Two Christmas Presents

All the men in our Spiritual Recovery Program really struggling with the consequences of their addictions.  But as they get honest, open and willing, they begin to see how God can move in a make such a difference.  Here is what one of the guys wrote this week.

God gave me two wonderful Christmas presents today.

Last week I asked several of you to pray for a very dear friend who had graduated the program at Helping Up Mission and was working as an intern when some things overwhelmed him and he “went back out.” He started drinking again.

He left the program and we didn’t hear from him for a few weeks. Then he showed up here in our parking lot one very cold morning, drunk, hungry, smelly and suffering from hypothermia. We got him some clothes, coffee and food and got him into a detox. Later we heard he had left the detox.

Again we didn’t hear from him for a few more weeks. Then last week he showed up one afternoon. He had IV tubes sticking out of him and a hospital bracelet, and he was very drunk. He said he’d been living on the streets and the police had taken him that morning to a nearby hospital for detox, but he had walked away again.

When he was here he had done well and was role model to many. The guilt from thinking he had let everyone down was consuming him. The solution he had come up with to deal with his guilt and remorse, it seemed to me, was to try to drink himself to death, and was doing a very good job of it. It broke my heart.

I did everything I could think of to assure him that we loved him unconditionally. He just kept saying, “But I’ve messed up, I’ve messed up so bad.”

“Yes, you’ve messed up,” I told him,” but we still love you and we want you. This is home and it’s safe. But you have to be sober.” We took him back to the hospital and told him that when he had finished detox to call and he could come back in the program.

I had expected to get a call earlier this week. When none came I was pretty sure my friend was either back out again or already dead.

Because I’ve been sick most of this week I’ve out of touch with much of what’s gone on in the program. So imagine my pleased surprise when I walked into chapel this afternoon, the time when men are officially welcomed into the program, and there was my friend. Still a little unsteady on his feet, but alive, sober and home with people who love him.

That was just the first of the two presents God gave me today,

Facing Christmas as an about to be divorced person has been, at times, very difficult, for me, especially not taking part in beloved family traditions. One of my very favorite traditions has always been on Christmas morning. The first thing we do, after everyone is up, is sit around the tree and I read a particular passage of Scripture. We then spend some time thanking God in prayer for the coming of Jesus. Several times this week I’ve been very sad as I contemplated not being part of that tradition this year.

One of the other pastoral counselors and I alternate weeks for reading the Scripture passage for the message in the weekly chapel service at Helping Up Mission. Today was the other counselors turn, but he has laryngitis, so he asked me to read. Because I’ve been so sick all week I begged off and wasn’t even planning on going to chapel.

About a half hour before chapel was to begin I felt a rush of energy and decided to go ahead and attend. Chapel, because it is the time that men come into the program, move up to the next phase of the program and are recognized for finishing the program, is a pretty big deal and I don’t like to miss it. When I got there I said that would do the reading.

When our executive director came in and gave me the text he was preaching from I saw that it was the same one that I read with my family every Christmas morning for 27 years, the Christmas story from Luke. I was nearly overwhelmed with emotion. I felt like Jesus was saying to me, “It’s okay. I’ve got you.” I won’t be able to read this for my family this year, but on the last chapel before Christmas, I got to read it for the people who have become like a new family.

God is very good.

Thank you for your love and support of our Helping Up Mission family, especially at this time of the year.

Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director