Gerald May writes in Addiction and Grace these words: “God refuses to be an object for attachment because God desires full love, not addiction. Love born of true freedom, love free from attachment, requires that we search for a deepening awareness of God, just as God freely reaches out to us. In addition, full love for God means we must turn to God over and against other things.
“If our choice of God is to be made with integrity, we must first have felt other attractions and chosen, painfully, not to make them our gods.
“True love, then, is not only born of freedom; it is also born of difficult choice. A mature and meaningful love must say something like, ‘I have experienced other goodnesses, and they are beautiful, but it is You, my true heart’s desire, whom I choose above all.’
“We have to turn away before we can come home with dignity.”
This idea strikes me as very real, but it is not one I believe I would have fully understood when I first became a Christian. I had the luxury of growing up in a home that valued the church and kept it as a meaningful part of our regular routine. In many ways, I believe I developed some of my richest experiences of community and “home” through the congregation of my youth.
Choosing to follow Christ was not a difficult decision to make. It was only later when I began to realize what the cost of continuing to follow Christ might mean that I had to examine how dedicated I was to this cause, to this hope, to this faith. As I searched for that “deepening awareness of God” about which May writes, I found that I would need to make some hard choices. There were other attractions, ones I had not been aware of in my younger days, that were enticing me away from my faith commitment. It was only when I could claim decisively with Peter in John 6:68ff, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” that I was engaging in the “deepening awareness” that came from turning away from other enticements.
When May speaks of a “coming home with dignity” I believe he is speaking not so much of a “going home” to the home of our youthful past, but of “coming home” to the place that Christ has prepared for us to dwell in for all eternity. This is a home to which we are drawn because it enables us to become who God has called us to be. It is not the home of our past, to which we can no longer return because we are not the same person we were when we left. Rather it is the home to which we ultimately belong.
For which home are you longing? To which home are you heading? From what have you turned away in order to seek God with integrity?