Sunday, July 20, 2014

Where God Meets the Addict

Where God Meets Heroin Addicts

I usually post satirical posts on Friday, but this one couldn’t wait.
I’m on a road trip with my parents and my sweet girlfriend yesterday. We were returning from a week in Destin, Florida. The ocean was wonderful, the sun was wonderful, the food was plentiful. It was a blast. My sister and her family were driving separately, but they were there when the crazy stuff below went down.
I am always the one who has to go to the bathroom. This time, though, I waited like 12 miles before I said a word. I would rather suffer than inconvenience a whole car of people who just want to get home and into their own beds. Finally I say something, and finally we stop at a gas station.
Everyone piled out, and everyone went inside to the bathroom. On my way out, I passed a guy who was singing to himself. He was a Latino guy in his mid-twenties. He was with a long, curly-haired white girl of about the same age who was having a discussion with the cashier about the soda selection. She had on a slightly risque outfit, and I remember noting that she looked oddly confident, or content, or some elated feeling I couldn’t put my finger on.
We all came back outside and decide that, to save us stopping for a big dinner, we should just eat a sandwich at the car. So we opened the trunks, and were standing around in this gas station parking lot making sandwiches. I sat on the curb next to my nephew and we ate our Doritos. My dad snapped a picture.
Suddenly, I look up and see a guy laying on the ground about 20 yards away. It is the same guy who was singing to himself no more than 4 or 5 minutes earlier. His back is on the ground, and his arms are spread out. He is obviously unconscious, but his left hand clung tightly to a 32 oz soda that rested oddly on the ground. His girlfriend was knelt down on top of him, silent but obviously sobbing. I stood up from the curb and my family turned to see what was happening. The woman was dead silent, and her head was on the man’s chest. Her shoulders were shaking up and down. Her long, curly hair covered both of their faces. A few people shuffled cautiously around her, attempting to help. None of us approached.
A black guy walking slowly away from the scene, looked at my family and said with genuine sadness, “He pissed himself, too, man. Another OD.” I looked at the woman. I couldn’t see her face. She wasn’t crying to anyone for help. She just knelt on top of this man that she loved, sobbing as he grew colder. She was strung out, I’m certain, but I’m also certain that the gravity of death was pulling her rapidly back to earth.
The elated look that I noticed earlier had disappeared. She was completely broken.
People tried to pull her off from on top of the man. I am not sure why they did this. I think from where they were standing, they could see the hopelessness of the situation much clearer. She was fighting away from them. I had an impulse to stop people from grabbing her so that she could lay beside the man. I stood twenty yards away, along with my family, frozen.
Finally, maybe seven or eight minutes later, the firetruck arrived. We watched the firemen forcefully remove her from kneeling and sobbing on top of the man. She wouldn’t show her face, and she still didn’t make a noise as she fought them off. Finally, she slipped from their grasp and fell down, reaching out to her unconscious lover.
The EMTs did not seem hopeful from where we were standing. I saw them feel for a pulse, then slowly move towards their bags. They seemed to be glancing at each other and going through the motions, while two of them tried to hold the woman back so they could work.
We left. We are pretty sure the singing man at the gas station in Alabama didn’t make it.
I’ve had two high school friends overdose. I wasn’t close to either of them when they overdosed, but I had been close to them. I don’t know what made them do it.
I know that life is incredibly difficult, and that drugs and addiction make a false promise that they will take us out of our suffering. They don’t. They bring us deeper into it. Drugs won’t help anyone escape life.
But I think the sobbing woman knows that now. At least I’m certain she will hear it in the next few days, as news trickles back to her family about what happened to the boy they met last Christmas. The one they thought was clean and would help their daughter kick her awful habit. The one hope they had after their daughter’s multiple failed rehab attempts. I’m, of course, speculating.
I don’t want to sermonize this. I don’t understand it well enough to begin to make a fine theological point. But I must say that part of me was dying for Jesus to come right to her in that moment and say what he said to the woman caught in her adultery: Your sins are forgiven you, go and sin no more.
I wish someone would have held her and cried with her. I hope someone does. I hope a pastor out there convinces her that she is not too far gone, will never be too far gone, to be welcomed into God’s restful arms.
Next time that you see that woman, please cry with her. I hope that I will. Jesus loves her very much.
I don’t know what else to say. I’m so saddened by life under the sun. I’m so thankful that God loves sinners like that strung out woman and like me.