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Escapism fantasies anyone?
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Many people are trapped in what is referred to as "escapism fantasies." Though there are many who are not "trapped," per se, the truth is, the vast majority of us have actually participated in this activity from time to time. I rather enjoy it myself. Any time we watch a television action show or a love story...any time we read an adventure story or watch a fantasy show from Superman to Lord of the Rings, fact is, we enjoy getting lost in these stories for a while... living vicariously through a swashbuckling hero, for example. A friend who has lived in my hometown all his life confessed to me that he sometimes go to other towns to shop just so that I won't be recognized the way I would be at home. I've done the same thing.
Some argue that Christianity itself is a form of escapism. Does not even the Bible say that in order to find your life, one must lose it (Matt 10:39;16:25)? Truth is, we are to "lose" our lives by finding our identity in Christ; decreasing that He might increase - living, moving and having our being in Him (Acts 17:28).
Many, however, are falling for Satan's counterfeits to this Biblical truth, attempting to "lose" themselves by drinking excessively, resorting to chemical stimulants, getting involved in inappropriate, compromising relationships and nasty, even immoral, habits or occultism. From overeating to fantasy role-playing games, paperback novels to soap operas and online porn, the world is replete with various modes by which one can take an emotional escape and "get away from it all." Problem is, once we return from these "momentary vacations," that which we were running from is still there where we left it. A greater danger is that, far too often, what one sees as merely a harmless habit can easily become an addiction.
And nobody "has" an addiction; addictions have US! Following are two brief descriptions of cases where seemingly harmless activities grew into habits and, ultimately, became full-blown addictions. Each case was experienced by Christian people:
CASE #1: Regarding his personal obsession with role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, one writer confessed, "O CHRISTIAN, BEWARE! It took 10 years to pull that sinful hook out of my flesh. My deceitful, self-pleasing, worldly-affectionate heart led me to help the world, flesh and devil hook me good. Iím still a weaker man today for having given my heart to role-playing games...Why on earth would a born-again soul want to spend his time pretending to be violent? Why would he enjoy imagining doing things that God hates? Even if he found his flesh attracted to those things, wouldnít his loyalty to Christ and the command to "set your affection on things above" convince the Christian to abandon this love for violence?"
CASE #2: A Christian woman - a minister's wife - who was addicted to romance novels, used that particular brand of escapism fantasy for over a decade and is still reaping the bitter toll it took on her family. She wrote, "Feeling trapped, I escaped by reading romance novels. The formulaic story, exotic places, and the tension of a man and woman falling in love were stimulating yet soothing...I'd spend afternoons reading one or two novels before the children came home from school. In the evenings, after the kids went to bed, I even progressed to a third.
"But reading the steamy romances didn't fulfill me or help my marriage. And after a while it wasn't enough to just read about romance. Long, solitary walks or drives blocked out the real world, enabling me to conjure up my own fantasies. A tall, handsome man, resembling different TV characters, met me in my daydreams. A successful, wealthy professional, he'd wine, dine, and dance with me, and our "love" would quickly develop in moonlit gardens or sunlit beaches to marriage where I no longer worked outside the home. I wasn't concerned that spending time imagining romantic fantasies might affect my marriage. They're not hurting anyone, I'd reason.
"But around our eleventh anniversary, I noticed that whenever Dan tried to kiss me, I'd turn my face so his lips grazed my cheek instead. Months slipped by before I'd finally respond to his sexual overtures. Dan began to complain that we didn't make love enough. He sent flowers and suggested weekends away...My walks and drives increased to entire afternoons or evenings. My fantasy had grown more stimulating than real romance, and I began to avoid Dan.
"Then what I thought could never happen did. A coworker, Anthony, and I began to flirt and greet each other with hugs. One morning Anthony, also unhappy in his marriage, didn't let go. Within weeks we escalated to stealing what belonged to each other's spouse, and I was in love..."
Even after her affair, when she was on an apparent upswing, she found herself nearly drawn into another as she experienced the highs and lows of addictive behavior. While part of her realized she was risking everything, another part simply didn't care. She had gone from fantasy to real men. She was hooked.
She eventually learned to fill her daydreaming mind with other, godly endeavors: Bible studies, scripture reading, accountability partners. Things continue to get better as she and her spouse continue to work on their marriage.
ARE SUCH FANTASIES SIN?
In and of themselves, most escapism fantasies cannot be classified as sin. Most.
