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Addiction and Grace

Greetings All,

     Today's 'thought' comes to you from Gerald G. May, M.D., and is found in his book, "Addiction and Grace - Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addiction."
     He is a medical doctor and states up front, "you should keep in mind that although I consider myself a reasonably careful scientist, I am neither a trained theologian nor a scriptural scholar."  This selection has to do with his understanding of grace, which he calls, "our ultimate security."  Since he admits he is not a trained theologian he confesses, "I speak of grace with some fear and uncertainty," and admits that of all the topics in his book, he does the least justice to this topic. "All I can do is share some of my images, my own 'cellular representations' of the mystery that is grace."  
     Despite his own misgivings I thought his insights were helpful enough that I wanted to share them with all of you. Enjoy.
Images of Grace
1.) "It is very difficult to understand a mother's love. She loves her baby, finally, because he or she is her baby... Ideally, an infant does not earn her parents love; the parents love the baby first.  Because of this preexisting love, the parents care for their child. God 'graces' us in similar ways. There is grace in the simple gift of our existence, in the opportunity to live consciously and appreciatively in this world... in the natural steadiness of life, in the simple things God gives us - beauty and breath and touches of love, just as parents give their children food and warmth naturally, almost automatically.
2.) "There are also flowerings of grace that seem more eventful and surprising, as when children find unexpected presents for no reason, or receive extra hugs at times of failure and frustration. God attends to us in this way too, surprising us with undeserved, unexpected goodness and empowering us when all seems lost."

3.) "There is also grace in the rougher side of things, as in weaning, or when parents allow their children to struggle toward identity without constantly being taken care of.  In a similar way, God lets us make our own decisions, even at times when we would much prefer to be taken care of.  God blesses us with responsibility and the dignity it contains."  
4.) "There is a particular dimension of grace that is interactive, in which God and a person respond mutually to each other's love. This responsive grace is somewhat like a child desiring to please her mother, and the mother responding with special tenderness. The mother responds not to the child's actual behavior, but to the simple love that prompted the behavior. This is one of the most tender flowerings of love. A little boy tries to help his father with some household work, or makes his mother a gift. The help may be nothing more than getting in the way, and the gift may be totally useless, but the love behind it is simple and pure and the loving response it evokes is virtually uncontrollable. I am sure it is this way between us and God. Our sincere desire counts far more than any actual success or failure. Thus, when we try to pray and cannot, or when we fail in a sincere attempt to be compassionate, God touches us tenderly in return."

5.) "Many times, of course, children try to please their parents in a manipulative way. As the father of four, I have learned to become suspicious when one of my offspring mows the lawn or washes the dishes without being asked. I must admit, however, that I do the same thing with God sometimes. I find myself posturing before my images of God, trying to make something happen. But on other occasions, the desire to please is simple and pure. It springs not from the desire to gain, but from that deep root where love exists simply for the sake of love... 
Human parents can indeed be manipulated, and their loving responses can be earned and achieved. But in God's intimacy every desire is known, every thought and intention perceived before it even takes place. There can be no secrecy between the soul and God, and therefore there can be no manipulation."

6.) "God goes on loving us regardless of who we are or what we do. This does not mean God is a permissive human parent who makes excuses and ignores the consequences of a child's behavior. Such permissiveness is more cowardly than loving, because it devalues the child's capacity for dignity and responsibility. In God's constantly respectful love, the consequences of our actions are very real, and they can be horrible, and we are responsible. We are even responsible for the compulsive behaviors of our addictions. The freedom that God preserves in us has a double edge. On the one hand it means God's love and empowerment are always with us. On the other, it means there is no authentic escape from the truth of our choices. Yet even when our choices are destructive and their consequences hurtful, God's love remains unwavering." 
7.)  "In every situation, grace enables us to make necessary initial changes and to continue, over time, to nurture those changes in creative, constructive ways. God does not flash into our lives to work a piece of magic upon us and then disappear. To do so would eradicate human dignity. It would prevent our participation. Instead, God's grace is always present intimately within us, inviting and empowering us toward more full, more free exercise of will and responsibility...  We are never simply visited with a healing or deliverance which we can then safely forget. Grace is not a pill we are given or a method applied to us so that we can simply go about our business. Grace always invites us forward. Every liberation requires continued attention, every healing demands continued care, every deliverance demands follow-up, and every conversion requires faithful deepening.  If we do not respond to these ongoing calls, if we deny our empowerment's for continued growth in freedom and responsibility, our healing may well be stillborn. Then, as in Jesus' words about evil spirits returning to a house swept clean, our last condition may turn out to be worse than our first." 

Since God interacts with us on the basis of His grace in Jesus, there is surely no other 'mystery' we need to seek to understand more. Hopefully his words, and the illustrations he has used, have helped bring a bit more clarity to this often misunderstood topic.

As Those Who Are Fellow Recipients of That Unfathomable 
Grace,  Pastor Jeff