When Rosie parked she noticed her husband’s car parked in the driveway. She was nervous and uncertain if she should go in. But with all of the talk about overcoming fear, she felt she had no choice. Her thoughts raced as she wondered which version of her husband she would see tonight.
When Roger got back to the mission the door was locked. “Man, I’m only twenty minutes late!” He thought about cussing and demanding to be let in when the door opened just a crack. “Come on in Roger. We know what you are going through. Call me next time when you are going to be late. I was worried because you usually are early,” a jovial country boy said way too loud. “I thought maybe somebody beat you up and left you down by the river the way they did Jonny last month.” Roger came in, loosened his tie and smiled an appreciative smile as he wandered into the Gospel Rescue Mission.
Sarah again returned to her nearly empty apartment and kicked off her shoes. Looking in the fridge she found some leftovers that did not seem too old. She couldn’t remember when she had cooked up the original, but it smelled alright. As the microwave did its job she began her list of fears.
Before the microwave had even beeped she had developed a pretty amazing list. The bowl burned her hand as she pulled it out of the microwave and she quickly set it down and fumbled through the drawers for a potholder.
The next morning Sarah and Angie again met for coffee. After a short review of last night’s class, Sarah shared her list of fears with Angie.
“Wow, how do you get out of bed with all of these fears?”
Angie kept reading and smiling as she came across some that seemed unusual. “You are afraid of zippers?”
“I once didn’t get a job after an awesome interview. When I left I realized that the zipper on my slacks was undone the whole time. I convinced myself that is why I did not get the job. Anytime I wear pants I am checking constantly.”
Angie nodded that she understood. “Where did all the rest of these fears come from?”
“I don’t know for sure. Some make sense to me. I fear white dogs because a white dog once bit me. But most of the others defy my memory. More importantly I need to start facing some of these.”
They chatted about a recent movie they both wanted to see when Sarah’s phone rang. Angie watched as Sarah started paling as she listened to whoever was on the other end. Sarah was asking questions and as she did; Angie could visibly see confidence fill Sarah’s face. “I will come by tomorrow and visit you, but I will not be bailing you out.” Sarah had to pull the phone away from her ear as the voice on the other end was yelling. Angie could hear swearing clearly. “Look, honey if you are going to talk to me that way I am going to have to hang up. You made your choices. I am here for you, but I will not be bailing you out. I do want to see you, though. Tomorrow I will try to visit.” Sarah calmly hung up the phone. Then she started to cry. Angie let her.
“Last night I accidentally burned my fingers on a bowl that I pulled out of the microwave. The burn reminded me of all those times that Michelle has burned me over the years. I did not break the bowl or hate the bowl. I simply went and found a potholder. I created a boundary between me and the bowl. Michelle does do what she does because she does not know better. You would think she would, but the drug is ruling her life. I did raise her better than that. But she is an adult now. I did the best I could to raise her right. But she is not thinking clearly. This is true I am convinced of all of those with addictions. Until you can help them think differently they will be imprisoned always. Stuff will never be the solution. Fixing the problem for them will never help. I know that fear says she will hate me for not bailing her out. But she will get over it. Ultimately, she will be able to hear that you did not rescue her because you love her. Right now she simply cannot hear that. For now she is a dish that will burn you. Put on pot holders and love on her.”
Angie seemed impressed. “You learn fast. It sounds like you already facing your fears. Now, how about facing your fear of mice?” Angie pointed toward Sarah’s feet and Sarah screamed. Angie simply laughed there was no mouse.
A young petite Rosie gingerly stepped out on the high wire. To the audience she looked terrified and definitely out of her element. But to Rosie that was just a part of the act. Every few steps she pretended like she was going to fall and was only going forward because she was afraid of losing her job. The ringmaster had just told the whole audience that even though she was hired as a clown she needed to cross the tight rope because the normal tight rope walker was sick. Over the course of several moments she had caught several balls and juggled them, had done a handstand and other remarkable acts. Finally she made it to the other end. The crowd loved it! Rosie took a bow and then went back out on the tight rope and did several more tricks before dropping down into the safety net.