Like my ol' preacher used to say, sin always takes us farther than we want to go, keeps us longer than we want to stay, and costs us more that we can afford to pay. It often starts out innocently enough. We justify it with thoughts like, "It's not hurting anybody." At that point, we're often hooked. Different bait catch different fish. One man's porn addiction is another man's religious addiction. One woman's romance novel addiction is another woman's chick-flick addiction. Though an escapism fantasy may not be hurting anybody at that moment, in the long-run, all addictions have a far-reaching ripple effect.
For example, let's say that God has a plan for the life of a boy who's addicted to Dungeons & Dragons (and He DOES have a plan). That boy, who gets and remains addicted for over a decade, missed scores of opportunities to get involved in the lives of others - missing numerous chances to grow in Christ and share his testimony while encouraging others - all because his complete attention was so firmly centered upon his own carnal lusts.
You get the picture.
God has a plan for our lives, a plan for good and not evil. Satan's plan is to kill, steal and destroy...kill initiative, steal our time, destroy our impact as believers.
How can we "lay aside the sin that so easily besets" (Hebrews 12:1) if we donít fully comprehend what constitutes a sin? We can't try NOT to sin any more than we can try NOT to think about a glass bowl filled with green M&M's the very moment you read those words.
Though sin can be defined as breaking the law, or crossing the divine boundary, the limit that God has set for us (Rom 7;12-14; 1 Jn 3:4), in 1 John 5:17 we find a much broader definition of sin: "All unrighteousness is sin..."
Roman 14:23 reminds us, "...whatever is not of faith is sin" while James 4:17 declares, "...to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin," referring to a sin of ommission - something we should have done rather than something bad that was acted upon.
We should learn an important lesson from this: Strict obedience to Godís laws won't change what we are. Sometimes we make the same mistake the Pharisees made as we concentrate so much on trying to avoid breaking Godís law - still focusing on SELF - that we lose sight of the purpose of that law: to change our focus from thinking about ourselves to being concerned for and showing love for others.
We're here to build a Kingdom, something we can't do if we're centered around pacifying our own flesh. When we do that, we are declaring lordship over our own lives. When we set up ourselves as lord, and we've already asked Jesus to be our Lord...well, any kingdom with two kings is called a war!
No wonder we're so miserable.
Let us not forget, however, that all our sins were forgiven and forgotten forever at the cross, never again to be dredged up and held against us. Proof? How many sins had you committed 2,000 years ago? None? They've all been committed SINCE then. Therefore, obviously, it's all been forgiven. There are NO V.I.P. sinners. Please understand that we don't have a license to sin. Sadly, it's what we humans do. We will reap as we sow, however. So, sow carefully.
SO, WHAT CAN WE DO?
Paul tells us in Galatians 5:16, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." That means that we should fight to be a spiritual person. You see, we are Spirit-beings enduring this painful earthly experience. Our flesh seeks after its own comfort. We can't cast out the flesh.
On the other hand, our spirit-man WANTS to feast upon God's Word.
Our spirit-man WANTS to talk about the King and testify to His greatness.
Our spirit man WANTS to sing praises to Him and WANTS to serve His Creation by helping others.
The Holy Spirit working within us will help us recognize sin and avoid it so that we no longer will "fulfill the lust of the flesh." His Spirit will likewise help us recognize, understand and grow in His ways, enabling us to strengthen and demonstrate our faith through the good works that the Book of James points out. Opportunities abound for us to do the good that we know we ought to be doing. We can start right in our own families by working to make them strong, by making our families a warm, affectionate, supporting, encouraging place for all family members. We have plenty of opportunities in our spiritual family as well as in our communities.
Godís Word tells us in James 1:27 that pure religion is to "look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." What a great place to start!
God sets high standards for us in finding and overcoming the sins that affect us. Ultimately, these definitions tell us that sin is anything that is contrary to the will of God or doesnít express the holy character of God. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be "imitators of God." That is the standard He has set for us.
Our efforts to identify and remove sin can be compared to the story of a sculptor chipping away at an enormous block of marble. Another man asks him what heís chiseling, and the sculptor replies, "An elephant." The other man asks, "How do you sculpt an elephant?" The sculptor replies: "Itís really very simple. You just chip away anything that doesnít look like an elephant."
We are doing the same thing when we start chipping away sin from our lives. Our goal is to chip away everything that isnít like God. We are removing sin, i.e., everything that is contrary to or doesnít express the holy character of God, with the purpose of more fully and maturely reflecting His very mind and ways.
A servant of God
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Reader Count & Comments
04 Mar 2007
Thank you for being bold and speaking the truth. From experience, I have to testify these things are true. On my own road back from 'fantasy land' God gave me a song which I sang to myself night and day in my fight to stay free - 'Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus'. To this day I am cautious to turn away from the addiction whenever it rears its ugly head - it truly is demonic!
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