At The Refuge we have a high sensitivity to people who struggle with addiction. Not in the typical church sense, where the recovering alcoholic is paraded around like some trophy that shows how cool and “grace- filled” you are, and it is made clear the addict is the other person, the one you want to help. At The Refuge we have this sense we are all in the same boat, and addict or dabbler, we are all the same. But recently I have noticed that at The Refuge we have left out a silent and growing mass of addicts, and I have realized we have nothing for them.
I like to call it inspiration addiction. Like any addiction, this drug needs to be consumed in ever larger doses to maintain the high. We have created a faith culture that has confused adrenaline with the Holy Spirit. It is fairly easy to identify the addiction–“amazing” will be applied to all the movements of the service/show. For example, the worship, speaker, fog machine, light show, are amazing. I was once stuck in the lobby of a large church behind closed doors, when I wondered to someone in charge why we could not go in. He replied that making everyone wait builds anticipation and excitement. Anticipation of what? We can say God, but color me suspicious, I think it is the adrenaline rush of music that makes me sway, speaking that makes me feel, and fog lights create a sense of being part of something “incredible.” I am not saying God isn’t present in these moments, but I submit it is the fix, the high that is being promoted and everyone behind the scenes knows exactly how to feed the junkies.
I am sad today, but it will only last a few hours. I am sad because I feel I can not compete with “amazing”. I have long believed that the only proper answer to “why do you belong to that faith community?” must be something along the lines of “ I love to be with those people, who need me and whom I need, and together we are experiencing Jesus, giving Him away and growing, and becoming more loving human beings.” Whenever the answer is “I go to this or that church because of the amazing ________” (fill in the blank with anything you wish) we have become enablers to the inspirationally addicted. But at The Refuge, we have nothing amazing. No great teaching–often the most profound thing said is from some audience member. No slick program–we use for worship most weeks those friends who want to do it, not those who auditioned and have met some man-made bar of music excellence. The truth is we don’t even offer certainty, another favorite drug of inspiration addicts. At The Refuge I am realizing the only thing we can really offer is hope and long term journeying, listening more than telling, and a faithfulness to live the principles Jesus shared in every way we know how. As much as I sometimes still long for the old high, too, I am finding my inspiration sobriety is teaching me the hard but real way what it means to live an unplugged, unhyped, authentic life.