Upon our return from the Panama Cruise, Rick and I learned someone we love dearly had disappeared. We knew what that meant and our hearts sank. Some knew where he was out there in the night going through his own private hell. All we could do was wait and pray and hope the turn-around would come quickly and he wouldn’t die this time.
I’ve been told by recovering alcoholics that it’s the first drink that kills you. An alcoholic doesn’t start back at the beginning. An alcoholic starts where he/she left off and accelerates. Think of being on a slide. If you stop partway down and stop yourself, you’re still there. Lift your hands and down you go. Without the strength of God working in a person, giving up the things that kill us is impossible. To sum up the 12 step program: I can’t, God can, I think I’ll let Him.
Years back, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t pay close attention to the dirty, disheveled man holding a sign at the entrance to the freeway. Now, I look for them. I make eye contact. Sometimes I have enough time (before the car behind me is honking) to hand them a bottle of water or a Christmas box.
Why do I see them now? I’ve experienced the anguish of wondering where my loved one is and whether I’ll ever see that person again this side of heaven. I’ve heard the stories of what people go through out there, drunk and alone, looking at a dumpster as a possible warm, dry place to sleep for the night.
Jesus said the poor are always among us. And so they are. Poor in ways beyond not having money.
I try not to worry, but some in my family say I have a worry gene and so it is a miserable default pattern in my life to fall back into it. I have a good imagination. That’s a blessing when I’m writing a story. It’s a curse when I’m imagining all the things that could be happening to someone I love who is out there on the mean streets, homeless, hurting and too ashamed to call for help. Every time the phone rang, my heart jumped. Night time calls always seem to bring bad news.
We are at war. In Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re also in a war here at home, and this war has countless fronts.
What do I do? I pray through my long list of friends who are going through the same thing I am right now. I pray for the many I know who are struggling with addictions; drugs, alcohol, computer games, pornography, food, work. Our nation breeds addiction. Sometimes I lay awake and go through the lines of David’s Psalm 23 or make an alphabetical list of the attributes of God.
And that’s what brings peace in the midst of the storm. Knowing God, remembering how deep and wide and high His love is for each of His children. Knowing Jesus lived out 33 years as a man who faced and overcame every temptation and now stands as our advocate before His Almighty Father who longs for us to return to Him.
Wherever my loved one is, God is there, too, waiting for surrender, ready to lift and restore. God loves my loved one far more than I do. God has a plan in all this and it isn’t to tear us to pieces, but to build us up, to give us a future and a hope.
I may not like the pain that comes with waiting, but it’s in the waiting that my faith grows.