Last night, I came home from a series of meetings craving (not wanting) buttered noodles. This is usually a sign for me to stop and look inward. Food and work are my two primary addictions, the things I reach for to stop whatever pain I am experiencing in the moment. I know others who use words,and others who reach for alcohol and others who use sex or being holy or drugs or pornography and still others whose addictions are more subtle such as shopping, or being right, or un-bounderied relationships or subtly inflicting relational pain on loved ones or watching endless TV or studying scriptures to know them but not live them out. There are so many addictions out there. Addictions are to American streets as moisture is to Brazilian rain forests.
Satan does not seek to destroy our relationship with God. He simply seeks to dull it, thereby, maintaining cover while we lay siege to goodness.
The problem was that I was too tired to work and so buttered noodles was the only other option; my other addictions have largely been weeded out over fifty years making life peaceful and rather dull – but in a good way. I have no money with which to simulate power by purchases (addiction 3) and I am more mindful of boundaries than I was in my youth (addiction 4), and it is hard to be right (addiction 5) when one is alone with one’s dog. Kai always agrees that I am right, which does not give me the power rush I seek for that addiction. Bummer.
But what does one do when one’s last, primary addiction is comfort food and yet there are no taste buds, no sense of smell? What happens when butter simply tastes wet? What happens when food is no longer comforting or even enjoyable? It is a quandary.
“When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls.
When we make war with ourselves and the world around us, all we are doing is expressing our irritations from within our ego. The bigger the ego, the more damage to the world and people around us. What would the church be like if we ordained clergy and Bishops for their humility rather than their great skills in speech-making, charm, self-promotion, management or fundraising? This passage from Deuteronomy reminds me that I often destroy the fruit trees of my life when I am cutting down enough trees for an attack of a the city-wall of my irritations.
What if we look at the irritation or pain and sit with it in peace, rather than laying siege to life around us? The battleground is smokey, tree-stump-ridden, and blood-stained. What would it be like if, rather than going to church and maintaining a march on life with more endless, strung-together words; we stopped and simply sat with our pain, together, in silence with Jesus and then talked to each other about it?
We go to church every week and then, mindlessly repeat the same mistakes over and over again between Sundays because all we did was dull our awareness with so much noise that the Holy Spirit can hardly get a word in edgewise? Then we give ourselves permission to repeat old habits by signing and slouching as sinners. What if we are not sinners? What if we are simply unwilling to change?
It is not evil things in this world which are the problem. The problem, i wonder, might be our our un-checked ego. A strong ego is what inspires irritation. “I don’t like his voice, I don’t like they way she reads, I don’t like this food, or that liturgy or this style of dress or that kind of milk.” The things which irritate us are there to train us in peacefulness so that the trees – all of them – are saved and our battleground becomes a circle of peace.
When I live out of an inflated ego -especially one inflated by insecurities or disconnection, I become a walking target for the arrows of the very things I think will harm me. I become so intolerant or reactive in the name of self-protection or self-aggrandizement that I create a cage around me. But the arrows which come from the world, fly through the bars of our cages and then things get worse rather than better.
Cultivating kindness to self and kindness to others as a way to be open to the world and find release from our cages in ways that buttered noodles never will.