Easter Letter 2014-1

Easter Letter 2014-1

Dear Friends and Family,

Last summer, Jeremy hit rock bottom.   He is an alcoholic, and he was in the middle of a particularly bad drinking binge.  Jeremy has a routine when he binge drinks.  He drinks until he passes out on the couch, sleeps for a whole day, and then wakes up and walks across the street to beg in front of the liquor store.  After a few months of this routine, he called me up and said he was ready to go into a detox program.  I have taken him to detox many times before.  Sometimes he is able to quit for a few months, sometimes only for a few days.  Nevertheless, I always honor his requests for help when he’s ready to sober up.

After sitting in a government office for a few hours, we were told that he had run out of his allotted public money for a detox program.  He is uninsured, and there was nothing else they could do for him.  So I tried to sweet talk the social worker into finding an alternative solution.  After making a few phone calls, she was able to get him into a sobriety program in West Virginia.  Perfect!  This was exactly what Jeremy needed: to be away from his drug-abusing family and troubled neighborhood.  All I had to do was get him to the bus the next morning, and he could begin his new life.  After helping him for three years, this was the solution that I desperately wanted for him.

As we left the social service office, I tried to impress on him what a blessing this was.  But he was still so drunk that the news didn’t sink in.  All he said was, “Okay, sounds good.”  When I arrived at his apartment the next morning, he yelled at me to go away.  I tried to reason with him from the other side of the door, and he eventually let me in.  He had been drinking all night.  After some more discussion, he said with a note of finality, “I can’t go, Ryan.  I’m just going to lay here on the couch and die.”

As I left the apartment, I felt sad that Jeremy refused my help.  Then it occurred to me that Jeremy is free to die on the couch if he wants to, and there is nothing more I can do about it.  This idea brought me a strange peace.

Free will is fundamentally good, but it comes with the capacity for evil.  The Lord says in Deuteronomy, “I have set before you the way of life and the way of death… Choose life, then, that you may live” (30:19).  When someone chooses evil, it makes free will seem like a bad idea altogether.  Instead of asking why a person would do such a bad thing, it is tempting to ask why God would allow such a bad thing.  In the past I have wished that I could just force Jeremy to do what is good for him.  At times I have even tried to!  But Jeremy’s jarring declaration made me realize that I could not make this choice for him.

I prayed for Jeremy a great deal, but I didn’t see him for the next 6 months.  I tried to place my trust in God as his Savior and let go of the idea that he would get better if he only followed my instructions.  Then suddenly, he called to tell me he was sober again!  He had reconnected with an old girlfriend who helped him stop drinking.  They are dating now and want to get married.  She is a good influence on him, and their relationship is a good incentive for him to keep from drinking.  I see God’s hand in this, and it has enabled me to continue my friendship with Jeremy.

The other day, I picked Jeremy up for Mass and an AA meeting.  It was a humbling experience to pray next to him in church.  He sighed a lot and said under his breath numerous times, “Oh God, forgive me,” and “Have mercy, Lord.”  His demeanor reminded me of Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk18: 9-14).  The Pharisee compliments himself in his prayer, but the tax collector simply acknowledges his sins and asks for God’s mercy.  His begging touches God’s heart, and Jesus says this type of prayer makes the angels rejoice.  His prayers moved my heart too and filled me with hope.

One of the mysteries of the Crucifixion is that Jesus bore our sins.  Jesus also bears with our sins.  He allows us to make our mistakes with the hope that we will turn back to Him, but He never forces us to change.  When God allows us to persist in our sins, it looks like He has given up on us or doesn’t care.  Actually, He is being patient!  This patience gives us time to realize what we have done and repent.

Fixing all of our problems and turning us into respectable members of society is not priority number one for Jesus.  Rather, I think it is “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

Thank you for your generosity that has enabled us to befriend Jeremy and see God at work in his life.  We keep all of our donors in our daily prayers.

God bless you and happy Easter!

Ryan Hehman