We had a small electric popcorn popper with a cranking handle on top. I had mastered this popper’s operation by age 5, becoming independent of parental supervision. Neither of my brothers nor my parents had such an insatiable appetite for popcorn as I had.
Homemade ice cream at noon on Sundays after church was a year-round family celebration. In the winter months we did not have to buy ice. We got it from our frozen farm pond. It seems that these two childhood routines made life-long and immutable habits in my life.
During my many bachelor years before marriage, popcorn and ice cream kept me alive. But actually these two addictions have prevailed right through my years as a husband and parent; and even now as an old man. It has been a big surprise to me that none of my four children have followed any of these addictions.
These last few years I have picked up a third “must-have-to-survive addiction” – a cup of Chai Tea Latte! With a Keurig hot drink maker and tea pods from Kroger, this fancy hot concoction comes together in a moment. It is an eye-opener at my 4 a.m. rising. These three developed appetites disclose a common trait of all of us humans – we are creatures of habit; tending to build comforting routines with things, people and places.
However, I have kept an ironclad disciplinary measure over the years; a measure that frees me from being a REAL victim of addiction. Annually during Lent – the six-week period for spiritual purgation prior to Easter – I totally refrain from all three; no popcorn, no ice cream and no chai tea latte. It is by far the longest six weeks of the year for me.
Such flexing of spiritual muscle is critical for all of us to maintain mind over matter, spirit over flesh, willpower over the endless dictates of the body. By Divine design food/drink are perquisites for our bodily survival, yet by Divine design (prescribed Scripturally), fasting and self-denial are perquisites for spiritual survival; maintaining superiority of the soul to assure health to our entire being.
Here in America we have three things that challenge our rational-spiritual strength necessary to manage our lives: 1) an over-abundance of food (for most of us), 2) a paucity of religious interest/commitment (an estrangement from God) and 3) a pervasive hedonistic philosophy of self-indulgence.
Every one of us develops long standing habits and routines. However, an AUTHENTIC ADDICTION incarcerates us, holding us captive with an inability to pursue life. So it is that a true and real addiction is a self-destructive enslavement to - food or sex or gambling or drinking or smoking or drugs or a person or a possession or an ongoing lifestyle of pathetic dissipation.
Feeling empty, unloved and disappointed when viewing our past and future readily prompts us to reach for relief. Tantalizing bodily appetites is the easiest and most common relief effort. However, it never actually touches the problem; it momentarily distracts us, masking our distraught mental/emotional turmoil. This world’s Most Famous-Person gives a most assured solution to our personal woes and pains. [Mt. 11:28]. Not one of us is exempt from problems that appear insurmountable.
May we not languish in life-long misery, seeking passing pacifiers. Leaning on the One who has all power, we are empowered to take the wheel to run and enjoying our lives.
The Rev. John Burkhart, Ph.D., is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology; he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at inspirationsandideas.