See that post title up at the top…”Spotting the angels among us”…see it? When I started this blog 17 months ago that was supposed to be my first post. I intended JuicyMaters.com to be about all the things I write about…good food, yurts, homesteading, politics, the thoughts of a dumb redneck boiled peanut salesman (that would be me)…but most importantly I wanted to write about the little things…the God things…that make our lives wonderful. The story below, “spotting the angels among us”, was supposed to start that.
For some reason I couldn’t write it. I’ve started it at least a dozen times…and I’ve stopped a dozen more. Why? I don’t have any idea. I’ve told it to people in person at least twice that many times in the same time…but the words wouldn’t come right when I sat at my keyboard.
The time has come. It’s the Christmas season, a season of Christ, of miracles, and, yes, of angels. This story proves that angels exist…and that you will find them in the oddest of places…and that they may not look like you imagined an angel would look.
Spotting the angels among us
For the longest time in my life I never noticed that there were angels among us. Oh sure…I believed in God, Jesus, and yes, angels…but I just didn’t pay much attention. I didn’t have to. After all, we all know the Bible is God’s word, and we know we can have faith in what it says, so that’s what I did.
John 3:16 (New International Version, ©2010)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I believed in Him, so I had the whole religion thing covered, right? John 3:16 said so!
Then I saw an angel’s work, and understood that it was about belief, but not JUST about belief…it was about actually doing something…all because I had the opportunity to watch an angel at work. I found that belief is powerful, but that belief combined with action is miraculous.
I have a close friend who is an alcoholic. He destroyed a marriage and relationships with his two sons with alcohol, and even that wasn’t enough…he eventually almost destroyed his very life with the bottle.
This guy was 49 the time, and had been a hard drinker his entire life…not alcoholically the whole time, but heavy to the point of abuse since his late teens.
My friend had an upper middle class upbringing. He was the son of a career Air Force officer and his parents had built a good business after his father’s retirement. He wanted for nothing. Private schools, his choice of colleges without having to consider finances, the whole shooting match, and, despite his heavy drinking he did well…for a while.
He started and built several businesses, never letting his drinking interfere with his work. The drinking was saved for after hours, after he got home. He lived the life of what is called “a functional alcoholic”.
Oh sure, aspects of his life weren’t perfect, and were negatively impacted by his alcohol abuse, but he always found an excuse (as all alcoholics tend to do) for the pitfalls he found in his way.
Slowly, without even realizing it, he traveled a path toward personal self destruction. His wife abandoned him, taking the two main joys he found in life, his sons, with her. Living alone now, he found that the best way to fill his spare time, the time he used to spend with his family, was by drinking a little more than he used to. At least it was “a little more” to start with, but as time went by a little more became a lot more. Drinking was no longer reserved for after five. First it started at noon, before long he was drinking before breakfast.
After losing his house, his business, and his money, he decided his problem, his ENTIRE problem, was where he lived. After all, he hated the big city, and decided to move back to a small town like where he grew up. Heck, he went one better, moving way out in the country, becoming a hermit for all practical purpose.
You know what? It didn’t work. After all, everywhere you go, there you are, and his problem was himself. He just didn’t know it yet.
His downward spiral was easy to see, but hard for his friends to watch. You would’ve thought he would’ve noticed it himself, if by no other method than by watching, not how much he drank, but what he drank.
You see, his drink of choice was gin and tonic, and his favorite gin was Bombay Sapphire, a pretty expensive gin. As the amount he drank increased, he found himself lowering his standards, not buying the Bombay Sapphire any more, instead settling for cheaper and cheaper, then even cheaper brands of gin…down through the Boodles and Tanqueray, past the Beefeater and Smirnoff, not even stopping at the Seagrams, eventually finding Nirvana…and a cheap oblivion..at old Mr. Boston at $13.50 for ½ gallon.
That became his entire life, that half gallon of gin. Every… Single… Day.
