But addicts are only exaggerated examples of the human condition. Some of us get pretty ragged-looking along the road to madness, but some of us look just fine. Better than fine. We’re great actors, and expert manipulators. We’re naturally charismatic leaders, some born to make great gobs of money as top guns in churches that can boast more members than my home town has citizens. But hobo or hero, underneath the skin there is little difference. It’s the desire to fill the hole in our soul that brings us to salvation, or death.

 

Superstars of any kind live a life of illusion, and, like alcoholics, have great difficulty (even when sober) differentiating fantasy from reality. It’s difficult for most of us to imagine how easily a rich, influential religious leader might fall prey to intoxicating grandiosity. And it’s reasonable to believe that such people would in their delusion be easy targets for an enemy who’s an even slicker snake-oil salesman than they are.

 

Hunger and Thirst
I don’t know Ted Haggard from Adam. But perhaps like Adam — like all of us — Ted has carried with him all his life a wounded heart. Perhaps for decades he rationalized it and minimized it, intellectualized it, and most of all spiritualized it. Maybe he medicated it with work and success and pride and prestige, stuffed it and ignored it and pretended it wasn’t even there. And, for a long time, that had been enough. But the trophies weren’t real. They had never deserved his faith. And then, stronger dope was needed, maybe drugs, sex. But over time they had also proven useless against the fear, and the internal wailing soul-sounds of Christ-Love gone terribly bad.

 

Hunger, thirst, suffering… our insatiable appetites of the flesh and compromises of the heart. When all is said and done, it matters little which medications we use, because none of them will work very well for very long. Each of us will learn this sooner or later, miraculously or tragically: When we are engaged in worshiping our wants, it is impossible for God to meet our needs.

 

Scripture is full of people struggling with their vexing humanity, so much so that at times this whole God/people thing looks downright hopeless. Still, God seems to love us “abnormals.” He called on the most misshapen of men and women to help shape humanity — Noah the drunkard, Jacob the liar, Samson the sex addict, Rahab the prostitute… on goes the list. Jesus knew ahead of time that His beloved yet all-too-human Peter would succumb to fear and lies. And though He did not condone the continuation of their sin, Jesus continually emphasized His preference for those willing to admit their imperfections.

 

David, for instance, was deeply loved by God, despite his obsessive-compulsive forays into fear and shame and loneliness — his manic grandiosity, the dark depression of self-loathing. David, emptying his helpless passion out unto a broken world until all that was left, finally, was a willingness to cry out.

 

Paul admitted that even Sainthood can often be only skin-deep: “For that which I am doing, I do not understand,” he confessed in his letter to the Romans. “For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.” Sounds to me like someone struggling with being human. And what it says about us as human beings, I think, is that we will by our very nature and for as long as we occupy these bodies have to deal with our addictions, even after the blinding, cleansing light of our own Damascus road.