Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The cocaine question.

The cocaine question.

A friend of mine cheated on his wife. She knows about one of the affairs but does not know the full scope of his unfaithfulness over the years. My friend has flirted with the idea of coming clean, but in the last few months he’s made a number of decisions that indicate he’s miles away from being true to his wife, true to himself and true to God.

A few weeks ago, when he came to our men’s group, the leader essentially told him to go home. He said if you’re not serious about working on your junk, why even waste your time here? I haven’t seen him since that happened and I thought about emailing him last night, but I didn’t know what to say.

I’m praying for you?
Are you going to come back to group anytime soon?
Is there anything I can do for you in this difficult time?
Have you thought about trying cocaine?

One of those questions is not like the others, but it’s the one I thought about the most. And this is not just me trying to write something inflammatory that I don’t believe in. I would have used meth as the drug if that were the case. This is me remembering one of the most powerful testimonies I’ve ever known.

My wife’s friend starts of her testimony saying that she is thankful for cocaine. This is not a phrase that regularly makes a cameo in church, but there is. And as she unpacks it, it began to make sense. You see, she was an alcoholic. She knew that she was facing a slow, 30-year death that would have stripped her of life, inch by inch. But then she met cocaine. Cocaine, she says, sped up her demise. It put her crash on hyper speed and did in a period of months, what would have taken alcohol years. And there, in the depths of her worst moment, a moment that came much faster than it should have, she found the Lord.

Now, years later, gently cradled in the hands of God she reflects back on cocaine with a heart of thankfulness, because ultimately it rushed her into God’s arms.

Maybe more than anything, what my friend needs is a cocaine moment. Maybe he needs a crash and burn. In the book “Boundaries on Marriage,” Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend say, “People in denial are deaf to words. They only understand pain and loss.” I’ve talked with my friend about his life. The leader of our men’s group has talked with my friend about his life. A thousand people could talk with my friend about his life. Ultimately, he might be deaf to words. Ultimately it might take the loss of his children, his wife, his job and everything he has to break him of the hurt and lies he’s defining his life with right now.

That feels counterintuitive to God’s call that we love our neighbor. Shouldn’t I love him and try to drag him back to the men’s group and force him to make healthy decisions? I don’t know, but that’s not what happens in one of my favorite parables in the Bible, the Prodigal Son.

In Luke 15, when the Prodigal Son says to his father, “Give me my share of the estate,” that’s exactly what he does. He divides up the property and gives his youngest son the money he wants. Now, do you think the father had any doubt what he was going to do with those funds?

After essentially telling his father he wants him dead, is the Prodigal Son going off into the world to start a homeless shelter? Is there any question that the money is going to be used for gross purposes like prostitutes and wild living?

Then why didn’t the father, or God if you will, withhold the money? Why did he help fund the downfall? Couldn’t he have said no, which would have meant the son didn’t have any money for prostitutes and would maybe have avoided ending up in the pigpen? Maybe, but that’s not what happens. The father puts money into the son’s hands, and with that money, his crash is put on hyper speed.

Is it possible, the father gave him the money because he wanted him to return faster? He didn’t want him out in the world struggling to sin over a 30-year period, dying by inches? I don’t know. Maybe it was just an expression of God’s gift of free will. The son had the freedom to spend that money in anyway he wanted to. And that he choose prostitutes was his doing, not something that God made financially possible.

I don’t know. It’s difficult to root for someone’s downfall, to cheer the arrival of cocaine. But in my own life, I am thankful for the things that combined in a perfect storm during the summer of 2005. The parade of hurts and mistakes that eventually became too overwhelming for me to run from anymore. They might not have come in the form of cocaine, but come they did. And I was broken.

Now, I can honestly look back on those things with thankfulness. I mourn the ways I hurt my wife, my family, my friends and myself. But, I would rather survive that storm with the Lord, then wake up at 60, with a wasted lifetime of not knowing myself, not knowing my wife and not knowing my God. Slow death is an option for all of us. For me. For my friend. For you.

I pray you’ll meet your cocaine long before that happens. I pray that like how my wife’s faith bloomed in childhood without a crash moment, your walk will be free of pigpens. I pray you’ll never have a demise, be it fast or slow. I’ll just pray and trust that God is the great storyteller and knows what each of our stories really needs.

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