I recently read a post in Darrell Creswell’s Blog entitled “Disease within the Church – Spiritual Narcissism” which I found very timely, accurate and most certainly discussing one of the reasons why I stopped going to church and being the member of one.
You can read Darrell’s post here: http://darrellcreswell.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/disease-within-the-church-spiritual-narcissism/
I became acquainted with Darrell’s blog because he left a comment on my last post about the death of Whitney Houston, and this tragic fact together with the content of his post left me meditating on the issue of addiction and seeking God for some answers. It was not long before God laid in my heart the link between both Whitney’s death and Darrel’s post on Disease in the Church. The more I pondered on the tragedy of Whitney’s ongoing addiction to drugs and her inability to overcome it, the more I heard the Spirit of God whisper in my ear: “The Church lays all her focus on the physical addictions of those outside its walls as if the issue of addiction was a rare and terrible disease which will not affect those who frequently visit the pews. Mercedes, Which addiction is worse: the one that slowly kills the body or that one which is rampant in my churches today and quickly destroys a man’s soul and mars the path I had set out for him or her: the addiction to spiritual highs as a quick fix for a lack of rending and drawing nearer to ME in the monotony and discouragement of everyday life?”
I was once addicted to these spiritual highs myself and like with any other addiction I found it hard to give it up because I refused to admit there was a problem. I was in denial. Everybody else around me, many of the other members of the church with whom I had contact craved for the same highs and went through the motions of spiritual highs and lows, always seeking after the next fix brought about by the latest cry in leadership techniques, the latest prophetic utterance delivered during a slick conference attended by thousands, the ultimate high at the hands of a well orchestrated worship event which by the sheer scale, volume, and sophistication of its members and instruments was delivered in such a way that one couldn’t but feel carried away by the atmosphere, the expectation in the air and often the mass bordering hysteria which we all love to be sucked into and deceivingly declare as the Holy Spirit in our midst.
When I was at the height of my addiction I was blinded to believe that God very rarely showed up in the small church gathering, in the monotony of my daily living and of Sunday after Sunday going through the motions, in the weariness of bringing up my children, of leading them up the right path, in the discouragement of a marriage filled with challenges and the daily call of laying my wishes down, my priorities down, in the cries echoing in my ears from those in need outside the church walls.
And yet, no sooner was there mention at church or by one of my brothers or sisters about an oncoming Spiritual event, there was automatically an assumption, an expectation, an obligation for God to comply and show up, for us to put one mask down and pick up the other, to put down our faithless and discouraged mask, and pick up our faith-full and joyful mask. The moment any of these events were announced, recruiting takers was of the utmost importance and the subtle pressure put upon members to drop all and attend was considerable and undeniable. Even today, as I am no longer a member of a church and many are aware of my views on the church system and its short-sightedness, I get existing members still asking me whether I would come along to some of these events as if there I would find the magic pill to sustain my faith and to fix me up with the fruits of the Spirit til the next event.
I recently had a person come up to me to tell me that they had just returned form one of these “fixes” and how they felt absolutely on top of the world, on a massive spiritual high, how God had spoken to them about their purpose in life, and how great they felt for it. Euphoric is a word I would use to describe the state of this person’s mind at the time. Interestingly, at any other time this person often looks downcast, discouraged, hurting, searching, restless, vulnerable and transparent (some of the best attributes in a genuine Christian and fertile ground for others to grow and mature their seeds of faith in). Whilst I rejoiced with this person for their momentary happiness and elation at the closeness of God during those short-lived moments, in my heart I sobbed at the thought of how long would it take for the ecstasy to wear off and for the desperate crave for a new fix to take place in this person’s soul? Having shared how great they felt, this person went on to ask me whether I or my husband had anything to shout about that God was currently doing in our life, to which I was left speechless and pondering within: God does not need to do anything in my life for me to brag and shout about it, because God IS and He lives in me and that is all I need and all I need to know. I have to learn to live everyday of my life in that knowledge, even in those days which tend to be the majority of a person’s life when life is a challenge, tiresome, discouraging and dull.
Like I said, I have been there, done that, got the T-shirt so I do not sit here in judgement of that person or any other, but simply recognising myself in them and praying that they are released from the enslaving habit in many Christians’ life that is basing their faith not on what God has already done for them through Jesus Christ on the cross, but on what He still must do for them next. The problem with that. to mention one of many, is that the next fix always has to be bigger and better, and until we trust that God is in the small, seemingly insignificant details of our life, in the boredom, the pain, the discouragement, the doubts, the fear, the weakness and our failure, we will miss Him and what He is trying to do with our time here on this earth, where he is taking us and others through us, and that is a gigantically significant thing to miss for one who calls themselves an active, practising, devout, passionate follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, or one who aspires to become such.
The Church today has an insatiable appetite for these spiritual fixes to the point where one is often regarded as not being serious about following Christ unless they are committed to attending every single event going, every single worship conference going, or every mass prayer event going. Whatever the in-Christian circles are talking about, that is where one must be to be counted. And God forbid you decide to raise the issue that perhaps their time and the church’s money would be better spent in practical acts of compassion and being doers of the word as opposed to just hearers.
The words of Jesus ring in my ears loud and clear. Come to me all those who are tired and weary for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Again, traditionally and conveniently understood as referring to the burden of sin, addiction, and evil at large. And yet Jesus constantly confronted the Pharisees and other religious hypocrites who got caught up in the legalism of unfounded principles and false obligations used to control and feel superior to others, used to create authority and power which was not theirs to have. Jeus did not spend much time talking about physical addiction of any kind, but He sure invested time and energy declaring the malady in believers of his time who set up rules and regulations, and missed the very One they claimed to revere and worship by placing their focus time and time again on those who in their eyes did not comply with the rights and wrongs of what it meant to be a true believer, by placing their focus and energy on the wrong place, on the next best thing.
I have now spent almost a year in rehab getting over my addiction to spiritual highs and to having my ego stroked by others who like me base their faith and understand spirituality as the ability to use spiritual jargon with ease, as their knowledge of their latest church trend and the latest teaching by those considered and branded true men and women of God of the day. I won’t lie to you. the withdrawal symptoms have nearly got the better of me on many occasions and at times it was just easier to think about going back to church, to the old system, than to wean myself off what was familiar, convenient, pleasurable and simply easier than having to face the rest of my life interacting with the Spirit of God in a private fashion with no hype, no background noise, no clamour, no fanfare, and most certainly no men’s constrictive ways which dictate that living as a Christian must be filled with conferences, worship events, concerts, public prayer meetings, seminars, spiritual retreats and all the other resource-wasting, money spinning enterprises that our flesh in its weakness has masqueraded as the be all and end all of how to get close to God, and how to make it big in the Christian world, how to even be a man or woman after God’s own heart when in truth we are after pretty much anything but God’s own heart.
The road to cleansing and ridding my soul from all that clatter and noise has been an arduous, lonely and dreary one, but as a result I now know that the faith that I now have is pure, unadulterated, and a simple faith which is resting in God’s daily assurance that the price was paid on that cross and I need to add nothing to that but simply rest in his love, grace and provision one day at a time.
God doesn’t always show up when I expect Him to these days and my mind is finally void of the spiritual rhetoric I once excelled at and impressed others with. In fact, He often does not show up at all. AND YET I would not exchange the sporadic glimmers I see of His goodness, His love, His grace and mercy upon me and upon others in my daily living as a simple human being who believes in God beyond what so many churches have made of Him, I would not exchange that for a million spiritual highs experienced at the mercy of peer pressure, human expectation, spiritual pride, falsehood, deception and even make-believe.
For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, if he loses his soul?