I love to watch travel shows. I always seem to get sucked into the PBS Explorer channel and anything that Burt Wolf or Rick Steves are commentating. Our Honeymoon was spent in Italy and I had 4 lovely weeks there in college and so I happened to catch Burt Wolf doing a tour of Rome and its incredible architecture. One comment he made about the Baroque style architecture of St. Peters interested me. Something I missed along the way after going in college and AGAIN in 2006. The Baroque architecture was a counter response to the Protestant Reformation and stripping down of some of the existing churches. The Protestant churches were devoid of paintings, ritual and overall plain but humble. Baroque is over the top, bigger, ornate…rich.
“Where would God want to dwell?” is the question the Roman Catholic church was trying to invoke in people’s minds. Somewhere ornate with marble columns, gold leafed ceilings, high reaching domes, and amazing frescos OR the stripped down, plain walls of these Protestant Churches? And then it hit me. We do this! We work hard on making the outside look good that we forget about the heart. And so it is with addiction. The addict feels the need to cover up because they feel unimaginable shame and guilt by the chaos they have caused. They can’t imagine anyone wanting to forgive them. And most of the time, they have run out of people who are willing to help them. The shame and guilt they feel can be completely paralyzing. So much so that they don’t even want to ask for help because of all that they may have to expose. They are finally having to face all of the repercussions of their choices. Basically, they have to come face to face with who they really are…like we all do at some point in our lives. We realize we will never be good enough much like there is no church ornate enough for the Glory of God. It all falls short. The Roman Catholic Church was creating a visual ladder to heaven but the ladder has already been built. It is called the cross. And it leads us straight to God.
Addicts feel like they are so unworthy, but truthfully we are all addicted to something. It’s the human condition. We could be addicted to affirmation, to knowledge, to relationships, food, sports, physical achievements, exercise, work accomplishments, wealth and the process of accruing wealth, acceptance…the list goes on. If you are on the other side of a one-sided relationship with an addict then you need to know that you cannot feel superior to them. Because we don’t deserve God’s grace and forgiveness anymore than the worst person who has ever lived. IT IS ALL A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. We have a tendency to feel self-important if we have self-control but there are plenty of things that we absolutely fail at. I know I fail at follow through. I get jealous. I don’t always think before I speak. I have lied to get what I wanted. I want acceptance more than I should. My closet is a nightmare. I am lazy when it comes to cooking. I use pregnancy as an excuse for not doing things when I am entirely capable. The list of flaws is endless. But I have been saved from myself. I now want to be better because I love God not because I know it will in any way affect whether I am able to get to heaven. So it doesn’t matter how you paint the outside. The inside is still corrupt, sinful…broken. But Jesus has washed the slate clean. When an addict realizes this for the first time they can actually experience complete freedom. When they accept Jesus as being who He said he was, accept that He died on the cross for them and that HE conquered death then the chain can be broken.
Freedom. It always comes at a price, but in this case we didn’t pay the debt. It was paid for us. No amount of money can buy it. No material goods can fill that void. For some people it seems too easy. They can’t accept that is all it takes. They feel this need to do more, to be more. But they can never DO enough because it was already done. It can blow your mind sometimes that this is all it takes because we are reward driven. Unfortunately, I find myself offering the reward driven option to my daughter way too often. “If you eat the green beans then you can have a popsicle”, “if you go to bed now then we can do something special tomorrow”, IF you do this _________________ (fill in blank) then you can have this _____________ (fill in with a reward). This is why the simplicity of the gospel can be so hard for people to accept. And this is why the addict feels they are unworthy to get well: “I have done too much damage, I have hurt too many people, I have caused too much chaos, I am too far gone to be saved”. Maybe you have driven people to their limit and the line is in the sand but God can handle whatever you think is too much. Trust me. If He can handle my stuff, and Lance Armstrong’s stuff, and Bernie Madoff’s stuff, and the worst criminals in the worlds stuff, then He can handle yours too. AND THAT IS THE HOPE that God brings us. SO it doesn’t matter how the church looks, or how the people inside look. All you need to worry about is the condition of YOUR heart and bring that to Him. I have heard people use the phrase “he had a heart transplant” to describe what it feels like when they have recovered from addiction and I agree with that. It’s when you get rid of the old, defective ,deceitful heart and you get a brand new one. Yeah, you are going to mess that one up too, but this time you have a loving Great Physician to patch it up, repair it, and make it worthy to be His dwelling place.
1 Corinthians 6:19
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.