Okay, so I am not the first person to notice this, but the Apple on my Mac has a bite taken out of it. This little observation always haunts me a little bit whenever I see it, which is often. I write on a Macbook, text and talk on a iPhone. I did sell my iPod, iPad mini 2, and the older Mac at home is a half-frozen antiquity from 2008. I am addicted.
Okay, so I don’t really mean addicted, nor am I really talking about my preference for an operating system on my computer. I am addicted to this world, the world of the apple. The world of the knowledge of good and evil, post-garden of eden, clothing world. I am an addict to the world of sin. And I bet you are too, even if you use a PC or Chromebook or nothing. We are addicted.
I was reminded of my state by a conversation with a recovery rockstar locally, Thomas Gilbert. He was talking about what makes effective recovery and laying the groundwork for a sober house and retreat center here in Traverse City. I am all about people in recovery. They are models of new creation living in the most brutal and honest way.
We Christians should be major supporters of recovery because of what it is, what it says, and what it means. As sober Christians we are really passive about love for people in recovery generally. As an Episcopal church, we host AA and have treatment available for clergy, but I am talking about local Christians understanding and rejoicing and celebrating recovery as a model of embracing new life.
The Navy Seals have a saying, Embrace the Suck. I love that saying because it means to accept the suffering of this moment in order to do your job and do it well. It is going to suck, and if you want to get where you want to go, you are going to have to embrace it. I want the solitude of desert solitude and survive, so I carry water. In recovery, I understand that we have to embrace the suck of life. We, all of us human beings, embrace opiation, medication, numbing agents, until we are no more fully alive. We avoid real life.
This is the essence of addiction as I understand it. Our minds become shaped, rutted, preset to the addicted substance instead of real life. We prefer the addiction object instead of life and loved ones and even food and water. These objects usually have a numbing effect, an opiate of some sort. We, of course, prefer to be numb rather than deal with the world. Being sober means embracing the suck of real life. It is hard and will be if we want to get where we want to go.
Have you ever heard someone who was so addicted to their beliefs that they no longer embraced real life? The NRA member who cannot deal with the realities of handgun deaths of children, or rich people who cannot look long at poverty? I think the allegation that faith is an opiate is fair when our faith is a way of avoiding the world, of numbing ourselves to reality. That does not mean that ecstatic realities are not real, but rather that they can lead toward or away from real life, just like a glass of wine can lubricate conversation and allow people to be real or be a numbing agent that avoids the difficulties of conversation.
Doing theology is difficult, but it is one of the ways that we get a new mind, that we learn to think as a mature engaged human beings. I need a new mind. Yes, Jesus can just give me one, but that is not the way God always works. We are given freedom and then have to learn to live in freedom and responsibility. We have to metanoia, or repent, to get a new mind in Christ Jesus. The word metanoia is the Greek word for repent, and it means to have a new way of knowing, a larger mind, a more mature understanding or view. Learning theology, alongside learning to concentrate, contemplate, and meditate, alongside learning to submit and pray are the practices of getting a new mind. All of these practices are rooted in and soaked by the Bible and especially the life and teachings of Jesus.
When we get a new mind, the questions we ask change as well as the answers we have. Can we ever go back to not knowing that we are naked? Is it possible to go back to a state of purity? I don’t think so. The addicts we have, our recovery heroes, are always going to have addictions, just like us. We should celebrate their work and their successes, and we should be patient when they fall off the wagon and return to the object of their addictions; after all, who could understand that better than us? We should embrace their suck and embrace them as they wrestle with real lives and the complications and convictions of their lives under the apple. After all, they are us.
The faith and love of the Episcopal Church will be tested by our ability to love the Rt. Rev. Heather Cook and hold her close and visit her while being honest about the atrocity and sin and brokenness of her addiction. Can we let her be human and still love her, honor her, uphold her dignity, while admitting the depths and realities of her sin? Can we do that while honoring and upholding and embracing the dignity of her victim, a family man who was bicycling through his own complicated and beautiful life? Can we hold the contradictions and complications of this story and not neglect the human being involved? Can we embrace the suck here?
This is the test we face right now, or at least one of them. I know that if I am going to embrace the suck of real life and work for an even more real life of Christ and the Rule of God, where every human being is loved by God and has justice and peace and where sins are forgiven and justice done, I am going to need a new mind.
So I lean into the Daily Office, and I sit in meditation and prayer, and I read theology, even though none of these is easy today. I need a new mind, and a community that loves me, and I need the close and constant work of the Holy Spirit breathing in me, speaking the Word and his Way into being in me, and I need the God of all creation who is bringing the whole back one day.
Until then, I love you even when it sucks, because Christ embraced the manger and the cross, and on my way out of the Garden still picking my teeth, God made me something to wear, and the Breath that moved over the waters of Creation still move and even darkness is not dark to God.