I drink a fair amount of coffee. I listen to copious amounts of music, much of it is spiritual in nature - "worship" music, or even "secular" music that aspires to notions of love, sacrifice, hard work, or high ideals. Some of it with wistful allusions to romantic pasts, or perhaps regrets of brokenness. I also attend church, interact with "friends" on FB, and work in/aspire to success in a lucrative and creative industry (TV/entertainment). Occasionally, I enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two. I have a family, a wife, beautiful children, and we enjoy good food and drink together. We watch movies. We work the budget. We do chores (from projects to the repetitive/mundane). Lots of different ways to engage in life. I have recently become a fan of fitness, and, although I have always lived an active life, I really enjoy the physical and mood-altering benefits that come with a commitment to working out regularly. It makes me feel good.
Sum total - I am highly aware of how my life seems to be one big series of attempts at mood altering. I am pondering the fact that every one of these habits, practices, or environments give me some sort of external, tangible value that would otherwise be absent, if it were not for the existence of these people, places, or things in my life - activating some new thought, emotion, or mood.
Is a life inauthentic simply because we engage in mood altering behavior? I think of the Amish and the Puritans whose cultures prime(d) them to be very conscious of their earthly activities - abstaining from certain substances, seeking to live quiet, simple lives of productivity and thrift, very extreme in their practices. It's like fasting year round, none of this crazy "licentious" behavior for them! Are they prudes? Are they living more authentic lives just because they don't drink coffee or beer, or because they sew their own old fashioned clothes and speak in the dialect of King James circa 1611? Some of this behavior is admirable, but some of it is downright pious Gnosticism - hatred of the empirical, the physical, the seduction of the senses. Fear of mood altering, as if passion will steal their soul.
Our world is a world of the senses, and God created it to enjoy. I'm not saying this is a license to sin - a pass card for promiscuity, or a seedy gospel of Grace (eat drink and be merry for tomorrow, Jesus will forgive). But I am thinking that before judging any "mood altering" behavior, you should look at your own life and ask yourself if your quest for wholeness, your quest for life, your quest for a passionate and rewarding marriage, etc, can be achieved by anything other than a mood altering behavior or choice?
Jesus-followers: When you chose the way of the cross, did it not lighten your load? Did you not accept a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness? Did you not trade your sorrow, did you not trade your shame, did you not lay them down "for the joy of the Lord?" When you met a man named Jesus, did he not change your mood, or at least offer you the chance to walk out from under that weight of shame and into the light of freedom? And what better mood is there than the feeling of feeling free?
I say this to you, and it is a quote from the Bible. "To the pure all things are pure."
Enjoy your life. Enjoy your worship experience. Enjoy the things in life that you can eat and drink with a clear conscience. Let your life and your family and your community be to you a mood altering exercise in holiness. If a song, or a savory lobster plate, or a workout at the gym send your mind and body to a place they could not conjure up on their own, don't think yourself pitiful for needing some help. And if you should consider a garden, a cross, and an empty tomb as a lifeline to your own wholeness, let it alter your mood a bit, and send you reeling into the freedom that causes you to shout, throw your hands up and believe that your destiny is secure. Receive power for the here and now.
Let it purify you and make you a better person. A better lover. A better soldier. A better friend.
Here is that scripture verse in full:
To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. – Titus 1:15
tune in next week to hear me address the use of dating, yoga, weed, household cleaners, codependency, and monster trucks in your mood-altering pathology lol
PS - Saying no is a big part of radical freedom too. Lent is coming soon, so don't be reluctant to consider some of your mood altering behaviors as candidates for trimming. Many people like to take part in this tradition of giving up something during this time for a higher purpose. You could start with your inclination to assume no one understands or that you've somehow failed irreparably. But there's always the easy ones, like smoking and eating cheese. Maybe some moderation will help you with your perspective on yourself and others.