The Long Run

One buddy of mine, whom we’ll call “Bill,” has fought an addiction to pornography his whole life. It started with a magazine he found by accident as a boy. The photographs inside have permanently twisted him so that Bill can no longer get pleasure from what most would consider “normal sexual activity.” This has also limited the field as far as partners for him, leaving him lonely and alone.

I know what I’m supposed to tell him. I should say Jesus can take all those thoughts away this instant. He can be right as rain again with enough prayer or counseling. But the truth is, he may not ever be completely “right” again in this life. That’s because, like a parasite, sin burrows its way into hearts and wraps itself around every vital organ.

Sure, God will forgive all our sins if we ask. But it may take something supernatural to pull all the roots out. Often the consequences of sin we’ve sown in this life will still be reaped here. We may spend years harvesting the crops we’ve planted when we run from God.

People in recovery from addictions can tell you what it’s like to walk through hell and out the other side. They struggle for years to become functional again, but then some difficulty blindsides them, and in a moment of weakness, they turn back to their crutch.

Many of them love Jesus, but still, they run. They run back and rest in their disease’s embrace as if wrapped in the arms of a familiar lover. But it’s a lover who plans to devour them.

The truth is, we’re all addicted. We’re addicted to our selfish pursuits and the misdeeds that hurt others and debase ourselves.

The Bible’s word for this has fallen out of vogue recently, but it’s a short one that’s relatively easy to remember: sin.

We are all desperately fallen creatures.

The pursuit of our own lusts has riddled our souls with the disease of sin, like cancer that silently eats away at us. Some of those sins aren’t illegal but are just as deadly. Many won’t keep you from holding down a good job (or pastoring a church, for that matter), but they’ll keep you from ever standing in the presence of a holy God unless you turn from them.

We are the Gollums who used to be Smeagol.

We are all Prodigals who used to be darling sons and daughters of our fathers.

Sin will take your gifts and destiny and convince you to flush them down the drain. In the end, you’ll look in the mirror but see only a monster of your own creation staring back.

Though some of us have learned to be functional, we still feel the disease coursing through our veins. We lie our way through each day, trying to convince the world we’re better than we really are. Yet inwardly, we’re desperately twisted, incapable of honesty, hiding unforgivable thoughts and desires under our diverting smiles. At least, that’s what I see lurking about in my own dark heart.

You’re probably saying, “Dave, you’re being too hard on yourself. You’re not that bad.”

No, my friend. The problem is that you’re being too easy on yourself. The truth is, we’re all that bad.

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit;
“The poison of asps is under their lips, Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
..
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10-23).

So Bill will most likely have to choose to avoid all sexual relationships from now until the end of his life. He can no longer be fulfilled sexually in a God-honoring way, and he doesn’t want to subject another person to his proclivities. So he chooses to remain abstinent. He is broken, and the hard truth is the fix Jesus is working in him will probably not be completed on this side of heaven.

But Bill loves Jesus enough to wait until that day. He knows he won’t be truly whole until he’s finally “home.” And then, because he has embraced Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for his sins, he’ll finally experience an amazing transformation.

Likewise, I know my pride, my vanity, my desperate need for significance will not be transformed anytime soon. Even though God is chipping away at me like Michelangelo at his own “David,” this “masterpiece” with not be completed even by my 90th birthday on earth. Should I live so long.

The best of us will exit this world a “work in progress” far from completion. But, I have this hope…

One day all our sins will be revealed. Though that sounds ominous to some, it will truly be a relief. We’ll finally be seen precisely as we are – naked, gorged on selfish lusts, and enslaved by our appetites. But on that day, He will not shirk away from us. He will see us in all our unfinished, distorted mess and amazingly choose to love us anyway.

On that day, just as He did with the lepers in the Bible, He will touch and cleanse us.

He will rub the mud in our eyes as with the blind man 2000 years ago. When He does, we’ll finally see the truth. We’ll see He’s what we were looking for all our lives, only in all the wrong places.

He’ll take the water jar from our hands and dip it deep into His well. He will support us with His right arm as He holds the cup to our parched, withering lips. We will drink deeply and know transforming, transcendent joy. We’ll finally have our thirst quenched despite a lifetime spent drinking from all the wrong wells.

He’ll search us out and track us down to the tombs where we’ve hidden. He’ll flood light into the caves where we’ve dwelt with our demons. With one long embrace, He’ll release us from those devils that drove us to harm ourselves and others.

At the end of this long wandering journey, He will be the one who meets us at the end of our prodigal road. As we limp homeward, we’ll fall beaten and battered by our misadventures, finally across heaven’s finish line.

We’ll look up from the ground to see Him leaping over the banister of His Father’s front porch. Our mouths will drop as we watch Him run toward us at gallop pace.

It wouldn’t be the first time He left His Father’s house to rescue one of us.

On that bright, unclouded day, He’ll pick us up from the ground and lift us into His arms.  As He tosses us heavenward, our bodies and minds will renew in midair. Falling back down to Him, as toddlers, we’ll be caught again in His firm grasp.

Then He’ll gently set us on our feet by His side, where we were created to be. And once again, we’ll walk with Him through the garden in the cool of the day. But this time, our hand held tightly in His, never to wander from home again.

Photo by John O’Nolan on Unsplash

Dave Gipson
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One buddy of mine, whom we’ll call “Bill,” has fought an addiction to