Roger woke up early that morning. He had been dreaming of his daughter and for some reason he thought he knew where she was. As he sat on his bunk, he scratched his head and thought about it. She could not go back to her old house. That house was long gone. But she might go to see her mother’s grave across town. Would she remember where it was? He laughed at his absurd plan. After getting dressed he found a cup of coffee. Carefully he wrote a note telling his daughter that all was forgiven. He poured out his love for her and that he wanted to help her. He confessed that he had been a lousy dad after her mother died. With a sigh, Roger reported that he was a new man. That he was now clean and sober, now for over five years. He told her that he wanted to see her and wrote the address down to where she could find him at the Gospel Rescue Mission. After asking for an envelope he delicately placed the letter in the envelope and went to the cemetery. There he taped it to the backside of his wife’s gravestone. In large print was his daughter’s name, Joannie. He prayed quietly and turned to leave so that he could get to work.
Sarah felt better than she had in ages. All week long she had been exercising regularly and though she had not heard from Michelle she sensed that somehow this whole thing would work out. Sarah was almost skipping as she moved toward the old church where the Freedom Club meets. The weather could not be better. As she approached the door she saw Mike sitting under a tree.
“You look energized!” Mike almost laughed when he saw her.
“I am taking control of my fears. I guess that the fear has been an incredible weight around my neck for a long time. This week I decided that I am only going to be concerned with things that I can do something about.”
Mike nodded as he slowly stood up.
“Any word from Bruce?”
“He called with a story about a job that would take him out of town for a few days. But he is lying. I hate it when he lies. But what can I do about it? His pattern tells me that he will be back about this time next week. He will run out of money and he will get over the fear of disappointing me. Sadly it will be hunger for food that will bring him in first.” Mike said the whole thing like it was predictable and was actually bored with it.
Sarah wasn’t sure how to respond so she gave him a sideways hug and walked with him to the club meeting.
The two got the meeting room set up quickly and others came in and as per normal found chairs as far away from others as possible. Several of the folks here were new and looked horrified that they might see someone that they knew. Sarah did what she could to calm their fears.
Mike was wearing an almost professional looking outfit with a polo shirt and slacks as he started out the meeting.
Mike pulled out his tattered Bible and started reading,
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me
a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.”
Many sat thoughtfully for a moment. Others went and got coffee. Mike was just about to get started when Roger ran in trying not to make a scene but of course did because that is what happens when you are trying to be quiet.
“It’s great to see you Roger!” Roger blushed with his face almost matching his red tie.
“Tonight we are going to talk about balance. You see we need balance to stabilize us if we hope to grow and if we are to survive the storms that life throws at us.”
Rosie smiled as if she were living in a dream from long ago.
“When Bruce was little, we taught him how to plant seeds. We had bought a couple of different kind of seeds and explained that it would be silly to plant the carrot seed and expect to grow a tomato. Bruce was smart so he totally understood quickly. Well at least I thought that he did. A couple of weeks later he brought in some bird seed and wanted to grow a bird.”
“Anyway, I decided to go with it. What else are you going to tell a three year old?” Mike shrugged. “We planted the bird seed. I thought that I would figure out a way to make a bird come out of the pot the way a magician gets a rabbit out of a hat. But Bruce would dig up that seed every few minutes and would cry that nothing was happening. That is when I taught him about balancing sunlight and water so that it might grow. Bruce was dedicated to that little potted plant. I got busy and forgot about it. I came home one day and there was a sprout! Bruce was so excited. I was so confused!”
Everyone laughed again.
“Bruce continued to nurture and care for the plant that turned out to be a sunflower. Tonight we will talk about creating a nurturing environment so that your loved one in addiction has a chance when they are ready to blossom. Take out your Bibles and turn to Matthew 7.”
