I shared my story for the first time at the general meeting in Maple Grove.
Last night I sat in an AA meeting where the topic was chapter 5 ‘How It Works’ more specifically step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood Him”. One of the guys there said something that struck me last night and stuck with me today. I don’t recall every detail however what stood out was the phrase ‘I get to’.
I have been considering this phrase this morning and the power it has. First I think it gives us a choice. We can choose between two things. In the case of an alcoholic in recovery I can choose sobriety or I can choose to drink. When I was in active addiction I didn’t have this choice necessarily. Paul echoes this idea of being without choice in Romans 7.
Second with choice comes power. Because of God or my chosen higher power I now have the power or ability to choose. Before I lived life which ever way the wind blew me. Choice gives me a small sense of power over the wind. Like a rudder on a sail boat.
Third with choice comes responsibility. In making a choice between two things ‘I get to’ weigh the positives and negatives. I can step back and look at things through the lens of choice. I can respond and not react. I don’t have to do things out of habit or live life haphazardly.
I get to choose how I live today. I get to choose to give things over to God and live by faith or I can continue to live in fear. I get to choose between a life of sobriety and recovery or a life of addiction and death. I get to make choices that impact my relationship, my job, my children and anyone else I come in contact with.
Fourth, I am grateful that God has given me choice and the wisdom to make good choices. I get to live today in the light of God’s grace and forgiveness. I get to live without fear and resentment. I get to live in recovery. I get to worship God anytime and anyplace. I have that freedom only in Christ.
““But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness.”
Malachi 3:2-3 NKJV
This verse has been on my mind for the last 24 hours. We go through difficult times not because God is absent from us but because he wants to purify us. We have been created in His image and he desires for us to be a reflection of Him.
I woke up this morning in a challenging place emotionally and spiritually. After a couple of hymns and reflecting on this verse I can be confident in who God is refining me to be.
There is growth and healing in the process. Being refined hurts. That pain is the burning away of those things that hold us back. We may not see it like that when we are going through the fire however that is what is happening.
1 Peter 3:13-18
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ maybe ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the spirit,”
A couple of weeks ago Kevin spoke to us about taking out our trash and allowing the garbage man to take it away. He used comedy to demonstrate the point that he was making and he did an amazing job at encouraging us to leave our ‘trash in the trash can so that garbage man can take it away’. Another analogy of this is backing our dump truck of sins up to the cross, pulling the dump lever, driving forward. Getting out, grabbing the front end loader and reloading our dump truck.
I sat and listened to him speak and the question came to mind my; “what if I have willingly left my stuff in the trash can and I am waiting for the garbage man to come and take it away?”
I want to talk to you about my personal story a little bit, some of the things that I have been going through for the last few years has come to a head the last 12 months. I want to talk about my family, the struggle that we have encountered, the mess we have repeatedly brought to the garbage can and waited sometimes not very patiently for immediate removal of the trash.
I have been divorced from my first wife since 2009. We have 3 daughters, they have all lived with me since the separation. My oldest is 14, she has significant mental, emotional and behavioral issues. She has had 6 hospitalization since 2014. Last September she went to live with my ex and came back home in January. It was not safe (homicidal ideation) for her to be living with my other children due to her threats, impulsivity and her inability to always talk before acting. She would frequently lose her ability to reason.
In the last 9 months there have been Child protection involvement, guardian ad litem reports, mediation three times, court a number of times, appointments to determine an appropriate diagnosis and an order for protection on the behalf of my children against my ex. My oldest and I slept in an apartment since we did not want her to have the opportunity to hurt anyone. We have had multiple professionals in our house, sometimes two or three at a time. There have been emotional highs, the county finally seeing the need for group home placement. Emotional lows, my ex not willing to allow my daughter to get the help and stability she deserves. Finally, the only way my ex would consider a group home is if I gave her my daughter for six months. “Here you go God, here is my trash, I have to trust you with it even though I know what needs to happen. Please God, get my daughter the help she needs and deserves. God, she is your kid long before she was my kid. I ask that you protect her and keep her safe. Give those people wisdom who can make decisions for her.”
I don’t have high hopes in my ex wife, I don’t have high hopes in the judge, court system or the county people who have deemed my ex ‘fit and capable’ to care for my daughter. Frankly, my ex has a hard enough time caring for herself much less another human being. Add to that a human being with a high level of needs.
This is where hope comes into play. We know that we are more than ready for God to take away our trash. We desperately are waiting, yearning for the garbage man to come. We put our trash out, we wait a week, we wait two weeks, we wait a month, we wait 6 months, we may even wait years. We call the company, they ensure us they are coming. They cannot give usa time or day that they are coming. Meanwhile our garbage starts rotting and stinking. We cannot stand to walk by it or drive by it. Our neighbors are wondering what is going on. The police are stopping by daily to see if everything is okay. You have a few friends who come over, accept you where you are at, stinking garbage and all.
We begin to isolate and not leave our house, people refuse to come over and visit. No matter how much we shower and wash our clothes the stench of our garbage contaminates everything. Our clothes, our skin, our house…EVERYTHING stinks. We might even begin to question God, his sovereignty, his plan and our relationship with him.
Hope is the confidence that we have things we do not yet see. Romans 8:22-30 (paraphrase) says this: All creation is groaning with the pains of labor, (your not alone) longing for the promises of God to be fulfilled in us and through us. (The garbage man comes and takes away our trash). Hope is in things that we do not see. There is no hope in those things that are visible. Our spirit groans within us when we cannot find the words to express our agony, our joy, our peace, our desperation with the way things are now.
