It was the middle of a winter night, perhaps 10 years ago. The dry air circulated by the furnace in our house left me parched. I rolled over in bed grabbing for my trusty bottled water on the night stand and clumsily removed the lid, taking a quick swallow. The immediate painful burning sensation in my mouth and throat made me choke and cough my way from grogginess, to fully awake. My first thought, “I’ve just poisoned myself!” While reaching for the lamp, I called out loudly to my bride.
There on the night stand was my bottle of water, and there in my hands was the similar shaped container of HYDROGEN PEROXIDE! Ah the burn! As a pastor, sometimes you take the call in the middle of the night, and sometimes you make the call in the middle of the night. My poor M.D. friends have received more than one. What a relief to find out, that although hydrogen peroxide will certainly clean you out, it won’t take you out.
Some things seem toxic, when in fact they are not. Other things seem harmless and in fact can be toxic.
We recently launched a new Adult Sunday School semester with the same title as this blog post. As I teach each week my plan is to draw from David Goetz’s book, “Death by Suburb.” Whether someone lives in actual suburbia, or is simply a member of lower-upper middle class American society, the application points are powerful and relevant. Suburbia seems harmless, but can be deadly for our souls, or at least highly detrimental to our spiritual growth.
It did not take us long in a class of 30 adults to come up with a list of things in our suburban society that don’t look all that bad on the surface, but in fact threaten to strangle our pursuit of what Goetz calls the “thinker” spiritual life – a closer relationship with God.
Busyness, Comparison, Selfishness, Conformity, Materialism, and yes, even religious activity.
What is a person, sincerely wishing to know God and walk with God, to do? Head for the monastery? Find a quiet rural town? Sign up for the next Nasa launch to the moon? Goetz says, “No,” and I agree. He puts it this way, “Even in suburbia all moments are infused with the Sacred. God really is present where I live on Ranch Road. Reality is not flat, but thick, deep, full.…You don’t have to hole up in a monastery to experience the fullness of God. Your cul-de-sac and subdivision are as good a place as any.”
The solution, he argues, is to partake of the spiritual antidotes which have stood the test of time and offer to offset the toxins we find unavoidable to imbibe.
If you can be with us for our series this semester, we will journey through the following, and if not, I highly recommend the book:
Feb 5 – Introduction to the “Thicker” life
Feb 12 – Toxin – I am in control – Antidote – Prayer
Feb 19 – Toxin – I am what I do or own – Antidote – Battle self
Feb 26 – Toxin – I want my neighbor’s life – Antidote – Friends with needy
Mar 5 – Toxin – I need to make a difference – Antidote – Actions, not results
Mar 12 – Toxin – My church is my problem – Antidote – Staying put
Mar 19 – Toxin – I need more time – Antidote – In love with a day