He figured out a routine that worked for him, or so he thought. His favorite liquor store opened at 9:00 AM Monday through Friday, so every day at 8:55 AM (In case they opened early, don’t you know.) He was sitting in front of the store waiting for it to open. 5 minutes later he was out the front door, his daily half gallon of gin and two packs of cigarettes in a bag (except Saturday. Then it was two half gallons of gin and four packs of cigarettes. You can’t buy liquor by the bottle on Sunday in Georgia, and after all, he did have to cover Sundays).
His next stop was at the grocery store. He told himself it was to buy food…A man has to eat, doesn’t he?… But he rarely did. Every day he went straight to the soft drink aisle. Far right end, bottom shelf. That’s where they kept the six packs of tonic water, and they were fifty cents a six pack cheaper than at the liquor store.
Out the front door (rarely with groceries), into his pickup truck, and a 5 mile, out into the country, drive to his house later, he was all set for the day. Plenty of booze, plenty of cigarettes, and 200 channels to choose from on the television. He was all set for the day. Every. Single. Day.
You didn’t notice much mention of food in that routine, did you? He did eat. Occasionally. You didn’t notice any mention of keeping house or washing clothes in that routine either, did you? There wasn’t much mention of bathing, or shaving, or tooth brushing either. They happened…maybe once a week, maybe every two weeks, but they did happen.
So let’s recap where my friend found himself a few years ago. From an upper middle class upbringing he found himself, at age 49, spending all day, every day, sitting in front of the television, drunk, smoking cigarettes, consuming ½ gal of cheap gin daily. He had gotten just about as low as one can get. There were only three more places for him to go. He could become homeless, and go live under a bridge. He could wind up killing somebody while driving drunk, and go to jail for the rest of his life. Or, at the age of 49, he could wind up on a cold slab in the morgue. Most folks would have figured those were his options…his only options.
I know I damn sure thought that was all he had left.
But then an angel showed up.
Remember? The name of this post is “Spotting the angels among us”. You didn’t forget that, did you? You knew I had to get to the angels eventually.
As it turns out, he had a fourth option, an option presented to him by an angel.
Remember that part of his daily routine that had him going in the grocery store on the pretense of buying food when he was really trying to save a few cents on tonic water? Well, on day he was in the soft drink aisle, on his knees getting his two six packs (On his knees because if he had tried to get them off the bottom shelf by simply bending over, he’d have fallen headfirst into the shelf. He hadn’t yet sobered up from the day before.)
The day wasn’t any different from any other day of picking up tonic water. He was drunk…as usual. H hadn’t eaten in days…as usual. And he hadn’t bathed in a week or two, again as usual. In fact, he stank, and everyone knew it except him.
The tonic water was at one end of the aisle, and as he was getting the six packs off the shelf a young mother doing her grocery shopping came around the corner pushing her shopping cart with her 4-5 year old son in tow.
They passed behind my friend and continued down the aisle. They were about halfway down the aisle, and my friend was standing up when he heard the little boy say something to his mother. The boy’s words stopped my friend cold.
“Mama, that man STINKS!”
My friend looked down, and for the first time saw what everyone else had been seeing all along…a filthy, stinking, malnourished shadow of a human being, someone who friends from even 5 years before wouldn’t even know. He had enough left in him to know that life is a series of choices, and that he was where and what he was by his own choices…and he guessed his options were the three mentioned above that everyone else had decided were his fate.
The he looked at the little boy again, and thought of the faith he had been raised with…a faith long neglected, and he realized that, with God’s help, there was a fourth option…the option of cleaning up his life…and, at least up ‘till now… that is what has happened.
Sometimes God’s angels haven’t even started kindergarten yet. That little angel in the grocery store…and God…saved my life. They can do that, you know? God…and unexpected angels…can save your life.
Look around. If you want to, spotting the angels among us really isn’t that hard…if you look.
Merry Christmas, folks. My 2010 has been wonderful with God’s help and companionship, and I expect the same for 2011. I wish…pray…for the same and more for you and your loved ones.