After a few moments Mike was able to look around and see that everyone had found it. He was surprised to see that Sarah had brought her own.
“We will start at verse 24.” Again he gave it a few moments before reading.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
Mike had his Bible open but did not actually read from it. This came from his memory but only a few folks seemed to notice.
“If we are going to have any chance of growing we are going to need to find stability and offer that to our loved ones when they return. If Bruce did not quit digging up that seed he would never have been able to grow that sunflower. So we must establish some predictability in our lives. Like the verse points out I believe that for our personal lives that the only sure foundation is found right here.” Mike pointed to his Bible.
“That is step 1. Find your foundation and set some boundaries. No matter how old they are you can let them know that they have a curfew and possibly drug testing at any time. They may accuse you of not trusting them. Remind them that they are right. You don’t trust them, but you love them. If they are really ready for change they can live by your rules. If not you may have to make the difficult choice to let them go live somewhere else. The key here is that you make a formal agreement right from the start. Include everything that is important to you. Include chores or any other expectations. Also include in the agreement how they can earn trust back. “
“Step 2 we learn again from Jesus. The Bible says that He set His face toward Jerusalem. He knew what awaited him there. But He knew His purpose. He would not bend. We must find our focus and move only in that direction. Create a picture of what life can be like in sobriety. Think of bigger life purposes. What benefits me most here is my front site post scriptures. These are just six short verses that I have memorized that keep me focused on God when things get scary or when I face temptations. Notice Jesus in Matthew seven told us WHEN the storms come. They are going to come. Be prepared.”
Many were taking notes and nodding.
“Finally step 3 again we can learn from Jesus. He never quit. I am sure that he felt the pain of rejection when the Apostles abandoned Him on His arrest. There was pain throughout the entire process. But He did not give up. Step three is to determine that you will not quit.”
After taking some questions, Mike encouraged everyone to go to small group. Before they could go though, Sarah asked if they could pray for Mike and Bruce and all who were still trapped. Together, they prayed and cried and pleaded for their loved ones to be safe.
In small group, Sarah shared how happy she was that Michelle was in jail. They had just had a good visit and it sounded like Michelle was willing to consider going to a long term treatment center. “In fact the judge is making her go to treatment or go back to jail for a very long time.” Sarah was rejoicing.
Roger looked uncomfortable but a look of resolution came over him. “I don’t see court ordered treatment working very often. My daughter was sent to one and she just walked out. She found that it was easier to escape treatment than the jail.”
The room was silent. “But maybe if she really is ready she will stick it out and make it. I’m sorry I didn’t want to burst your bubble.”
Sarah had tears in her eyes but thanked Roger for his honesty.
Tonight’s group was again led by Santa. Sarah thought she really needed to learn his name.
“Let me share with you a little known fact from history. Do you know who William Wilberforce was?”
Most looked at Santa blankly, a few glanced at the clock and others scratched imaginary itches.
William Wilberforce was the man who really led the efforts in the British Parliament in the late 1700s and 1800s to end slavery in the empire. He led a group of men and women for several decades with the expressed purpose of ending the slave trade, while he dealt with his own addiction issues. In the movie about his life that came out a few years ago called “Amazing Grace” he overcomes his addiction. But that was part of a happy ending version of the story. Anyway that is a different story. The story I want to talk about this evening is about his son.
The son of William Wilberforce was a determined supporter of the south during the Civil War. Now I commend William Wilberforce for his efforts to end slavery in the British Empire. It took his entire life to accomplish that feat. However, that passion and desire was not passed on to his children. In fact it is possible that William’s passion for his dream and his goal actually turned his son against the people that William so wanted to set free. I imagine his son wanting to spend time with dad was rebuffed and put off because William was out working to free slaves. Ultimately this son saw the slaves as stealing daddy from him.”
Rosie raised her hand. “Can I tell everyone something?”
Santa gave her the floor. “When I was fourteen I literally ran away to the circus.