The past few weeks my memories were drawn to some people who were important parts of my recovery. Two of them, Maurice and Pastor B. sort of invaded my thoughts. At first glance, these two have very little in common. Their personalities seem in opposition with each other. Their backgrounds and positions in life are at opposite ends of the scale. And yet, there are some commonalities that bind then together. That turned out to be a positive for me except in one part of our lives together.
Pastor B served as the administrator of a Christian agency that ran a nursing home and also provided social services and counseling for Christians – well actually for anyone who came to that agency. When a couple from the area approached him with an idea for a Christian 12-Step recovery group, Pastor B threw himself into making sure this could happen. Understand, this was in the late 1970’s and connected with a fairly conservative Lutheran church. That was not an easy undertaking.
I started to attend these groups. That’s where I met Maurice. He presented as someone who is unassuming. Neither his words or his actions brought drew much attention to himself. When he discussed any of the 12-steps as they worked in his life, Maurice used his words and time to express gratitude. I remember after my first meeting Maurice came up to me (I felt I spoke so eloquently) and said, “Sounds good John. But if for some reason, things do not work out, I am here to talk.” I went home and drank the next day and …
Not too long after I ended up sitting in front of Pastor B with my wife. She appeared to have an issue with my drinking. He had offered to do some counseling with the two of us. And again, I wowed him with the impeccable knowledge of how to address drinking issues in the life of an alcoholic. After all, I was the one who spent 30 days inpatient treatment and I had learned a lot. Pastor B glanced at me over the top of his glasses, sort of smiled at me and replied, “John, you know all the right things. So, stop talking and start doing. And one more thing. This is not working out for you, call Maurice.”
I did call him and attended meetings on a regular basis. He was not really my formal sponsor. Maurice never let me use that word. He always said recovery was between me and God. He was only there to watch and listen and point out the trees I was possibly running towards. Not once do I remember him criticizing me or saying “If it was me.” Years later I asked him why he never gave me examples from his own life and recovery. Maurice looked at me with that rolling eyes look and simply said, “You are not me and you would never want to be. You need to find what works for you and just live.”
So I just did what worked for me which was letting God guide me. I tried to stay away from trees when Maurice pointed them out to me. And it worked. My drinking stopped, I lived life and things got better. So much better that after a good amount of time Pastor B talked to me about working for his agency helping other alcoholics and their families. To be honest, I really had no idea how to go about this. But now I could admit this and Pastor B was always there drawing ideas out and again pointing me to obstacles that I needed to plan for in advance.
Meanwhile, Maurice was going through some tough times and eventually started to drink again. The roles sort of changed now as he came to me for the same support that he had offered. The temptation was to step into his life and try to fix things for him in a way that made sense to me. However, after being schooled by both Maurice and Pastor B, and a lot of time spent in prayer, I watched as God guided Maurice back to sobriety.
I wondered why Maurice and Pastor B were willing to spend time offering help to me. Was I such a hot mess that they took pity on me? Did they see that I had something to offer to others? Well, and this is hard to admit, once I got the focus off me I realized that both of them were responding to the love of their Savior. And when I think back to that time, I know they both shared it many times.
To them, all of their lives needed to be a thank you to the sacrifice that Jesus made for them in dying for their sins. They both explained that his sacrifice was not because God saw something special in either of them and so he decided to die for them. Rather Jesus’ death on the cross came only from his love for them, in fact for everyone. How could they not say “thank you” to him by sharing that love with others. Boy, God put some special tag team in my life just when I needed it the most.
In the beginning of this post I said there were ways that Pastor B and Maurice were alike, as in their faith. I also stated that their being alike turned out to be not such a positive thing. At different times they were both diagnosed with cancer. Eventually, this is the means through which God ushered them into heaven to spend eternity with him.
And now I get to the reason for writing this blog. I took too long to really thank either Pastor B or Maurice for all they did for me. I never took the time to tell them how much their giving of themselves meant to me. How much I loved both of them. And now I cannot share that or tell them thank you.
The world tells me to make sure I settle things with others whether it is to say goodbye, thank you or I forgive you. If I do not, it will come back on me in some way. Not forgiving someone gives the other person some control over how I feel. If I do not say goodbye to someone I will experience loneliness or sadness. Eventually I will feel guilty because of what I did not do and guilt is not good for anyone, especially for someone in recovery.
But if I only do these actions to get something out of it for myself, how sincere are my feelings? I am the focus. What Pastor B and Maurice gave to me is less important than how I feel. To me, that is selfish.
Rather, my thankfulness to them comes from what my Savior did for both them and me. They responded to his love for them through all the time they spent with me. Their bottom line was always reflecting Jesus’ love for them in all parts of their lives. I know that same undeserved love. Can I do anything but use that love to compel me to live not only a sober life, but one of thanksgiving to those around me.
I cannot say thank you to either Pastor B or Maurice here on earth. Some day when I get to heaven… But I need, no, I will make sure I say thank you to all those still my life. Between Thanksgiving and the Christmas season I will be in contact with many who I do not normally see. The opportunities are many for me to take the time to thank them for how God has used them in my recovery and life. I will do that, and now that you know that I guess I am now accountable.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving! I do not know your plans, but I certainly know mine. OK I will also probably eat a little turkey and watch football too. But mostly I want to say thank you.
Until next time – I will wait you.
Here is link to A Hallelujah Christmas, another of my new Christmas favorites. The melody is not new. The song to some may seem to just go on, but the I am stuck on the message. Hope you enjoy.