Psychiatrist and author, Dr. Gerald May, begins his book Addiction and Grace this way:
“After twenty years of listening to the yearnings of people’s hearts, I am convinced that all human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and our most precious treasure. It gives us meaning. Some of us have repressed this desire, burying it beneath so many interests that we are completely unaware of it. Or we may experience it in different ways—as a longing for wholeness, completion, or fulfillment. Regardless of how we describe it, it is a longing for love. It is a hunger to love, to be loved, and to move closer to the Source of love. This yearning is the essence of the human spirit; it is the origin of our highest hopes and most noble dreams.”¹
“Our most precious treasure” is how Dr. May describes the deepest desire, the hunger, and the longing of the human heart for love and for God who is the Source of love.
Yet we live in a world that finds so many “disconnected” from their hearts. A world that screams, “Forget about God, the Church or the Bible”… that tells us that “true love is an illusion and that there is no ultimate meaning or purpose to our lives.”
In a world without meaning or purpose beyond one’s subjective feelings, it seems that there exists liberty to do whatever one wants with his or her life. But be vigilant… your heart was made for more.
As author and counselor, John Eldredge, wrote, “Human beings are ravenous creatures. A famished craving for life haunts every person. We crave fullness; it is our design. We were created for unceasing happiness, and joy, and life. But ever since we lost Eden, we have never known a day of total fullness. We are never filled in any lasting way. Human beings are like cut flowers—we appear to be well, but we are cut off from the Vine. And we are ravenous. Until we return to God and actually abide in him, until we experience God as our daily source of life, we are desperate creatures, lustful creatures. We look to a marriage (or the hope of marriage), a child, our work, some food or drink or adventure, the next dinner out, the new car—anything to touch the ache inside us. We are ravenous beings.”²
Dr. Gerald May understood this ravenous hunger well and said that he could often get his patients to open up to him. They would acknowledge and talk about their desires, pain, and suffering and admit their addictions. But despite applying the best psychiatric methods to their treatment, especially the treatment of addictions, he found none of them really worked. May became depressed with his lack of success in helping them. He found that they needed ‘something more’. They needed Grace; they needed God.
What Dr. May came to understand is not entirely new, of course. If you happened to take psychology 101 in college you might remember learning about Carl Jung, who, along with Sigmund Freud, was one of the fathers of psychoanalysis. He writes in Modern Man in Search of his Soul published in 1933…..
“However far-fetched it may sound, experience shows that many neuroses are caused by the fact that people blind themselves to their own religious promptings because of a childish passion for rational enlightenment. The psychologist of today ought to realize once and for all that we are no longer dealing with questions of dogma and creed. A religious attitude is an element in psychic life whose importance can hardly be overrated. And it is precisely for the religious outlook that the sense of historical continuity is indispensable.” Jung then goes on to say…
“Among all of my patients in the second half of life, that is to say over thirty-five, there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers and not one of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”³
Most of us know someone whom we love and care about who has lost their religious outlook on life. What can we do?
I suggest that you ask them about their deepest desires! For as Fr. Peter John Cameron writes, “There is no escape from the burning desires within us for the true, the good, and the beautiful. Each of us lives with the unextiguishable expectation that life is supposed to make sense and satisfy us deeply.” Yet nothing on this earth will fully satisfy us.
And there is a good reason for this. As St. Augustine said back in the fourth century “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless till we rest in you.”
Jesus himself said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Realize then that most of the sexual confusion, addiction, and sense of restlessness so pervasive in the culture today come from trying to fill our infinite desires with finite things. And the solution is not to either repress or indulge our desires, but to move past these limitations and open our infinite desires to the One who created us in His Image and Likeness…remembering that His desire is for you!!
“It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”—St. John Paul ll, World Youth Day in Rome, August 19th, 2000
Many today have lost their religious outlook and are living like “cut flowers” grasping at anything to fill their hungry hearts. CS Lewis wrote, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”⁴
I pray that each of us has the courage to lead the hungry – the “Cut Flowers” – to the Vine. Be not afraid! “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
God Bless You!
Jack Rigert, Director of JPII Renewal Center
¹ Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May, M.D.
² All Things New, John Eldredge
³ Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Carl Jung
⁴The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis