The year was 1992 and it was the National League Championship Series between the Braves and Pirates. Game seven. Two outs in the ninth. Base hit to left and Sid Bream, Braves first baseman, who ran about as fast as a crippled turtle, came home with the winning run. Skip Caray shouted over and over, “Braves win. Braves win. Braves win.”
Where were you when that happened? We were in Bea’s home. We spent a lot of time at their home, with Bea and her family. There were four couples there that night, as there was many nights. We hung out together a lot; watched ball games and ate together. We were good friends. I preached Bea’s mother’s funeral.
Bea played the piano at church and sang in a ladies group. She was gifted, fun, out-going and smart. And troubled. She worked at a hospital and had easy access to drugs, and the kitchen counter in their home looked like a sale counter at CVS. There were bottles and bottles of pills. We suspected something wasn’t right when she began to act irrationally. Sheri picked up on it sooner than I did. “Something is not right with Bea,” Sheri said. Her behavior became more and more troubling.
We suspected that Bea was addicted to some type of pills. She was. Eventually, she lost her job at that hospital. They moved and she got a job at another hospital. She lost her job there and then spent some time in prison for her drug problem. A couple of years ago, we got the call in the night—that dreaded call in the night—that she had died. She died in her sleep, they said. Everyone suspected that she had died from a drug overdose. No one talked about it, but every one suspected it.
Her drug problem became a monster that destroyed her life. We have an opiate crisis in this country. You may have read about it. It’s kind of a big deal. Maybe it is because of our love of pleasure or a way to deal with pain or simply greed, but we have a problem.
Natalie and I were eating at IHOP (or is it IHOB?) recently. I ordered one of my favorites—cheese grits. They came out piping hot. Smoke was ascending to the sky. I took a bite of the piping hot cheese grits. I began to fan my mouth as if to say that it was on fire. Natalie goes: “Why did you do that knowing how hot they are?”
“But they are so good.” I took another bite a few seconds later and another and another, each time complaining about how hot they were. But they tasted so good. I endured the pain to enjoy the pleasure.
Pleasure was God’s idea. We didn’t invent pleasure—God did. But we have turned it into an idol. We aren’t satisfied with moderate amounts. We want more and more. We become addicted to it. We don’t eat to live; we live to eat. We plan our lives around our next meal.
We aren’t satisfied with normal, healthy amounts of entertainment or sex or food or shopping; we want more and more.
I’m not suggesting abstinence from pleasure (“The Baptist preacher said we couldn’t have any fun!”) but a moderation of it. Moderation is when we don’t let the pursuit of pleasure become our lord. When Christ is Lord, then nothing else can be. When he is not Lord, then anything can be. To seek God’s kingdom first is to put pleasure in its rightful place.