Lots of people "get religion" when they get sent to prison. While some of them devote themselves to the "fake it to make it" religion, most are sincere in their seeking.
For many of them, their new found faith is tied mostly to the feeling they get when they're singing songs of praise and getting all excited about forgiveness and glory. They're even told by some chapel groups that Ephesians 5 tells them the best way to get past their addiction is to "get all excited" by the Holy Spirit and jump around and sing in the Spirit.
I often tell the ladies in our weekly prison chapel services that if all they get from jailhouse religion is a spiritual high, then all they've done is exchange the addiction that landed them in prison with a different addiction. When they're released and are back out on the streets, there will be plenty of other things available to make them high. If they've done nothing to change their habits and focus, they'll likely go right back to the drugs or booze or adrenaline fix to get their high.
So we try to teach them how to fill themselves with a deep and lasting hunger for righteousness and to keep in step with the Spirit.
One of the keys to going deep in faith is to seek both the instant uplift of reading the Word and the long-term psychological and spiritual changes that results from prolonged and sustained meditation on the Word.
These dual effects are surprisingly similar to the short and long term effects of cannabis usage. For the uninformed, that's marijuana. Weed. Mary Jane.
The immediate effects of smoking marijuana include relaxation and a mild pleasurable feeling- getting high or being "stoned".
Few who haven't been a part of the drug culture would describe it as such, but there's no denying that focusing on the scriptures can give you a "buzz" of good feeling. To put it in more biblical terms, mediating on God's Word can produce feelings of peace and joy.
The immediate pleasurable effects of marijuana are even more intense when the cannabis is eaten rather than smoked and inhaled.
This reminds me of several places in scripture where prophets talk about eating a scroll or the words given to them by God or angels (Ezekiel 3:1, Jeremiah 15:16). They describe it as a pleasurable and motivating act, but it can also have less than pleasant results, just like orally consuming cannabis:
I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. (Revelation 10:10)Through long-term meditation on the Bible, a residual of God's Word settles deeply into our minds and hearts and souls, producing lasting joy and peace. This is the deep-seated "addiction" to following God's heart that that I think Paul was encouraging in Ephesians 5.
Much as an habitual user of marijuana takes on the characteristics and personality of the stereotypical "pot-head", so the person who is a habitual meditator upon the Word takes on the characteristics and personality of the Divine Author.
And I have to add, though some may say I'm stretching the metaphor to far, that there is another side effect of marijuana that has a spiritual parallel.
I'm talking about the "munchies". Both colloquial wisdom and scientific research agree that use of cannabinoids makes people hungry. Scientifically, the drug enhances the taste receptors and actually activates certain other receptors in the body that increases the desire the food.
Likewise, meditating on the scriptures increases our desire for and enjoyment of the Word. The more we consume of what God has to offer, the more we hunger and thirst for righteousness. As a result, we'll hunger less for other things that used to give us a high.
Blogger's note: No cannabinoids were consumed during the research process for this blog post.