A man took his young son to a baseball game. While they were sitting there, he asked the boy what he was going to give up for Lent. The boy replied, "I don't know, Dad. What are you going to give up?"
His father said, "I've thought about this a lot and decided to give up liquor."
Later in the game, the beer man came by, and the man ordered a beer. His son objected, "Hey, I thought you were giving up liquor!"
His dad answered, "Hard liquor, son. I'm giving up hard liquor. This is just a beer."
To which the boy replied, "Well then, I'm giving up hard candy."
Addiction is hard word — it conjures up horrifying images of life-threatening dependence on some narcotic or hallucinogen that robs us of our ability to control our lives.
But the fact is that every one of us has some addiction: the things we cannot imagine living without. It may be eating, shopping, blaming, or taking care of other people.
We can be addicted to the latest, the newest, the hottest, the most fashionable. Our addiction may be our obsession with our computer or electronic toys, our favorite band, or our golf clubs.
We are all addicted to habits, substances or surroundings that comfort us, that provide a refuge for us, that block out what scares or hurts us.
At some point in our lives, however, we find ourselves alone in some kind of desert or wilderness, deprived of our addictions. We experience an emptiness within us that our addiction could never fill.
We are suddenly exposed, like someone addicted to painkillers whose prescriptions have just run out. It is hard. It is awful.
But to become fully human, it is necessary to encounter the world without our own anesthesia, to find out what life is like with no comfort but God.
That may be the simplest definition of addiction: anything we use to fill the empty place inside us that belongs to God alone.
There once was a man who decided that it was time to shed a few pounds. He went on a new diet and took it seriously. He even changed his usual driving route to the office in order to avoid his favorite bakery.
One morning, however, he arrived at the office carrying a large, sugar-coated coffee cake. His coworkers started to tease him for cheating on his diet, but he only smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said,
"What could I do? This is a very special cake. This morning, from force of habit, I accidentally drove by my favorite bakery. There in the window were trays of the most delicious goodies. I felt that it was no accident that I happened to pass by, so I prayed, 'Lord, if you really want me to have one of these delicious coffee cakes, let me find a parking place in front of the bakery.' Sure enough, on the ninth trip around the block, there it was!"
The season of Lent calls us to leave behind our addictions and pacifiers, our comfort food and toys, and journey to the desert, to be alone with nothing but God.
It is a time to take a hard look at the “addictions” that control us and regain control of our time and values so that we may become the man or woman God created us to be.
May our “desert time” with God over the next 40 days, leaving our addictions and obsessions behind, help us re-fill our souls and spirits with the wisdom and grace of the God who constantly seeks us out and calls us back to him.