Well, it’s the 24th of the month again. I can’t even begin to tell you all the things that have happened to me, and Janet, on the the 24’s. It’s amazing. For starters, We were engaged on Dec. 24, 1972. Yes, of course I know it was Christmas Eve, but it was one of the most special days in our lives. And then we were married on Aug. 24, 1973. This summer, we will celebrate 40 years of marriage – again on a 24th.
One of the saddest events in my young life happened when my maternal grandfather died – not only on the 24th, but on March 24th – back in 1972, right before I starting dating Janet. But tonight is about another anniversary on the 24th – yes, March 24th. Because it was 20 years ago today that I consumed my last drink. It’s been quite a journey.
You see, there were several others close to me that struggled with alcohol abuse. I am quite sure that my Dad fought the battle and so did several other members of the family. Of course, like so many others, I didn’t think that I really had a problem. But then during a physical, one of my liver function tests came back a little elevated and the doctor let me know that this was usually the result of increased alcohol consumption. I denied it, but I have to say that I did kind of order my life around when the next drink was available.
I don’t mean that I walked around out of control, or drank during the day – that wasn’t the case. Usually, I only drank in the evenings, and not nearly every day at that. But I decided that I needed to study up on drinking and soon found that many people who became a slave to alcohol did so because they ordered their lives around looking forward to their next drink. That was the way I was. I didn’t drink to excess, but I was consumed with thoughts of when the next opportunity would present itself.
I know that sounds weird, but that’s the way it was. I really didn’t buy all the hype about this until the day that I saw an interview with Dick Van Dyke. I had always loved his brand of comedy. I grew up watching the “Dick Van Dyke Show”, featuring him as Rob Petrie, a comedy writer on the Alan Brady Show. His wife Laura was played by Mary Tyler Moore, another one of my favorite people. In fact, I had a crush on her when I was growing up.
Aside from the TV show, Mr. Van Dyke also played the part of Bert the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins and also other notable parts in musicals of the day. Suffice it to say that I really admired his talent. So during the interview that I saw, he admitted that he had a problem with drinking. The interviewer went on to ask if Van Dyke drank during the day and on the sets of all those movies and shows that he had been in. Oddly, he said “no.” But he did go on to say that he always looked forward to knowing when his next drink was available and that he felt like a slave to drinking. It was during that interview that I identified with what he was saying.
Enough was enough. I didn’t want to screw up my life and go the path that so many others had travelled. So I quit. On March 24, 1993 – 20 years ago this evening. I never attended a “meeting” or never fell back into my old habits. I think I was so scared that I got scared “sober.”
By the way, that’a an interesting word – sober. People think that it means “not drunk.” But it doesn’t – it means “the absence of alcohol.” And there’s quite a difference in those two definitions. When I went on to seminary and was finally about ready to be ordained, I was told that my ordination would have several requirements. Among them was the fact that I had to pledge that I wouldn’t drink. I thought about that and decided that it wasn’t good for me to drink anyway – I could live without alcohol. So I agreed. Interestingly, Janet decided that she wouldn’t drink anymore, either.
Janet never drank much anyway, but it was a show of unity with me. So we both took the pledge to live the remainder of our lives without drinking. Today, we’ve taken things a little further down the path. We don’t serve alcohol in our home and don’t endorse the use of alcohol by our children. While we respect the rights of others, we have made a life choice for us.
One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that many of our friends changed when I quit drinking. For some reason, it seems that people can be a little uncomfortable around a couple that has made a choice to remain sober. One thing that Janet and I agree on is that drinking from the cup of eternal life is something we both embrace wholeheartedly. Christ identified himself as eternal refreshment. And Janet and I both drink from that cup. The verse for this evening is from Rev. 21:6, “He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
My encouragement this evening is that you will drink from the spring of eternal life. And my prayer is that you will assist others to take that kind of drink as well. Cheers! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…