Are you Israel or Pharaoh?

In 2016, I met Steve Wiens, a pastor in Minneapolis. I knew I liked Steve from the beginning. I didn’t know that Steve would become one of the rarest gems of the human experience—a friend.

In his new book Whole: Restoring What’s Broken in Me, You, and the Entire World, Steve invites us to stop reading the scriptures. Instead, Steve invites us to experience the scriptures. Experiencing the scripture changes our paradigm, it allows us to imagine the many ways God dances in our modern context. It provides a mirror, showing us when we are the villain, when we are the exiled, when we are the oppressed, and when we are the oppressor. It shows us what shalom might mean, what it might require.

Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from Steve’s book Whole, an excerpt that touches on experiencing the scriptures in light of the racial tensions in modern America. It’s an important read. Come along?

***

I am Pharaoh“Oh no,” Dee said, sitting across the table from me at Breaking Bread Café in North Minneapolis.

“What?” I asked cautiously. I had been talking to her about the Exodus as a broad theological concept that I was interested in writing and preaching about.

“I always get nervous when white pastors use the Exodus narrative and act as though they’re the children of Israel instead of the Egyptians.”

Dee and I are both church planters in our denomination who are learning what it means to see to the shalom of Minneapolis. Dee is one of the best preachers I’ve ever heard. She’s prophetic, wise, funny, and passionate, and she’s more than six feet tall. She’s a powerful presence, and she’s becoming a good friend.

And Dee is black.

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Small Men Cheating (On Wives At The Bar)

It’s National #RecoveryMonth, and today I’m writing a somewhat unorthodox post. Sobriety isn’t about the doing or not-doing. It’s about the character of the heart.

***

I sat at the restaurant bar because that’s where people eat alone. I was on the road, working on a project in Colorado Springs and after a hard day of work, I was trying my best to enjoy a greasy slab of beef sandwiched between a brioche roll. Across the corner of the bar, two fellas slumped over near-empty trays of chili tater tots and empty margarita glasses and  talked about the waitresses at their favorite dives as if those women were sports cars or cuts of meat. They were pretty proud of themselves, I guess, and they used every ounce of their limited creativity to expound upon the various peaks and valleys of those daughters of someone else. They glanced at the waitress behind the bar from time to time, not so much to ogle her as to snicker at her shape.

One told the other all the things he’d do to the waitress across town, the one with the tattoo just above her breasts, “if only…” but this sentiment trailed off into an incoherent mumble. Would he even know what to do with such a woman, fine specimen of beauty as she must have been? I had my reservations.

These were small men sitting at that bar, and I’m unafraid to put that on the record, judgmental as it may be. And that brings me to my message to all the small men out there who sit with friends at restaurant bars and lust after women like childhood brats might lust after plastic toys or Snickers candy bars: at least give your wives the dignity of removing your wedding bands before you cheat on them with your words.

 

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Addiction, Dependency, and The Sacred Enneagram

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We’re all drunk on something. Perhaps this statement is too simplistic, you think. Perhaps you’d claim no dependencies, no addictions, no compulsive habits. But ask yourself this: What is addiction?

In his new book, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, Chris Heuertz offers unique insights about addiction. And he’s not writing of the common addictions—booze, pills, porn gambling, whatever. Instead, Chris digs deeper, takes a more holistic approach. Describing deeper addictions, Chris writes:

“It’s important to remember that power and control, affection and esteem, and security and survival aren’t bad needs in and of themselves. The problem arises when in our adult lives we become addicted to one of these programs to maintain our happiness. The word addiction comes from the Latin addicto, which suggests being literally given over to something in devotion. As the term evolved, it took on the legal connotation of enslavement as a form of debt.”

See? Addiction isn’t just about chemical dreams and coping anesthesias. Even if your not prone to lining up rails or knocking down shots, you can become addicted to some underlying basic need. Doesn’t this make sense? Don’t you know control freaks or folks obsessed with security or self-esteem junkies? Don’t you know men who’ll do anything for another hit of power? This, Heuertz argues, is a soul addiction, a place of attachment, a place of soul slavery.

