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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Addiction and Faith

I’ve received permission from the family involved to share the following story. Please note, I’ve changed several minor details in order to protect the privacy of this family and to keep their identity anonymous. Please thoughtfully consider your words before commenting on this sensitive post.

About this time last year, Dan attempted to check the husband of one of my friends into rehab. This man, “Jay,” had literally lost everything dear to him. His extreme addiction to alcohol had stolen it all away. He was estranged from his wife and children, he’d lost his home, his career and even what had once been a flourishing relationship with the Lord.

Dan had spent the day at Jay’s home with several other men. They were cleaning, repairing, replacing and doing various other odd jobs that would help Jay’s estranged wife, my friend, to get their house on the market and get it sold. Jay’s wife, “Sally,” was still paying the mortgage, all on her own, and mothering (and fathering) three small children. Oh, and homeschooling and running a small business in order to keep her family afloat.

Dan and the other men worked for a full day while Jay slept, in a drunken stupor, on his couch. At one point, Sally came by the house with her children to see if the men needed any help. The oldest walked to the couch where her father slept, took one look and turned and ran upstairs. Dan said he actually had to turn away at that point...

When Jay finally awoke, the men took turns speaking with him. They urged him to face reality and to seek help. Immediately. After many words and various heated conversations, he finally agreed. Dan and another man loaded Jay up in his own car and drove him to a nearby shelter and rehabilitation center.

Although Jay passed the breathalyzer, he was turned away from the shelter because he treated the admissions director with such disrespect and anger. And at the director’s recommendation, Dan made a last ditch effort and took Jay to the local emergency room.

They pulled into the ER parking lot and parked the car. Jay refused to get out. He refused to get help. He'd become such a prisoner to his addiction that it had basically rendered him incapable of thinking of anyone but himself. And at that moment, Dan did the most loving thing could think to do. He took Jay’s car keys and buried them in the dirt under a bush. And then he turned and walked away.

Dan came home that night shaken to his core over the things he’d seen and experienced that day. He prayed and searched the Word and wondered if he’d handled the situation in a loving and biblical manner.

Eventually, the Lord brought peace to his heart through a most unlikely account in scripture: the story of the rich young ruler. This story appears throughout the gospels – in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18.

Basically, a rich young man approaches Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life. And Jesus just tells him, straight up. You need to make some changes. No co-dependency, no tickling of ears. He loved him enough to speak the truth. You need to make some changes – your eternal life depends upon it.

Dan and I will never, ever forget that day. We still pray for Jay, for his children and especially for Sally – who is now essentially a widow raising three children on her own. Amazingly, her faith has never faltered through this ordeal.

Our family has been deeply moved by this experience and our hearts truly go out to those imprisoned by addiction. And I’m convinced of this: the only true freedom from addiction, any addiction, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At the moment, I’m working on a little side project related to this conviction. This doesn’t have anything to do with Africa or orphan care or adoption or any of the stuff I usually write about… but I always assume that if I’m convicted then I should respond…after all, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the convicting.

I’m helping my sister-in-law and nephew build an expansion onto a Christian men’s rehab facility located in Pikeville, TN. It’s going to cost $17,000. But that’s nothing in God’s economy.

If your heart is pricked for this type of ministry and you'd be interested in coming alongside Dan and me in this project please let me know. Perhaps you could make a donation in honor of Sally or someone like her who's touched your life?

I don’t have a fancy paypal button or anything to offer for this one. It’s simple and bare bones. But I’d love to tell you more if you'd like. If you’re interested in contributing in some way, please email me at shellyowens at SixtyFeet dot org. And if you think about them throughout your day, please lift Jay, Sally and their children in prayer.

Thanks, friends, for hearing me out on this one. I know it's not my usual stuff. But sometimes God throws us a curve ball. And even (and especially!) when it's out of our comfort zone, we need to respond. Kingdom needs are truly all around us.


Kelsey said...

Thanks for sharing this with us, Shelly! I am thankful that you are obedient to the convictions of the Lord!