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Intersection of Life and Faith

Confronting the Avoidance Syndrome

  • David Olshine Director of Youth Ministries at Columbia International University, Columbia, South Carolina
  • 2008 7 Sep
Confronting the Avoidance Syndrome

Every spring, I remind my students at Red Lion Christian Academy in Bear, Del., that I experience severe allergies that yield ample sneezing, bloodshot eyes and an extravagant use of tissue.

That being said, one of my eight-grade students announced, “Mr. Burke, I know what you need.”

Ever the polite teacher, I asked, “What do I need for my allergies?”

He replied, “I saw the ad on TV. If you just take one Viagra a day, you will be OK.”

After a “holy hush,” the classroom erupted with laughter like only middle schoolers can elicit. As much as I wanted to avoid the student’s comment, I had to say something before I lost total control of the class.

I walked over to my desk, grabbed my prescription bottle, and shook it loudly shouting, “I think you meant Allegra."

While my student’s comment was hilarious and memorable, avoidance is a challenging word that we prefer to avoid. Do you deal directly with your problems and priorities in life? Do you quickly address problems? Do you spend time with your family and seek out time to worship? If not, perhaps you suffer from the avoidance syndrome.

A Titanic Problem
If the Titanic had hit the iceberg directly, the ship may not have sunk. However, the captain veered sharply and scraped the iceberg instead, resulting in a horrific death for numerous people.

Are we hitting our problems headon, or are we turning away, avoiding the issues? More importantly, do we deal with our problems directly, utilizing God’s grace, or do we avoid them and allow our baggage to accumulate more garbage?

Often, I have the privilege of praying for others, “Peace with your past and hope for the future.” In light of that prayer, I urge you to open those areas of your life that you often avoid and let the healing touch of Jesus impact your life.

Avoiding Family
It is too easy to share Jesus with everyone else yet avoid and neglect your own family. As my children face adolescence (ages 15, 13, and 10) I must remember my first priority is to spend time and share Jesus with them.

As I write this article at 31,000 feet on the way home from a speaking engagement, I am totally convicted. I spend too much time in my comfortable chair when home, watching TV or pecking away on my laptop. Therefore, my prayer is, “Dear God, push me out of my chair, free me from avoiding my family—not just out of duty as a husband and father—but with a desire and passion to spend time with my wife and share Jesus with my children.”

Avoiding Worship
I’ve had the joy of sharing Jesus in more than 40 states and numerous countries. There seems to be a teenager in almost every church who volunteers in the nursery or teaches Sunday School to young children just so they don’t have to attend worship or Sunday School. While their service seems noble, often a habit starts that allows them to avoid worship throughout their adolescence.

What do you do during worship? Do you hide out in your office? Always volunteer to teach a class? Are you too busy with youth work to make it to worship? Are you only going through the motions during worship? If you recognize any symptoms of the avoidance syndrome in yourself, I challenge you to spend time with the God of the universe who never avoids us, and consider these questions.