So often, when our underlying soul addictions fail us, the pain comes roaring in. And though Chris’s book is not a book about addiction (per se) his discussion of addiction within the Enneagram framework—a sort of spiritual personality test (though Chris will kill me for this reduction)—gives us some real insight. (As an aside, a working knowledge of the Enneagram isn’t essential, here, though it might be helpful. Stick with me.)

According to the Enneagram, I am a type Five. I’m marked by a need to form thoughtful conclusions based on investigation. So often, my search for knowledge stems from my own hyperactive need for security. So, when my son was ill, when my soul addiction for security couldn’t be satiated, a deep, existential pain set in. Heuertz aptly recasts my story:

“One of the clearest tales of type Five in disintegration is Seth Haines’s book, Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, the heart-wrenching memoir of a young man whose child is facing dire health risks and likely death. Seth knows what to do: he finds the best doctors, has his faith community say all the right prayer, and commits to being a loving and present father as he cares for his son. But nothing works.

And so he wades into the murky waters of [alcohol]. The constant buzz of the booze is Seth’s way of dulling the constant mental activity his mind is addicted to—the continual churning and turning over the problem in pursuit of solutions. In his own disintegration, Seth adopts type Seven’s propensity to overuse or overdo anything that offers pleasure as a way of rescuing himself from the mental and emotional agony.”

With security in short supply, unable to find answers, I felt the pain of scarcity. Where were the answers? Where was the healing? Where was God?  Pain being too much to bear, I turned to the “propensity to overuse or overdo anything that offers pleasure as a way of rescuing” myself. Gin was my anything of choice.

Heuertz’s work is rich on so many levels, but for those of us coming to terms with our own addictions, especially those with some interest in the Enneagram, its richness lies in the fact that he draws us to the deep truth. The true addictions we all battle lie beneath the alcohol, beneath the heroin, beneath the shopping or social media injection. These addictions rise from deeper addictions, the need for power, control, affection, esteem, security, and survival.

Consider it. Doesn’t this feel true? And if it does, ask yourself this: Can I name my deeper soul addiction?

***

Buy your copy of THE SACRED ENNEAGRAM: FINDING YOUR UNIQUE PATH TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH by following this link. (P.S. This is a completely unpaid, unsponsored, un-affiliated post.)

 

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Son of a Fix.

By now, you know it’s National Recovery Month, the month dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who find recovery. (People like all of us.) In sober celebration, I’ve taken a hard look at my own recovery (alcohol was my lover). I’ve reviewed my old journals and asked whether I’m keeping my own inner sobriety fresh. Recovery, see, is a sourdough starter; you have to keep feeding it or it’ll die a stinky death.

Yesterday, I reviewed some Jesuit materials that have shaped my thoughts on true sobriety. I read and contemplated the Jesuit Principle and Foundation, which goes something like this:

“Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls.

God created all things on this earth [even wine, food, sex, etcetera, etcetera] to help us fulfill this purpose.

From this it follows that we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to this end, and we ought to rid ourselves of the things of this world to the extent that they get in the way of this end.” (Bracketed portions are my additions.)

I sat in the quiet and meditated on the Principle and Foundation. I considered my own journey toward inner sobriety in light of it. (Only toward; do we ever reach the finish line?) As I did, I found myself high-centered on the notion that God has created things for our good.

Beer?

Wine?

The human ingenuity that gave us pain pills, social media, the wheels of commerce?

Yes, I reckon, all things were made for the good of men, but men seem to have minds of their own; if a little of something is good, a helluva lot is better. And if that ain’t you, count yourself among the luckiest of saints.

I considered God’s creation of the fermentation process, how he knew men would make wine and brew beer. And doesn’t a little wine an beer make the heart merry? Isn’t imbibing amoral? And yet, if my desires lead to over-use, to lack of presence with friends and family, to disruption of my scruples, it’s a hinderance from my chief end to “praise, reverence, and serv[ice] to God….” The Principle and Foundation then requires I put my desire to death.

