cannot keep me from this frailty and keep the projected self on course. this is when the division between selves becomes critical. intervention at this point can save many. but the tyranny of church boards and the need for ministers to be free from sin, especially sexual sin, causes most to give up hope of ever receiving the help they truly need.
if resentments or hurt are done to the projected self i must return to my hidden self to lick my wounds. this is where i meet my needs because god seems to be unable or unwilling to do so. this is where i rationalize what is owed to me for all of the hard work i have been doing. i begin to decide what i 'deserve'. i begin to feel levels of entitlement before unknown to me. this is place where the addictions begin.
i blogged earlier this month about the 'thumb in my back' where i talked about my hunch that far too often the call of god looks an awful lot like codependency and manifests itself like another of the church's dirty little secrets of ministry - workaholism and a driven lifestyle:
one of my favorite metaphors about workaholism and that driven mentality is that of a boiling pot. the steam must escape somewhere. we just keep adding fuel, sitting on the lid and trying our darnedest to keep it sealed tight. the truth is that there will always be a place where the steam escapes. it's a law of nature.the steam is what drives us to back to the hidden personality. we are drained, wounded and need refilled. we don't have the time, relationships, energy, or financial resources to refill in healthy ways, so a quick fix must be found.
i think that the steam escapes either physically, the workaholic's own body betrays him. heart attacks, strokes or other manifestations of the inability to be the six-million dollar pastor. usually those type of ministers don't last. it's the physically healthy ones we prop up on the pedestals - so then the steam must escape elsewhere.
i think family relations are probably the truest vent. the weakest link in the chain of the family dynamic falls apart - usually that 'black sheep' of a pastor's kid who just can't take the all of the stress that the mechanical family is dishing out.
my greatest fear though is that the steam escapes through sin. the rationalization that happens in the mind of an overworked person is an extraordinary thing. entitlement and payback for slaving away can be so very enticing. convincing ourselves that we "deserve" a break or a reward is so easy. but unfortunately the relational ties in the life of the workaholic are so non-existent true celebration and engagement can't happen. so that desire for intimacy won't go unmet and the minister ends up substituting any fix along the way to fill the gaping void of reward and relationship.
ministers are called to create intimacy and community - it is usually a great desire of their heart. i believe that many times we are most broken in the places of our greatest passion. my sexual addiction really has very little to do with sex. it has to do with my deep desire for intimacy. instead of banqueting at the lavish table of kingdom life - i replace the feast of community with the bait of sexual addiction and pornography.
bait for real food. it is why addiction works. it is enough like the real thing to masquerade itself as the banquet. my hidden self would never get an invitation to the banquet, so i must feed myself. the lie of pornography and sexual addiction is that it is going to fill that void. that what i really want is sex, release, pleasure and stimulation. it comes straight from the pit of hell. bait always does. it also always has a hook in it. it is the nature of bait.
i blogged on it here:
satan is the master of the bait and switch. he takes what is given by god and bastardizes it just one notch. instead of healthy, healing, god-given guilt the devil steps in and turns it into shame. guilt brings life and restoration, shame only death and separation.so my theory is that the root of this problem stems from the inability the church has to wrestle with the questions and not have the answers. i don't know how this can be fixed, but i know we are doing a great disservice to those sincere young men and women who fill our bible schools and seminaries looking for all the answers their idealistic minds can hold. what could be done if we allowed them to dwell in the questions, to teach them to teach others to do the same? to live in the present, feel our emotions and re-learn how to confess our sins.
the only problem is that in an addict's mind the two have never been separated. our minds are so clouded by shame and the addiction that the life giving guilt that allows others to make different choices has been bastardized by the devil into one and the same. shame convinces me that i am wrong, that i have no choice.
that is why a feast can be prepared before an addict and they will choose to eat the ashes. i try to explain it to the youth i work with by talking about fishing. i personally hate fishing, but liam and my father love it.
they wade in the water and offer food to those fish. big, juicy looking worms and bugs. but they aren't offering food are they? they are offering bait. there is always a hook involved in bait. satan is the baitmaster. he holds out the counterfeit and says 'hey look, yummy!' and those pre-disposed to bait end up falling for it. the false intimacy of pornography, the mind numbing effect of drugs or alcohol, the quick fix of adrenaline that comes from risky behavior, the lie of feeling less empty with my mouth full of food. it all has a hook. it's not the feast of amazing.
one of the greatest losses to the protestant church was the discipline of confession. instead of reforming the idea of verbal confession to begin between brothers and sisters in the church and removing it from the 'father confessor' role (which with good theology behind it can still be an amazingly useful tool). james 5:16 tells us that if we confess our sins one to another and pray for each other WE WILL BE HEALED. yes, we are meant to confess to god - but what we forget is the power of confessing to a trusted, kindred soul allows us to see a jesus 'with skin on' and when they don't run screaming from the room something within us heals. we are reassured that 'such is common to all' is really true.
that is truly why the 12 steps work. if the church could re-learn this discipline of confession (instead of accountability, which is a whole different post...) and prayer community could truly be restored. god help us all.