It is a particularly heinous affliction in the human soul, that aspect of fallen depravity that makes destructive behavior much easier than its productive counterpart. From our earliest years we are not only able to make poor choices, but follow them up with selfish instinct as well. Children in a preschool do not need to be taught to take toys away from classmates; it’s intuitive. Nevertheless, depravity makes sin our instinct; self-destruction our outcome. Few categories bear this out better than in the various forms of substance or behavioral addiction manifested across the societal spectrum. The essential characteristics of these myriad addictions are:
1. tolerance (the need for more)
2. withdrawal (reaction and rebound)
3. self deception (denial)
4. loss of willpower & control
5. distortion of attention (preoccupation)
Within the context of a conference for fire chaplains, this subject is broached because of the frequency with which addictive behavior is found among firefighters attempted to cope with occupational stresses alone. This is meant to better equip the chaplain for ministering the to firefighter, who needs better coping skills than an addictive behavior that will ultimately prove self-destructive. However, it is not to the chaplain to become the “behavior police.” It is the responsibility of the firefighter to approach the chaplain. Therefore, the applicability of the lecture on addiction and grace is found when the chaplain has been approached by the addicted emergency responder. Also, my own life bears out that this information is applicable to the chaplain as well. We are just as capable of engaging destructive addictions to cope with various pressures as any firefighter.
Nevertheless, it falls to the chaplain to remain at the ready to assist the one approaching them with the ministry skills necessary for healing. Grace is the essential framework in which for this ministry to occur. The appropriateness of grace is made evident by the minister’s own struggles with the spiritual sense of “gravity” on the soul. It is a great deal easier to fall, than it is to jump or climb. It is a whole lot simpler to become addicted, than to be liberated. It is easier to be enslaved, than to be freed. This sense of “gravity” on the human soul is called depravity or sin nature by theologians. Derek Webb sings that “we’re crooked deep down.”
The gravitational pull, that human effort cannot break free from, is what necessitates grace. Grace, by its nature, cannot be deserved, grasped, demanded or expected. It’s unmerited. Perhaps the addict is more aware of this than any other figure, since her cannot break free of that which enslaves him. They are more aware of their need for grace than most. Therefore, if one approaches the chaplain (or pastor) for help with their addiction, they are among the more prime targets of grace one can find.