who knew?

As I pen this latest reflection I am back in my room on the 8th floor of the Hilton Hotel in Clearwater Beach, Florida, trying desperately to process everything that has been offered over the past three days of workshops. We are on the eve of the conclusion of the 31st annual “Institute on Behavioral Health and Addictive Disorders” conference. Which is funny since I am a pastor and not a clinical therapist like almost everyone else here. But since I am working a lot now with people with addictions I thought it would be a great way to pick up some learning on the topic of addiction.

I am not (necessarily) trying to become an addiction counselor, but there are some really interesting things I have learned about the whole addiction process, both by being here and through some of the reading I have done. The workshop I attended this afternoon was taught by a “nutritional psychologist” (of all things) who was dealing with the whole concept of eating disorders. He began the session by going through a lengthy, clinical and chemical analysis of the processes that happen in our brains when we eat. He dissected the reasons that explain the mass appeal of chocolate and really helped shed light on why it is that for some people, food becomes a real problem.

I was nodding off a bit during the science part, but when he got to the conclusion of the whole workshop, he made a statement that just jumped up and bit me on the butt. He talked about the lengths people go – whether through food or alcohol or drugs or sex – to create certain responses in the brain that produce what we experience as a sense of peace or satisfaction. He then went on to say, “But the thing we often forget is that there are other, more direct and certainly more healthy ways to get these responses in the brain; You get it by hope, you get it by forgiveness, you get it by compassion, you get it by altruism, you get it by relationships.”

I had to go up and talk to him after the session and tell him how much I really enjoyed the conclusion and what sort of citations he might have for those. He (his name is Ralph Carson, in case you were curious) cited a book by Martin Seligman called, “Authentic Happiness” in which Seligman goes to great lengths to point out the links between these effects and the virtues that we spend every waking hour espousing in church!

So… it turns out that the results of intense scientific study and research has come to the conclusion that loving, serving, forgiving, hoping, and caring are what we human beings are WIRED FOR! These are not just moral imperatives that we “ought to” abide by (that is, if someone makes a really, really compelling case for us). These are who we were created to BE, for crying out loud. In this context we can pretty quickly see that heaven consists of living our lives in concert with the way God made us. Hell is just the opposite. It is seeking the outcome but ignoring the process.

Forgive me God for thinking I had to go outside your inspired Word in order to believe you. Have mercy on my urge to validate your truth through the tools of modern science. Thank you for your patience with my pride.

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