Substance addiction slowly kills the body but addiction to spiritual highs quickly destroys the soul.

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?

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8 thoughts on “Substance addiction slowly kills the body but addiction to spiritual highs quickly destroys the soul.

  1. All I can say is amen and wow. Mercedes I agree alot with what you have said especially $ and ministries. I wrote about it- In Hi$ Name – FYI. My dear sister I think that the Lord is just fine with you and is using you to open some eyes to truth… Blessings Darrell

    • Dear Darrell,

      Thank you for your comment and for reading.

      The Lord is still opening my own eyes to truth. He is faithful to His promises and when we seek him with all we have, when there is too much noise outside and too many currents taking us here, there and everywhere, we need to cling ONLY to Him, we need to hear ONLY Him, and then we will find the truth ONLY in Him, just as He said.

      God bless you.

      Mercedes

  2. Mercedes ~ what a refreshing take on “church” . . . I thoroughly enjoyed so much of your blog! I left one of the country’s largest mega-churches about two years ago for most of the very same reasons you list above.

    I was like a crazy woman running to-and-fro . . . “Bible” study after “Bible study . . . and I must admit most of them NEVER opened a Bible in these so-called “Bible” studies. I kept my “self” busy every single day of each and every day of every week. I neglected my cats, my home, my housework, and all other responsibilities as I ran from one event to the next. Looking back on it now, I am so glad to have brought it all to a screeching HALT! I had to sit back and reevaluate my reason(s) WHY I was running back-and-forth . . . I mean, all my other church friends were, too, and it only made sense to be “involved”; however, it was time for me to examine the motives of my heart. Who was I really seeking? Did I grow closer to the Lord running around from group to group, conference to conference? No! A HUGE resounding NO! I think so many of our fellow “Christians” miss the mark, and enjoy what they believe to be the right path and plan . . . but truly, what are they chasing after . . . For me, it was like being on some HUGE college campus, and it was all about how popular one was. I must admit, my ego inflated to no end as I walked through the hallways, as I was most self-impressed with all the people who knew me and said hello as I passed. It was downright sickening.

    I left this mega-church (I believe it’s the 8th largest in the country) and I found a quaint little church with less than 100 people. I left all the hype, and all the hoopla behind for a more intimate setting wherein I could praise my Lord and not worry my “self” about who recognized me or who I ran into.

    It was the BEST thing I could have done for myself. About a year ago, my new pastor moved his family to Alaska, and now our church meets in a home–which I do not attend. I spent close to one year all alone–just little ol’ me. : ) Sorry so long-winded, but I came across your blog, and found it to be something I could truly relate to, and understand. THANK YOU!

    ~Gracie~

    • Dear Gracie,

      So glad you could relate to this. It is one of the main reasons why I share such intimate and personal stuff. It is that calling to unburden others with the weight that I myself have carried for years that motivates me to write and share what is inside, even though I know it may touch a raw nerve particularly in people who know me personally. No pain no gain, as they say.

      Anyway, you sum up well what happens when one stops kidding oneself about what it is they are doing and for whom: an overwhelming and exhilarating sense of freedom, because it is for freedom after all that Jesus set us free. What kind of ungrateful soul would use a gift for completely the opposite purpose of what it was meant for or worse still not use it and enjoy it at all?

      Thank you for reading and for your honest sharing in my space.

      Do come back and God bless you.

      Mercedes

  3. Been there, Done that. Bought the t-shirt with spiritual highs logo on the front.

    Here’s another thought about spiritual highs: we always assume it’s God and the Holy Spirit who brings these spiritual highs to the churches, conferences, and seminars. But is it always? Probably not. Then, that means it has to be a different spirit…most likely the spirit of religion.

  4. Hi Larry,

    I trust you and the family are all well. Spring is finally arriving here in the UK. March and April are two of my favourite months for that reason.

    You raise a very fair point indeed. Have you ever thought what Christianity would be like in the Western world if none of these huge events existed and Christians had no choice but to actually live out their faith in the quiet, simple, routinary opportunities of everyday life? Have you ever taken a step back and seen the amount of people, gifts, time, money and focus that these spiritual highs eat into from where the Western Christian and the Western Church should be today?

    A great awakening is coming to Western Christianity. We have had it too easy in these last generations and things are about to radically change. No more money, time, or egos bursting at the seams. We will look back one day, back at the opportunities we left behind to act like Jesus to those who need it, and we will throw our hands to our heads in disgust and shame at the thought of the things we could have done, and what we did instead. When I ponder on this, I often remember the scene in Schindler’s list of the protagonist who realises had he given away his gold jewellery, he could have saved even more lives. But this is not even about the money. It is about selling our souls to the best bidder, to the best audience, chasing after the wind where it may go, forgetting completely in the process that when we accept Christ, He wll never leave us nor forsake us, so what exactly are we expecting to gain from all these spiritual fixes that is not already there for the taking at any given moment of our existence? All it takes is determination and humility to shut the rest of the world down and to get our knees on the ground.

    All the best Larry. Keep well!

    Mercedes
    X

  5. Hi Jan,

    It is funny you know, God has not laid anything on my heart to write about for quite some time now, so when this message started forming in my spirit, I immediately knew where it was coming from.

    I know these are the feelings and thoughts of many out there, but I also know that for many it is easy to just go with the flow of what everybody else is doing, because the alternative path means being alienated from the crowd, the social side of things, the camaraderie amongst brothers and sisters in Christ and specially the emotional and practical support you get when you are part of a church family. Truth is none of those things matter one bit if God is not at the top of that pyramid, because what one is often made to believe is the bone and marrow that bonds Christians together in a church to pursue one goal as a body is often an illusion, an ideal that never quite materialises, because the focus is in all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting and thans for the support.

    With love

    Mercedes

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