“… a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me; “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may live within me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Recently I have begun to counsel an old friend who I have not seen in more than fifteen years. An ex-marine and disabled police officer, he came to me a victim of drug addiction. At first I was taken aback. This man, I thought, had the world in his pockets last I knew. Though we had grown apart, as the winds of life blow us- I had heard stories of how his world had spun out of control. I failed to believe that a man with his character, credentials and training, would fall victim to drug use. I silently thought of him often, but knew not where the winds had blown him.
Contrary to the opinion of some, the internet brought us together again. Truly, God does work his wonder his mysteries to perform and moves his Spirit through cyberspace. When we spoke for the first time, I heard the tragic story of how the abuse prescription pain medications led to his disability from police work. That the cycle of abuse grew and spread to the use of more serious illegal and illicit drugs; costing him his wife and children as they abandoned him. Surrendering himself to a dependency so strong, that disability pension checks began to go to drug pushers and not his landlord. Now evicted, he lives in his car with his dog.
Through direct deductions from his pension disability, he continues to provide for the financial support of his children. Evidence exists that this former Marine and police officer fights his demons, attending when he can meetings of Narcotics Anonymous. He musters pride and a broken smile in this assertion, but it fades quickly when he confesses that his battles are not always won. He sadly admits to sometimes attending meetings, just for the free coffee and muffin they provide. I am humbled that he turns to me for encouragement.
We are all addicts to one vice or another. I am the world’s greatest procrastinator and find myself doing simple things when I know more challenging and difficult tasks remain to be done. I confess to having more credit cards then my income allows. A family member struggles daily with the curse of familial alcoholism.
In his book God I have Issues, Fr. Mark Thibodeaux SJ reminds us that “In God’s eyes, addictions are avenues for salvation. They provide the impetus to finally surrender our lives to God.” What a prophetic statement. For in our addiction we become a slave to the addiction, and our failings keep us shackled to it. Only through the strength and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, can we hope to break those bonds and raise ourselves out of our despair. As we are reminded in Scripture, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure”. [2 Corinthians 4:17]
Life is considered by many as a “school for our souls”. We must learn, through the grace and mercy of God, that we can overcome and endure those trials and pitfalls before us. That by the grace of God, our weakness is transformed into strength. That these afflictions, no matter how overwhelming they seem at the time, are but temporary bumps in the road of our life’s journey. We must surrender ourselves to the power and mercy of Christ, and not to our addictions.
Christ came to save us, but what if we came to save Christ? We all know the inspirational poem Footprints in the Sand, where when out life is reviewed we see one set of footprints at the most difficult time when Jesus carried us through. But what if it was our responsibility to carry Jesus?
I imagine rescuing Christ from the cross. Lowering his broken and bloodied body into my arms. “I will help you, my Lord. I will get you far from here and tend to your wounds”, I whisper to him. As I carry Christ with me; I pass the drug dealers, the liquor store, the casino and all those other things that beckon for my momentary attention- a momentary pleasure. I slow. I stop. I consider. Then, the weight of my Lord- the weight of my cross- is upon me. “Move on” Christ whispers now to me, “you are stronger. You can carry me and I will carry you. Together we will make the journey.”
Most most beloved Jesus, I pray this promise to you. Do not leave me. Do not abandon me. For sometimes I am weak and I stumble. Be beside me and I cannot falter. Carry me and I shall carry you. Together we can overcome and together we can complete the journey.
Most merciful God, you ministered to all who came to you: Look now with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their way and their faith. Restore unto them the assurance of your unfailing mercy and love. Remove their tears and their fears, and grant them a renewed and refreshed spirit. And make me an instrument of you help, mercy and charity. In Christ’s name, Amen.