Guilty pleasures. It’s an oxymoron that I never stopped to ponder before.
Now in pursuit of a holy life, watching in amazement the positive changes happening in my attitude and my soul, the irony is captivating me. Why don’t I miss the indulgences I used to crave? My once favorite TV dramas, greasy meals, mega vacations – all missing, yet not missed at all.
Determined to understand this phenomena, I wondered why I needed those indulgences in the first place.
I used to watch TV at the worst times. It was always when things were the most busy, hectic, and stressful that you would find me parked in front of Netflix, binge-watching Vampire Diaries for an entire weekend. I needed a mental escape.
I enjoyed the convenience of fast food and boxed meals, again to support a busy, hectic schedule. But also as a reward after a stressful day. I needed more time.
I craved vacation the most. An entire week away from the rat race, where I could just relax and eat more junk food? Sign me up! I needed physical escape.
There seems to be a busy, hectic, stressful theme here! What is so ironic to me is that each of these indulgences was meant to relieve the pressure, yet a closer look reveals the opposite. The bandages I was putting over my wounds were creating more wounds to bandage.
We numb our minds with TV, thinking good, my mind needs to be numb to escape all the pressure – pressure that continues to build while we avoid the problem that is now even harder to resolve.
We indulge in the convenience and comfort of unhealthy food, convinced of the time and money saved for better pursuits. Time and money that ends up getting spent at the gym trying to work off the extra pounds earned by convenience. Or worse – we spend the time and money at the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, or the operating room.
We work like maniacs so we can afford a vacation to escape from maniacal work. Yet the vacation itself can be stressful, knowing the piles of work waiting for our return. Not to mention the planning, the financial strain, the conflict of taking the kids or leaving them behind.
No, even through short spurts of enjoyment, I never really felt refreshed after a TV binge, a junk food fest, or even a vacation. How do I know? Because I’ve tasted real refreshment now. It’s clear that these versions of escape weren’t real. Why not?
Because they are simply false bandages, covering the true wound. The real question is not what are all the ways to escape? It’s why do I need to escape? What am I running from? What is wrong?
Perhaps we need to rip off the bandages and fix the wounds. Remove the need to escape into mind-numbing, stress-inducing, life-threatening holes.
Once I let Jesus fix the wounds and change what my life was focused on, I stopped looking for escapes. There is nothing to escape from. Sure, there are tough issues and unpleasant circumstances. But with Him I know how to face them, and where to get real rest, refreshment, and guidance.
So instead of creating complexities, layering bandage upon bandage in cleverly complicated ways, I’m ripping them all off.
I stopped using junk food to bandage my wound of missing time. The other layers of bandages (hours of workouts, piles of DVDs and equipment, the unused gym membership, and years of doctor visits) can be traded for a few more minutes cooking and lingering over healthy meals with my family. Under all the layers was…wait for it…extra time.
I stopped working like a maniac. The mega vacation bandage can be traded for the freedom to explore the world around me at a leisurely pace with my family and friends.
I stopped trying to be everything to everyone. The mind-numbing TV bandage, meant to distract my panicked soul, can be traded for mind-stimulating activities such as books, nature walks, and conversation with my family and friends.
Sure, it hurts a bit to rip off the bandages. But it feels so good to let the wounds breathe and heal properly! Now instead of a busy, hectic, stressful theme, I’ve traded for a healthy, leisurely, relationship-centered theme.
Life with Jesus means we don’t actually need to come up with our own bandages at all. He already covered our wounds. And if we don’t have to spend time and money on bandaging, there really is time and money saved for better pursuits. Guilty pleasures are traded for guilt-free pleasures, and we’re left with a better oxymoron – a permanent vacation.