God’s spirit intercedes for us when we are unable to utter the words to properly describe the ‘affliction’ that 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 talks about. God knows your heart.
Our hope is this:
What if the garbage truck doesn’t come this week, this month, this year, this decade or this century? Can you maintain your hope in Christ to provide you with peace, joy, love, acceptance?
What are you putting your hope in? The weekly service of the garbage company or the eternal promises of God? We cannot put our hope in a broken government, in a broken church, believe me there are broken churches, broken people, or broken systems. None of us would get into a car that had broken brakes and drive away and ‘hope’ we would be able to stop and avoid an accident. There is a known, visible system that is broken and in need of repair.
I think our lives are the same way. We need to get a spiritual tune-up from time to time and check our ‘hope system’.
In what ways do you need to repair your hope?
Finish the statement: “I hope that…”
What is your message of hope?
Are you ready to share it? 1 Peter 3:15 says we should always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have.
My hope is in Christ and the promises that are in His Word. There are two knowns in life, our date of birth and our date of death. Is your hope in the new birth that Christ offers to you? My hope is in His plans, His wisdom, His grace, His salvation (past, present and future)
You are blessed if you are eager to do good, carry out good and are persecuted for doing those good deeds. Just like Christ. He did good, people had to make things up to get him to ‘look bad’ and killed him on the basis of those lies. His hope was in the Father. The one with the master plan. The one who created the earth and everything in it.
Don’t lose sight of the HOPE that Christ offers you and calls you too.
Thursday October 12, 2017
The day started like every other day for the past 6 weeks. I woke up got ready for work and drive the mile to the train station. I boarded the 6:34 train headed for downtown Minneapolis and Target Field station. From there I would board the light rail and ride that to Hennepin Avenue and connect with an 18. I would get off on Nicollet and 22nd and walk the two blocks to my office. There was nothing out of the ordinary about today other than it was my last day for the week. I had Friday off.
I went through my day getting one task after another completed. I was feeling good about how this day was going and looking forward to the weekend ahead. I knew I would have some things to work on from home on Friday however was hoping I could get most of my work done before I left.
Group was good with a lot of good processing and connections being made. I completed my notes for group and got ready to head out to watch my daughters play soccer. As I was walking out the door something inside of me said “look around, you won’t see this office again”. I paused, looked around, walked out and shut the door. I never entered my office again after that moment.
I boarded the number 2 bus heading east from Nicollet and Franklin heading toward Cedar Avenue to where my daughters were playing soccer. I remember talking to the bus driver and having a good conversation with him about cars, people, society and whatever else came up during the ride.
Getting off the bus at Cedar I boarded a blue line train headed towards downtown. I rode the train from one stop to the next. Walked a couple of blocks to the soccer field where my youngest daughters were playing soccer. Her I met with my wife, son and two youngest daughters. The older of the two wasn’t feeling well and was doing her best to keep playing and stay active.
The game finished and we headed home for the night. The next day would bring school for the children, my wife would work and I would get ready for the trip to my wife’s parents place in northern Minnesota. There was a days worth of errands, meal preparation and packing to be done. I was excited to get up north to do some bow hunting with my son for the first time. We had been talking about it for weeks.
Friday, October 13, 2017
The day things started to change. I woke up got the kids off to school, the oldest stayed home sick. My wife left for work and I started getting things done. However, there was something wrong and I couldn’t identify what it was. Looking back the only way I can explain it is that my head was in a fog. Nothing was clear or made sense. I was existing yet not present.
I got the groceries and the beer for the weekend. I went home and started making a new kind of chili which included frying bacon with a can or at least a partial can of beer. It was a new recipe with some modifications. It was bound to be delicious and I couldn’t wait to try it. I was having text conversations with Krystal, my wife, and Andrew a good friend of mine as I was cooking and getting ready for the weekend.
The plan was to take the Jeep since the van wasn’t working real well and in the shop. I had dropped the dog off at some friends house for the weekend so he would be traveling with us. Krystal has taken the Jeep to work. When she got home she brought the oldest daughter to the clinic to get checked out. I loaded the Jeep while she was gone.
When they got home I got the news that Esther was not able to travel. It was Krystal’s family reunion so I felt it was important for her to go. She took off with the two other children while I elected to stay home. In looking back this was a fatal decision on my part. I still wasn’t feeling completely present.
I left Esther at home while I went to get her medications from Coborn’s pharmacy. While I waited for them to figure things out I decided to purchase some alcohol since I had sent what I had already bought with Krystal. I got a four pack of Surley and a small bottle of vodka. The vodka was a last minute impulsive purchase.
I got the medications and headed home. I needed to eat and wanted a pizza. What I wanted I could not get at Coborn’s so a trip to the Elk River Walmart was in order. I stopped at home to drop stuff off and check in with Esther. I proceeded to Walmart to get a pizza and a few other food items.
Upon getting home I made the pizza and started drinking a beer. While I was doing this I began to feel isolated and like a prisoner in my own house. I was texting Krystal and wish I could have been with her. I kept thinking about missing out on taking my son hunting. I knew Esther wasn’t going to be able to go up Saturday. I couldn’t shake the feeling of isolation and loneliness.