The Cycle of Idol/Addiction Destruction

UPDATE 11/23/08: EXCERPT ADDED BELOW

Idol Destruction

Tonight I had a very strange experience which caused me to put 2+2 together.
Through a conversation that my wife, Kami, and I were having I observed a
cycle occur in myself that I have seen many times. The whole thing took about 30
minutes. This is how it went.

Stage 1: The threat of the loss of my Idol. In other words, I was being confronted
with my addiction being taken away. The immediate emotions that followed were: Complete lack of control, Absolute Chaos, Fear, Panic, Dread, more Panic
and more Fear. These are new feelings for me to notice, much less express.

Stage 2: After my idol in question had been taken away–partially inside and partially
outside of my control–I noticed that new feelings had replaced the fear and
chaos. I almost felt immediate relief. It was pretty weird. One second I felt
like I was going to die if this Idol was taken out of my life and the next
second I felt like I had the potential to experience life for the first time.
It is really hard for me to express the combination of the suddenness and
unexpectedness of which this happened.

Upon reflecting upon this for another 5 minutes I realized that this is how it
always is. This is the obstinate toy soldier that C.S. Lewis refers to in Mere
Christianity. He thinks you are ruining him when you turn his tin into flesh.
Imagine the freedom the rich young ruler would have felt 5 minutes after he sold
his possessions and gave the money to the poor. Often we do not see this and it
is so hard to imagine because all we see is how much misery he faces on this
side of the decision.

What if the intensity of our freedom is directly correlated to with how much
torture that we have to endure in giving up the idols or addictions that are
keeping us from that freedom?

This makes me ask myself, “ Have I never felt this type of pain before, have I
ever really let go? Is there a way to release the idols and addictions that are
buried so deep and not have it be the most painful thing that I have ever
endured?
If not, what do I make of the lack of pain and panic that have evaded
my ‘meticulous and regulated’ life?”

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not
see…

UPDATE:

At the meeting I went to today, they read this from the white book. I thought it put into words exactly what I was trying to describe. I highlighted the exact line that I think applies to this post. For the sake of reading it feel free to replace “sex” with your own personal addiction: ” drugs, alcohol, food, computer, tv, spouse, kids, spending, reading, video games, facebook, etc.”

We saw that our problem was threefold: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Healing had to come about in all three.

The crucial change in attitude began when we admitted we were powerless, that our habit had us whipped. We came to meetings and withdrew from our habit…
We discovered that we could stop, that not feeding the hunger didn’t kill us, that sex was indeed optional. There was hope for freedom, and we began to feel alive. Encouraged to continue, we turned more and more away from our isolating obsession with sex and self and turned to God and others.

All this was scary. We couldn’t see the path ahead, except that others had gone that way before. Each new step of surrender felt it would be off the edge of oblivion, but we took it. And instead of killing us, surrender was killing the obsession! We had stepped into the light, into a whole new way of life.

Instead of covering our feelings with compulsive sex, we began exposing the roots of our spiritual emptiness and hunger. And the healing began.


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8 thoughts

  1. It is very difficult and scary to give up idols, but I am very sad when I realize that they have become more important to me than God. Every time I sin, I am pleasing myself through some stupid idol I have made instead of worshipping and pleasing my amazing God. Thank God for His amazing never ending grace!

  2. Dude unfortunately I don’t think there is a way to release the idols and addictions without pain. It’s horrible to go through, but it brings healing and freedom. And you’re led through the valley of the shadow of death….you don’t stay there.

  3. There’s no way to do it without pain, because not having control is scary and painful. It’s freeing and beautiful, and also scary and painful. This is why, when you’re emotionally numb, you can’t experience beauty OR pain. When you increase your emotional capacity for pain, you increase it for beauty. It’s all correlated, like CS Lewis says.

  4. I don’t like even thinking about going down the road of having to feel intense pain to actually release idols. I think it’s dangerous and teeters on telling someone they have to pay pennance (sp?) for the things they used to hold on to. In my cynical nature, I would love to have to go through pain to release idols, but I don’t think you have to do that. God is too good to require pain. I’m sure sometimes pain is present, but to say it is necessary is taking it too far.

  5. hey rb, thanks for your response. i have the feeling if people thought about the implications of this they would arrive at a similar conclusion.
    one thing that may help to clarify. i am talking about the process leading up and including repentance. the process that for some reason most are not willing to make. like the rich young ruler.
    the question i am asking is why was it so hard for some? were they really that unique? or could it be that many of us do not understand the true nature of dying to ourselves?

  6. stephanie,
    clarification . . . “god is too good to require pain” as a part of repentance . . . the pain in childbirth was/is a direct consequence of an action to thwart god’s authority. yes, i believe god disciplines his children, but once the child is ready to submit I don’t believe he then requires it to be painful (i.e. prodigal son)

    ben,
    touche (with that little thing above the e)

  7. Thinking out loud here: but don’t you think it was “painful” for the prodigal son to go to his father and tell him he had spent all the money his father had worked his whole life for?
    I feel as if I am on a similar path as Ben in trying to figure out, deal with, get healing from past and present sin in my life. I am only just starting to try to deal with this and yet it is already painful.
    Even though I am mostly talking about an “emotional” pain, I still feel like I have a low pain tolerance.
    I guess I just have a hard time believing that if we are truly trying to work through our sin and truly receive God’s healing that this process would not include pain in some way. I just don’t think it’s possible. Thoughts??

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