I know a man who is a hopeless alcoholic. He has lost everything because of his decades long addiction. He has been in and out of treatment numereous times, and has also attempted long-term rehabilitation programs. Only to fail over and over again and to return to the very thing that he has despised himself for doing.
When he is sober, he wants very much to rebuild his life. He looks at the wreckage he has made of it and feels the impossible weight of ever being able to live a stable, healthy life. He is lost among the rubble of his own soul.
He was not born for this. When he was a child he did not wish about himself to grow up to become a homeless alcoholic. It is not who he is. Not then, and really, not now.
This man is a brother in the faith. He is a Christ follower. Does that surprise you? His heart for God is real. There is a faith in him that is anchored like a deep root. No matter how messed up everything is, he does not blame the Lord for his place in life.
In fact, he often finds moments of gratitude in the simpliest details of everyday life. Like when he found money on the street. Or when he remembered a randomly found tool that he pocketed weeks earlier, yet rediscovered in just the moment when such a tool was needed. He breathes an alcohol-soaked thank you to his Creator and carries on in the valley of his death.
And it is a death. Alcoholism is killing him.
The smallest of comfort, though, lies hidden in a cave in the wilderness of his invisible self. It is the tiniest fraction of light that there is indeed a good God of love who does care for him No Matter What. This truth was seeded in him long ago, and it has not been drowned out by the liquor.
Many waters cannot quench love,
nor can rivers drown it. (Song of Songs 8.7)
In the dragon’s grip of drink, the fragrant scent of God’s love still swirls around him. He is hooked, more on God’s love, actually, than the alcohol. For if alcohol truly had his soul, he would not know that small comfort that lies inside of him like a secret garden in a wilderness. No. God has him. God has this brother of ours and his grip is much firmer than any dragon of drink.
I hope he stays with us a while. I hope he dies sober much later in the journey. But no matter what happens, he is a loved man.
When you encounter the addict or alcoholic on the street, do not look away. For when you do, you are looking away from Jesus.
(this post is dedicated to J.A.H.)