Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

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I think one of the biggest challenges for Americans these days is that we’re actively addicted to things that we don’t realize we’re addicted to. Our lives are largely without war or hard manual labor. We don’t even have to cook anymore if we don’t want to. Gone are the everyday struggles of the early 1,900’s and they’ve been replaced with a silent and invisible war: the one inside our mind.

We are so bored out of our mind, yes, even those of us who feel busy all the time, that we are coping with Netflix, shopping, Starbucks, and social media. We’re deeply unsatisfied and we’re avoiding this pain by engaging in a lot of numbing activities.

Last week I posted an article about the jokes we often make about drinking to survive parenting. My friend Ashley made a thoughtful comment that it was, in fact, just a joke and we should be able to joke about the struggles of parenting without feeling condemned to live out the brokenness that the joke suggests. She’s absolutely right. I make jokes about things all the time and jokes don’t force you to give in to bad behavior.

But it still bothers me, all the memes that suggest we can’t be nice moms without coffee or we just “can’t help ourselves” when we go to Target and we end up spending a few hundred dollars we didn’t mean to. Somewhere in the jokes, we’ve laid a foundation that we’re not responsible for being… responsible.

The truth is that my friend Ashley is an incredibly grounded person. She reads more than anyone I know. She has a high sense of self-awareness. If she buys something she doesn’t need, and I’m not sure she even does that, she’d cop to immediately for what it was. She wouldn’t laugh and say, “Oh, I just couldn’t help it.” The jokes aren’t dangerous for her.

My concern is that the more we scroll through our phones and see these jokes about wine, coffee, and shopping, the more we normalize this behavior. I suspect there are moms out there who have grabbed onto these isms and use it to feel good about their bad spending or drinking habits. We do the same thing about binge watching Netflix. We’ve made a joke about it and it’s starting to feel more and more okay.

Last year a friend of mine, after having four boys, had a girl. She saw this adorable tulle skirt in the store and posted a picture of it saying how tempted she was to buy it now that she finally had a sweet girl at home. Her family had gone through a series of life-threatening medical issues and her husband was not able to work. I was shocked by the number of people who commented on this picture and said, “Get it anyway.”  “You deserve it.”  “She’s only little once!”

Now my friend is a responsible adult with a budget so she didn’t buy this overpriced skirt that her daughter would no doubt only wear for six months. But I could not believe how many people were cheering her on to buy it anyway despite knowing their precarious financial position. This was not a meme and they weren’t joking.

We are about to head into Lent and if you’ve done a good job of praying and asking yourself what you should really give up to grow closer to Jesus, you might have accidentally decided to give up an actual addiction that you have. The problem with giving up an addiction that we don’t call an addiction is that we’re not prepared for the withdrawals.

After a week, we start to experience a lot of bad side effects from giving up this thing that we have become so accustomed to having. And though your symptoms won’t be as bad as giving up heroin or prescription drugs, you will likely pass through the same difficult stages.

If you’re not prepared for this, it’s likely that you will give in and participate in your addictive behavior. I am firmly in the camp that we ought to give up things for the entire season of Lent and not just Monday-Saturday. If you’re only giving something up for six days out of the week, I will strongly suggest that it is not painful enough for you to walk with Christ in the desert and grow closer to Him. Sundays should not be a FREE day for you to eat the chocolate or watch television or check your Facebook account.

Here’s what’s important about giving up an addiction. The first steps should always be awareness of how hard it’s going to be to give it up and a solid vision of the positive things you get instead. If you’re watching less Netflix, you can spend more time reading or with your family.

So if you’re sure you’re going to give up something you’re addicted to for Lent or if you get a week in and realize you’re much more attached to this thing than you realized, here are some resources I want you to check out that will help you make a solid plan. I absolutely think this work is well worth your time!

I am not addicted to drinking wine, coffee, or shopping. For some reason, those things are not weaknesses for me so it’s easy for me to talk about them. I am, however, definitely addicted to refined sugar, regency romance novels, and I go in an out of phases of being addicted to Netflix. I tend to kick it for a long time, then I get pregnant and sick and I find myself hooked once again.

I think it’s important for us to use the same words we use for drug addiction for these household addictions that we have. They are incredibly powerful. They have real power over us. They keep us from loving Jesus as we ought to. It’s important that we name them and fight them.

I love you. I mean it. If I were standing in front of you in your kitchen, I would smile softly and say, “I totally understand.” This life is hard. We are all in a great deal of pain and the idea of taking on more pain by giving some of things up makes me sick to my stomach. Sometimes I’m strong enough to do it and sometimes I’m not. But what I’m never confused about, is how bad it is. It’s bad when we can’t control what we do. When we feel such a strong compulsion to drink, eat, spend, and watch even when we don’t want to do it because we know how bad it is for us.

Giving in to these behaviors does not make you bad. Nothing could ever make you bad. God created you like He created the Earth and the sky. He stood back and said, “It was good.” And he didn’t mean the opposite of bad. He meant, perfect, just the way He wanted you to be. Nothing can change that because it is your soul inside of you. God loves you beyond measure and understanding and no addiction can ever change that.

Take comfort in this truth. Find strength in it. Then use that strength to loosen your grip on an addiction you have. Lent is a wonderful time to do this. Cling to Jesus with all your might and ask Him to help you walk in the desert. You will emerge stronger and more holy and it will be worth it.