Last night at 8:30 I was called to pick one of my friends up at the emergency room. He had walked north on Aurora, way north, entered a local drug store and swiped a half gallon of Jack Daniels and started drinking straight away until he passed out on the sidewalk. A passer-bye called 911 and he got a ride in the ambulance that he won’t remember as they brought him back to this world in the emergency room.
When he came to and became a bit coherent the nurse gave him a phone to call for a ride; my number was lodged in his brain. He wasn’t sure if I would answer the call and even if I did, would I drive to the hospital and get him?
I kissed Kristine goodbye and drove north. On the way I picked up my buddy, Brent, who is the youth pastor at Oakwood Baptist in Texas and was visiting the city with a group of high-schoolers. He and I walked in the emergency room where my friend waited to be released.
I knew what I was about to do and it was going to be hard. I would take him from the emergency room back to his home…the park, just off Aurora Ave and 97th. He has been living in the park most of the winter and before that wondering the city for about four years.
As we drove south last night he told me he had stolen the liquor. The $40 that it would have cost to purchase the bottle was not something my friend had on him or would any time soon. I felt God’s direction. So I turned into the parking lot of the drugstore and told my friend that we were going to walk into the store, and I was going to pay for his crime. This kind of surprised me but that is what God wanted me to do.
My friend got very scared, agitated, verbally abusive and almost violent. His sin was surfacing and he could see it, taste it, touch it. He threaten to jump from my moving truck, right in the middle of a busy Aurora Avenue. Great fear confronted him as he was confronted with his sin and the payment for that sin.
Then the reason for this decision came out. I explained to him that God knew that we, too, couldn’t pay for the sin in our lives, we don’t possess the ability or the desire to pay it back. But, God knew this and so he paid the price through Jesus; the ultimate sacrifice to pay the ultimate price.
Oh how I needed to be reminded of this. My friend lived in fear, but he could be living in the freedom that comes through Jesus.
The night didn’t get much better for him, I bought him a pack of cigs and dropped him off at the park. He thanked me, was apologetic, embarrassed, ashamed. I prayed he would not drink more tonight, but would find himself too tired and would sleep. As we drove away, he was curled over dry heaving, sucking on a cigarette and I know wanting another drink, of which, if he indulged that soon he would be dead in the morning.
There are so many levels of struggle in this story…
What happens next?
What does his future look like? As long as he is on the streets, no job, no options, no home, he will return to the emergency room again and again.
His bad choices took him from an RN job to the streets in less than five years. Can it be reclaimed?
How do I continue to sleep in my warm house, soft pillow and bed and behind locked doors, knowing he, and many others, are living where he is?
What can we do? What has been done for him hasn’t worked. What’s next?
How does God continue to restore us even when we continue to run after the entertainment of our Self.
Can I continue to do this long term? Can my soul take this?
The truth is, the more I walk with people like my friend last night, the more I realize my own depravity and see the amazing amount of Grace my Savior has had on me, an undeserved Grace, paying a penalty that I could never pay. Jesus even paid for my return to my own vomit.