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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Vending Machine God

It is pretty sad that most people seem to want a Vending Machine God.

We want a God that hands things out on command.  Specific things, and only at exactly the right time.  He must also make sure that those things do what we want and exercise no self-will that might contradict our wishes, even if it means that these things must go against their very nature.  So, we want to have vicious pit bulls that don't bite our neighbors, we want to race really fast in cars that don't get into accidents, and we want to tell everyone what we really think of them without them getting offended and avenging themselves.

We also want a God that does not require us to have any type of relationship except when things are needed.  This may even include feeling His love, but again not so much that that love is felt outside of those times when we decide that it is appropriate or convenient.

Like a vending machine, we are most comfortable with a God who is totally passive when not being operated by us.

When I deal with people new to sobriety, getting them to stop looking at their relationships as a series of interactions with vending machines is very difficult.  It is an even greater disappointment as a priest when I find so many Christians have virtually the same attitude.  It is downright demoralizing to find that I often do the exact same thing as well.  I'm not here to condemn anyone for the things I myself do.

But, we must be aware of how we treat God: He has His own will and He gets a vote in what's happening in our lives.  He can even exercise a veto, but usually He does not do that: He lets us make our own disasters and might even assist us.  If you read Exodus, Pharaoh and God alternately 'harden' Pharaoh's heart.  One could almost wonder whether God was forcing Pharaoh to oppress Israel, until you remember that Pharaoh had already been merciless to begin with.  God only helped him remain merciless as Pharaoh wanted.  God used Pharaoh, just as Pharaoh used his gods and magicians.  He treated Pharaoh the way Pharaoh treated God.  Pharaoh wanted a vending machine of tricks, and God wanted Pharaoh to give back Israel.

If we desire to be treated as real people, to be loved and respected and exercise a free will, should we not first be willing to treat God this way?  Only a totally immature person would assume that he is so needy that he can take and take and take and does not need to give back.

What the addict often assumes from his past interactions with others is that he himself has been treated like a vending machine.  He has been sinned against, and these resentments over his being manipulated and his losses have caused him to fear being used again.  He will borrow from the examples where he has  been used, and will in turn use others.  Of course, when the truth of this is realized, the addict hurts all the more and falls further into the trap of addiction, realizing that he has repeated the sins done to him a thousand times more.

Breaking the cycle of using others is the path of sobriety.  We must stop using God as our personal vending machine and start having a real relationship.  We must give God His freedom to be Himself, just as we desire to be free ourselves.

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