As I walked into Target this afternoon, a woman ahead of me caught my attention. She was dressed for tennis and looked like a good player (she was actually built kind of like me—tall, strong and athletic ;-) Since I play tennis often, I thought I might know her, but at a distance I couldn’t tell.
Luckily, she had paused inside the store and I was able to get a good look at her. Nope, I had never seen her before. Oh, well. I treated myself to a Starbucks and went about my shopping.
As I shopped for hair care products, I heard someone talking on their phone in the aisle next to me. Because the caller was speaking rather loudly and emphatically the conversation caught my attention. But, this wasn’t one of those rude cell phone users who blabs on and on because they think their life is too important to deal with in private.
This was a woman in anguish.
She told whoever she was talking to that she lived in a constant state of fear, not knowing when she’d get a call to confirm the worst. It became apparent that the person she was talking to was the cause of this fear.
It was her 18-year old daughter (as I later found out), in the midst of an addiction, living somewhere far away and making very bad choices. The woman was patiently, but desperately, trying to communicate with her daughter and get her to recognize the devastating consequences of her behavior. And to show her she loved her. My heart broke for this mother and I silently said a prayer for both of them.
Because it felt like I was trespassing on something so private I tried to quickly finish and move on. As I passed the aisle where the caller stood, I was surprised to see the tennis woman I had spotted earlier. The last thing I heard her say as I walked away was, “No. I’m not mad at you.”
The pain in that woman’s voice is still with me. Any of us could be in her place. Drug and alcohol addiction is such a powerful, evil force. And it’s all around us. Brothers, sisters, spouses, parents, sons, daughters. Addiction does not discriminate by age, gender or economic background. It welcomes all.
For so many of you, this woman’s world is your reality. You are consumed with fear as you helplessly watch your loved one struggle with addiction. You try to help them find a way out, but the fierce grip of addiction pulls them back again and again.
I pray for each of you. I pray for the addicts in your lives. I pray for this woman and her daughter. I pray that in the midst of this darkness, God’s love will shine bringing hope and peace and healing.
I pray for those struggling with recovery.
And I pray that God’s protection surrounds our children, whether they are still young and innocent or at an age where drugs and alcohol are common choices.
As it turns out, I stood right behind this woman in the check-out line. It seemed too coincidental and I felt compelled to speak to her. To break the ice, I chatted about tennis (which she does play). But there was more I needed to say. After confessing that I had heard her on the phone, I told her that I would pray for her. It didn’t seem like much, but it was the best I could offer. I wanted her to know there is hope and love in the midst of it all.
Because, really that is the best we have to offer—hope. Hope in the One who is stronger than any evil, even addiction—Jesus. How do we know? Because Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)Thank you, Jesus. Amen.