One of the best books I’ve read in recent years is Addiction and Grace by Gerald May. Gerald May was a Psychiatrist who, in his work with addicts, realized that he had the very same tendencies towards addiction (though his were of the more socially accepted variety). May’s premise, which I have come to agree with myself, is that every person is an addict. Some are addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, or cigarettes while others may be addicted to habits and substances that are totally acceptable in our culture such as food, video games, shopping, people etc. Whatever the object of addiction it is something that a person is compulsively drawn to. May’s writings have been very helpful to me as I have come to terms with my own addictive nature. This morning I was reading a bit from Addiction and Grace and I came across this highlighted quote:
A therapist friend recently told me he had observed that “addicted people can’t meditate.”…In know my own daily practice of prayer and meditation is not easy. One reason is that this practice opens my awareness to things about myself that I would rather not be conscious of. In many instances, these awarenesses have to do with my addictions: how attached I am to certain petty concerns and competitions, how worried I am about truly insignificant things, how important my selfish ego is to me. So I find myself resisting settling down to pray, or I fill my meditation time with images or music or words—anything that will keep me from simply being present and awake before God.
These words really ring true with me. I find sometimes that everything within me resists meditating, quietness and solitude. When I plan to pray I feel a sudden urge to check my email, or make a phone call, or read a devotional, or turn on some worship music… anything but sit quietly with the Lord.
One of my favorite U2 songs is Running to Stand Still. The lyrics are about a heroin addict growing up in an impoverished area called the Seven Towers. The imagery of the lyrics “She’s running to stand still” evokes an scene of someone running heroin into to the blood stream to get high, yet the bigger issue is not running the heroin but running from pain, trying to escape like Jenny in Forest Gump.
The kingdom of God is completely opposite to the addictive inclination. In God’s kingdom it is not a matter of running to stand still but of standing still to run. We avoid this standing still with everything within us as if it is death itself, but this is precisely the place we desperately need to encounter God. Carl Marx may have made the claim that religion is the opiate of the masses but true relationship with God doesn’t numb us or keep us distracted from pain, on the contrary following Jesus means confronting pain in the world around us and the pain within our own hearts. This is not because God wants to see us hurt but because he wants to see us set free from the inside out.
Can you relate to these words of Gerald May? Have you ever found that everything within you resists getting still before God?