When I heard that this week’s sermon was going to be on addiction, I almost made the mistake of thinking that I would get off easy from a Skyline service. I don’t do drugs, so how hard could this be for me, really? But, I found myself challenged by two questions. First, if we all have addictions, then what are mine and how do they affect my life? Second, how do I treat those with serious addictions, and is that how Christ calls me to treat them?
When thinking about my own addictions after the sermon, it became clearer to me that I too am an addict. 1 John 1:8-10 says-
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.
While my addiction may not be as visible as substance abuse, it did not take me much time during the sermon to figure out that I am hooked on accomplishment and have trouble with pride. When I was younger, I measured myself by my achievements—things like the grades I earned and the video games I beat before my friends. As I get older, I still find myself measuring my own worth by things like career accomplishments, books I’ve read, and personal projects I’ve completed. I often get antsy when I’m not working on something—I feel like a day is wasted if I have nothing to show for it, even if I’m only working on something silly like a hobby. My wife, Joy, has had to deal with me when vacations that I plan turn out to be death marches and lazy Sundays turn into days spent on nerdy projects.
As a kid this helped me in school for sure, but it also made me an obnoxious know-it-all child. I was afraid of failure (still am, but working on it), so I would avoid things where I didn’t think I would be successful, like sports or speaking to girls (deadly creatures). Now I tend to over-compensate for being a show-off as a child. I think my interests are too strange to relate to others well and I tend to be more withdrawn. “David,” I think to myself, “people don’t want to talk about depressing science fiction and nineteenth century military history, stick with your friends that do.”
So, what’s the solution? As I grow in Christ, I need to think of ways that I can turn my habits and gifts to work for God’s good. First, I should keep my sense of motivation and try to turn it more from self-serving work into work that benefits others. I’ve grown more and more grateful to be serving in Guest Services at Skyline, because it is rewarding to feel like a part of Skyline’s mission and to welcome church family back home. Second, I should keep my nerdy interests because it is a means for me to reach out to fellow nerds and show Christ to them.
My second question about how I treat those with more serious addictions was painful to think about. I realized that I had let a bad experience push me away from being part of a community with them. During my freshman year of college, a good friend of mine began to experiment with drugs and I saw him less and less. So, I was surprised when he asked me to stay at his family’s house for Spring Break—I thought it might be a chance for me to help him out of the situation, and a week on the beautiful coast of Central California sounded nice, so I went along. However, I figured out shortly after arriving that he had invited me as a ruse so his parents would think that he was hanging out with “the good kids.” Nineteen-year-old David was not well-equipped to deal with the situation, so I just uncomfortably waited the week out and angrily avoided him after that. He eventually got the help he needed from his family, but I regret not knowing what to do at the time and regret not doing more for him.
I tended to avoid substance abusers after that since I didn’t want to get burned again—but, if the opposite of addiction is community, then that is not the right response. Jesus sought out the sick to heal them and to show them love no matter their sin. Likewise, we as a church need to be a community that brings joy to each other’s lives, support one another through each of our shortcomings, and celebrate each other’s successes. I am always glad that I don’t have to hide my problems when I come to Skyline, and I hope that I can learn to better help others through their own.
David is a member of Skyline and serves in Guest Services and Community Groups. He and his wife Joy live in Gaithersburg, MD and will gladly ford the mighty Potomac River to come and see you. He loves history and science fiction equally, and enjoys hiking, camping, and traveling. He hopes to better develop his relationship with God and better grow a spirit of service.