It’s that time of year again; Prime Day. Their tactic, get “Prime Big Deal Days”. For those who have Amazon or not, the allure is enticing. It is. Just this morning as I ran the garbage disposal I first heard, then saw, the spatula fly into the air. The result, sliced in half. The solution, Prime Day Deals #ftw (for the win).
Now, while engaging with Prime Day, it got me thinking about our attachments. For the month of September, we looked at our addiction module in WGA’s Thursday Night Group. We know that addictions are false or incomplete solutions to the deeper desire of true connection. In a world of expedience, ex: Amazon, we’ve become dimmed to its effects on our psyche and our relationship with God.
To start, we will do what the great American sociologist Philip Rief did, in his work of conducting a cultural biopsy. Wherein, he diagnosed the ills of western society, offered a prognosis, then gave a prescription for the future.
Simply put, following the title of my talk in September (From Self-Fulfillment to Surrender: Union in Christ), self-fulfillment is the Prognosis, surrender is the Prescription, and union in Christ is the Practice. You see, I did it again, P, P, P.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
These sentences, above, are a descriptor of our human condition. Follower of Jesus or not, it is the mixture of desire. It’s the push/pull of our neurobiology and our impulses. Queue that famous line from Woody Allen in an interview… “the heart wants what it wants.” Now, gently and compassionately, the psychologist David Benner in the small, beautiful book, in The Gift Of Being Yourself, says we are actual a labyrinth of personhood. Ex: our upbringing, our past self, our current self, and who we want to be. So, which one is authentic? Which one should I follow?
In contrast to the rhetoric of our day (“to thy own self be true”), the 4th century African theologian, Augustine, says we have disordered loves. I.e., we love the wrong things or we love the right things in the wrong order. Or, as my very staunch Reformed friends would say, it is love turned in on itself.
So, in our day, it is never right to deny yourself. “Be true to yourself” is the orthodoxy of our day. Which, in turn, makes the words we hear from the lips of Jesus, to take up your cross, heresy. The world we occupy often has a very narrow view of desire… our “authentic self”. Paul, and the NT, have two categories. Both are authentic to you and me. They’re the flesh and the Spirit. These two aspects are at war against each other. As one author puts it, it is a war of loves.
Jesus’ unique contribution is that with each passing decision, or attachment, we either become more open to the Spirit (what Paul calls a life of peace, joy, and love in the Kingdom), or we are closed to the life that will inevitably take from us and not give.
For all its benefits, this clues us into what the psychologist Gerald May means when he says: “we cling to things, people, beliefs, and behaviors not because we love them, but because we are terrified of losing them.”
Here’s the insight… the longer we choose and cling to “my way,” the less likely we are to change. For me, “my way” can be a state of mind, like negativity or even rebellion against God’s vision for me.
The prognosis, self-fulfillment. The prescription, surrender. How do we do that?
St. Ignatius of Loyola’s words are so enriching here:
“We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want, and I choose, what better leads to God deepening His life in me.”
The practice, union with Christ. How do we do that? We sow to the Spirit and not our impulses. When we want to lash out at someone, we pray James 1:19-21. We read the above words from St. Ignatius to begin the day and end the day. When we feel like nothing, so we want to buy something on Amazon, we have faith in the Father. Knowing the way to that ache is not self-fulfillment, that drink, or that show. We must go through the Cross and out the other side into resurrection. In those moments between stimuli and response would we practice His presence in stillness, song, scripture, or confession? It is forming habit and affection in the way of Jesus.
While growing up in Arlington Heights, IL, it wasn’t until the start of my senior year did I start to wonder if Jesus was worth considering. For me, it took the intellectual, communal, and personal components to come together to say – yes – to Him. I like to say He captured the restlessness of my soul and like a guitar restrung my heart with the cords of eternity and it hasn’t gone back since.
Shortly after coming to know Jesus as my greatest hope and reality, my father died. Since then, I’ve taken great comfort in Corrie Ten Boom’s words, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.”
Then, not long after that, a family member came out to me. For the first time this dimension of life – spirituality and sexuality – wasn’t an abstract concept, this was and is a person. After attending to them with grace and truth, an odd phenomenon kept happening to me, or has it been for something? Individuals would continually trust me with their questions, wounds, and curiosities about their sexuality. At this point, it’s climbed to 15+. From there, I’ve invested the better part of eight years being engaged with individuals and immersed in the dizzying array of literature on these areas of our personhood.
I’ve found Elizabeth Elliot’s words to have great bearing on our cultural moment: “Faith doesn’t eliminate questions, but faith knows where to take them.” Two prayers that have grounded and guided my life are: “I long to have faith and obedience like those I see in the Scriptures, and I long to preach the gospel to the nations.”
Those are my life’s aims. Among my love of books, reflection, and nurturing meaningful relationships, I enjoy good coffee, jazz music, golf, snowboarding, the movies, pizza (pepperoni), cooking, the mountains, and the beach as well as traveling.
I hold an MDiv from Denver Seminary, and I hope to gain more clarity on pursuing a PhD in the coming years.
I’m humbled and honored to join the WGA staff and contribute to the on-going space they are curating for every person, every story, and every beautiful and broken aspect of our human experience.
Make a Difference in Someone's Life
If you enjoy reading WGA’s blogs and would like to show your support, please consider making a donation. Where Grace Abounds is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The majority of services, including support groups and discipleship counseling, are provided free of charge. Your financial gifts help to cover the costs associated with offering a free program to those who seek WGA’s services.