Of Lent, Resurrection Sunday and Hidden Addictions
Of Lent, Resurrection Sunday and Hidden Addictions
April 20, 2011
I begin a series of shorter postings to the discussion of some issues regarding hidden addictions. It comes in the middle of Holy Week, our true High Week, where we slow life down, we come to the end of our long journey of Lent, where we walk with Christ in his inexorable path to the cross………and when we joyously celebrate the resurrection—a unique feature of our God, our Gospel, our Christ, our Faith System.
Later on we will read what some of my global colleagues have written on the subject, for their insight is strong and true. I will finish with some thoughts on one particular hidden addiction (and how to deal with it) travel.
I think it’s fitting to end lent with a final conversation (from my part) on hidden addictions, for they must be faced with courage and sorrow. True liberation can only come in resurrection power (which includes truth-telling by a loving and bold spouse or friend or colleague).
This discussion on hidden addictions started after I wrote in a previous blog of some changes that came from a re-naming of who I am and what I am to be-do in this next season of ministry. A trusted colleague and friend wrote me a few weeks ago:
Bill, you asked me about the danger of the hidden addictions, and I’m grateful at the thought that you would’ve noticed my passing comment in the earlier email, and would care to know what I was hinting at. Actually, it was intended to reveal more about me and my own recent journey from the privileged place of greater visibility and broader kingdom influence that I shared during my previous ministry season, into the privileged place of relative obscurity and “political irrelevance” in which I currently serve.
I’m certain that after a lifetime marked by numerous shifts, vocational roles and responsibilities, your family and the cloud of witnesses that are accompanying you into this new season of your life have prepared you well and spoken wise counsel into the less visible corners of your inner life where these “hidden addictions” can lay largely undetected and unchallenged. (I should be asking you for counsel and direction, so please…don’t hold back.)
Unless leaders practice a disciplined life in deep community with others, and pursue genuine accountability with a trusted band of brothers or sisters, its not likely that they’ll find themselves adequately prepared for some of the less noble urges and hungers that can manifest themselves when the machinery of our missional industry is no longer feeding them in the same way. My personal struggles with issues of identity, kingdom usefulness and significance are in large measure an indictment, a glaring reminder of the degree to which I’ve underestimated their importance and neglected those disciplines in recent years. Acknowledging this failure and facing some of these secret flaws more honestly and courageously in the last three years has been painful, but it is beginning to bear greater inner wholeness and a renewed sense of contentedness once again.
I think the specific comment in your previous email that triggered these reflections had something to do with the reduced international travel that you’re anticipating this year. I’ve found that adjusting to the travel restrictions and limitations of my current role have been particularly challenging. While I’m personally convinced that my passion for kingdom collaboration with God’s global people is an energizing dimension of my unique gifting and calling, and something that I need to continue to steward well, it can also harbor dangerous delusions of self-importance and addictions to the buzz of being perceived as a missional “player.” When that adrenaline rush is no longer being fueled to the same degree by our level of activity or perceived prominence among our peers, it can send the most highly proven leaders among us into a case of crippling spiritual and emotional bends.
Having our Father’s searchlight poking around those secret spaces in my inner life hasn’t been much fun, but it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that I haven’t needed it, nor that I’m ungrateful for it. By the way, our accountability group read a really good treatment of these themes last year: Robert Frylings’s The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping how we lead by who we are. It’s a shame that this book hasn’t yet gotten the recognition it deserves – its a very well written, rich contribution by the publisher of InterVarsity Press.
So here are some further insights that come from a discussion with some global colleagues:
1. The reality that hidden addictions exist, but since by definition they are “hidden”, they are not easily discerned, and thus they are much more difficult to deal with in ways that truly liberate and transform. It’s hard to know what really drives us. And frankly, I am skeptical that the heavily addicted ones will ever change. Why do I feel that way?
2. I have been thinking of the following hidden addictions that affect us in ministry:
a. Issues related to our identity in Christ. (Thanks to Rose for her keen words).
b. Exaggerated sense of our importance. (Thanks to Bob for his deep insights).
c. Travel, combined with the drive to escape from home and family responsibilities. Two sad stories I have heard from wives in the last three years. The first, “I am used to sleeping in my bed alone, and frankly, when he’s back the family is de-stabilized”. The second, “I have raised our adult children by myself.”
d. Technology. Do I really need my iPhone (Blackberry, etc) in the bedroom at night? No! Must I read email at red-light stop signs? No.
3. They are interwoven with our family system (a dark pool of secrets and not-understood stuff), plus the accumulation of small decisions we have made during our lives of ministry. These addiction are linked both to our calling and commitment to ministry but are dangerously entangled with a higher view than proper of our importance to God and his work on earth and in heaven.
We will not discern their presence in our lives unless we have someone in our lives who has the invited right and freedom to speak to us of the hard things that drive us. A spiritual director, true friend, courageous spouse may be able to do this; but if a person is not willing to listen, then even angels will have no impact.
Thank you for engaging with us, so please do comment below.