Burn the booze at the stake.

Send sex to the firing squad.

Shove shopping through the meat grinder.

By killing the desire to overuse, to supplant God with the materials of his making, we incarnate the reality that God is our primary fixation. Everything else is secondary.

And that brings me to the most humbling part of my reflection. I came up with no less than a half-dozen things I misuse, abuse, or use to get a fix.

Son of a fix.

Good thing, I suppose, that it’s National Recovery Month.

Today, would you ask yourself these questions:

What are the things that hinder me from praising, reverencing, and serving God, even though they might be perfectly amoral otherwise?

Can I list them?

Can I come up with strategies to let those things go?

 

Bonus:

1. Coming Clean: A Story of Faith shares my 90-day journey into recovery. And isn’t it fitting that it began in September (2013). This is my story, sure. It’s your story, too. Grab a copy. Grab an extra copy for your friends.

2. Yesterday I asked my Facebook community what they’ve learned from others in recovery. The responses were amazing. You don’t want to miss this thread.

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It’s National Recovery Month. Come Clean?

September is National Recovery Month, a month raising awareness for those struggling with addiction, dependency, and compulsive habits. What’s more, September is the month I came clean four years ago. It’s the month I stepped into my own exploration of sobriety. That exploration has led me here, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Around these parts, we don’t limit discussion of recovery to alcohol or drugs. Instead, we look at recovery as something for everyone, something for the chemical addict and the over-shopper, over-eater, under-eater, video-game freak, or people pleaser. We all have our own bags, see. We all have different ways, different habits of avoiding pain. In part, this is the reason I curated the Recovery Room series years ago. (Check it out. There’s something there for everyone.)

Today, I’m asking you to take an inventory of your life. What are the habits and dependencies you use to numb anesthetize the pain of your life? What are the things you use to hold the presence of God at arm’s length? Can you identify a primary dependency? For me (and many of you) it was drinking. For some, it’s something wholly different. Get alone. Be honest. Jot down your dependency. Then? Get some resources, get a community, and get to work.

And as you move forward in an exploration of your dependency, compulsive habits, or addiction, I’m asking you to participate in my journey (and in National Recovery Month). It’s a journey I’ve written about in Coming Clean: A Story of Faith. There, I share the first 90 days of my own recovery journey with you, and show the practice that helped set me free. It’s raw at times, tender at others, but it’s always honest.

What are some ways you can participate in the journey of Coming Clean? What are some ways you can share the message?

COMING CLEAN RESOURCES FOR RECOVERY MONTH:

1. Coming Clean
Coming Clean: A Story of Faith shares my 90-day journey into recovery. And isn’t it fitting that it began in September (2013). This is my story, sure. It’s your story, too. Grab a copy. Grab an extra copy for your friends.

“Seth writes with a distinctly Southern sensibility—elegant, evocative, lyrical–and his wisdom and honesty shine through every page, gently illuminating our own fears and secret hearts along the way.” ~Shauna Niequist, author of Present Over Perfect.

(Patrons of my work at the $6.00-$10.00 tier receive a free copy of Coming Clean.)

2. Audio Readings
Would you like to listen to sample chapters of Coming Clean? Click on the photos below to listen to the first two chapters. (For more samples as they’re available, join my Patreon Community.)

3. Facebook Group
Would you like a place to discuss recovery from any old thing? Join this little Facebook Group. There are some good discussions there from time to time.

4. Coming Clean Journal
Receive thirty days of email prompts leading you to examine your own addictions, attachments, or dependencies and leading you into your own recovery.

Please feel free to share these resources with others who might need them. And if you have any question about whether someone might need them, remember this: We’re all drunk on something. 

 

***BECOME A PATRON***

Do you like the content here or in my Tiny Letter? Then I’d like to invite you to join my Patreon community. What is Patreon? It’s a way for you, the reader, to become a patron, a person supporting the arts (my art to be precise), and receive behind the scenes content in return. Visit my Patreon page for more information. And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, feel free to sign up below.

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