The world we live in today is plagued by addictions. Around the turn of the previous century, a name was given to chronic drunkenness. The “Alcoholic” was the first to be classified as one who has a “persistent dependence on a behavior or substance.” Over the years, we have noticed as a society that, in addition to alcohol, men and women can become persistently dependent upon drugs, gambling, food, work, and yes, sex, to get through the day.
In recent times, it has become commonplace for celebrities, actors, and musicians, among others, to check in and out of rehabilitation centers to kick their unhealthy habits. Reality television has been emblematic since its early days on The Real World of a culture defined by its addictions.
Last November, the great golfer Tiger Woods made the news not for his tremendous drives onto the green but for his previously unknown sexual misadventures. The vultures of media, pontifical sermonizers, and know-it-alls at your local bar decried Woods for his lack of judgment and called for his public apology. In the ensuing months, the same vultures are feeding on the remains of his reputation while keeping their fingers crossed that their own sins will not soon be found out.
In the church, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox, the past two decades have witnessed a leadership whose preoccupation with sex has left a collective open wound in the conscience of the faithful.
These public stories are only half of the sad truth. It is not only the rich, famous, and influential who have betrayed our consciences. We have all become preoccupied and persistently dependent upon all types of false gods, whether they are alcohol, social status, money, sex, success, or relationships.
More disturbing than our decay as a culture is our own personal unhappiness. We know that we are not as we should be. We have no real need to read about Lindsay Lohan’s re-entry into rehab when we understand the reality of our shared broken state of humanity.
It is not only the people we see on television who need help. We need help. We need wholeness. We need sanity. We need recovery. We need healing. And as much as we criticize “those people” who can’t seem to get it right, we know from our own experience that we have failed to do just that.
And what is our answer? We try harder to get it right. We may get rid of the internet and cable t.v. We might devote ourselves to reading the bible seven times a day. We might swear an oath to amend our ways and never fall back to our old ways but we know all these things have not worked in the past.
Those among us who have finally found the end of ourselves will find a recovery group in hopes that their problems will go away with a bit of encouragement and hard work. The twelve steps become something of new god to bow down to and trust fully. In familiar terms, this too is a “half-step.”
The problem with these solutions is that they all will ignore the fact that we really are broken and wicked to the core. We dance around this fact in hopes that someday our “rope-a-dope” strategy will pay off and we will finally exhaust and so defeat the painful truth that we are helpless to help ourselves.
The really good news is that we find that our end may really be our beginning. God is not to be found just on the fringes of our world, answering our questions when we have exhausted our resources. He is found at the very center of life. He is the one who promises to heal. He is the one who promises to bring us beyond our self-focused slavery into God-focused freedom.
What we know by experience is that we are not able to help ourselves. This is the place Christ meets us. You and I cannot help ourselves but he will make us new.
Now what if we believed that?