Friday, October 08, 2004

A challenging anniversary...

As I write this, it's early in the morning, October 8th. Fourteen years ago today, a number of stupid decisions, based entirely on self, ended my employment, my career, and ultimately my marriage and my old life. So for me, October 8th was the first day of "hitting bottom" - a process that ultimately led to sobriety, a new life of faith, and more positive changes than I can describe. But it was also set in motion a series of events that, in some ways, continue to affect the way I live, and my options for ministry. So this day, in many ways, redefines the word "bittersweet" in ways I can't begin to share with you.

It's particularly poignant this year because two different friends of mine have been reflecting on their own "former lives," and finding it particularly unpleasant to reflect on all the waste - time, effort, money, relationships, you name it. And I have to admit that about this time of year, every year, I always find myself wishing that in some way, somehow, it could have worked out where things didn't have to get quite so bad before I stopped being stupid. Even after all these years, it is still hard not to wish that God, in his mercy, could rewind the tape, and have it play out just a little less unpleasantly. "Then," the thought often goes, "you wouldn't have to be going through what you are now. It would all be different."

It's at times like this that I'm grateful for the words of the prophet Joel:
The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. (Joel 2:24-26, NIV, emphasis added)
I wish I could say that I'm there, all the time...but I'm not. The thing I do know today is that by God's mercy and grace, I have never been as ashamed of those days, and those events, as I was fourteen years ago today. And I also know that in God's hands, those horrible times have become a bridge of recognition, understanding, and fellowship between me and other people whose lives have distintegrated - and God has used those awful times for good. The AA textbook says it best:
No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 84)
I have seen the truth of those words played out over and over again - and I am grateful that the hands of the Master Craftsman can use even a broken tool like me. Thank you, God, for the gift of that knowledge, and the experience of the truth of these words in my life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy SB dear brother! I suppose it's better to say it late than never. I only regret that I was unable to share it with you once again. Know that you are in my heart and my prayers.

"...we will see how our experience can benefit others." How true, and yet untrue..for your life has touched so many in ways you will never see this side of heaven. Lives of those in the fellowship, those in the church, your family, and all those you connect with. Their lives have been enriched by knowing you. I am so blessed to call you my dear friend and brother. Your friendship has filled my life with joy and the times we have laughed, cried and prayed together are counted among my most precious memories.

I have seen God take the events of your past, the pieces of a broken vessel and use them to minister to others in a mighty way. I've watched him put the pot back together, piece by piece, and use it to turn water into fine wine.

Sometimes God's path is so clear and his hand so visible in the workings around us and yet, at other times, it seems as if he has left us to stumble along in the dark. Regardless, we know he is there, by faith and by his promise, we know he orchestrates the circumstances in our lives as he so choses to accomplish his plan and purpose. Only he knows the why, the when and the how. I praise God that that plan included the crossing of our paths for you have taught me so much.

So on this anniversary I give thanks for your friendship, for God's saving grace and mercy, and for his ability to use broken vessels like us to accomplish his plans.

Blessings my friend, today and always...
Your brother in Christ,