It’s the 24th of March and as I reflect back on the years of my life, an unusually large number of important events have occurred on the 24th day of various months. For starters, Janet and I were engaged on Christmas Eve, back in 1972. We were married on August 24th of the following year, 1973. My maternal grandfather died on this date, March 24th, back in 1972 – it was one of the saddest days of my life. And there are many other numerous events that have also occurred on the 24’s…
But I am not so sure that my life has been changed as much by any event as it was by a decision I made back on March 24, 1993. For that is the day that I made the decision to stop drinking. I guess the choice was something that was an evolution rather than some lightning strike kind of event. It is no secret that my father enjoyed his drinks more frequently than my mother would have liked, and years ago, one of my brothers was told that he would need a liver transplant if he didn’t cut back. So I knew the tendency was there for me to fall prey to the problems of over-indulgence. In fact, one year during my physical, the doctor let me know that one of my liver function tests had come back elevated and that was about all I needed to see the handwriting on the wall about my own future.
I can’t sit here tonight and tell you that I didn’t enjoy my fair share of drinking – I enjoyed it – probably a little too much… But it’s not like I walked around inebriated. However, it was apparent to me that I looked forward to the evenings and my chance to kick back and relax – sometimes with a drink. The issue is that drinking never solved anything – for me or anyone else. It took me quite a while to arrive at that conclusion.
If Janet and I wanted to model a healthy behavior for our children, then we had to lead the charge in demonstrating our commitment to a healthier way of life. Back at the time, we had become much more involved in church and I was already thinking about furthering my religious education. I was particularly taken with the idea that there was a great theological debate about whether the “wine” that Jesus and the disciples consumed was aged or not – was it grape juice? or something stronger? Since Jesus could perform miracles, anything is possible and this side of heaven we will never know the truth, but somewhere along the line, I made my decision to stop.
Years later, when I was up for ordination at the completion of my first three years of seminary, one of the requirements listed was the fact that I would have to agree to not consume alcohol. In fact, Janet and I both agreed to the terms of the ordination council. After all, it had already been years since we were “drinkers.” One of the compelling reasons for me to stop was a particular Bible verse that we were required to translate in Greek class.
People drink for a variety of reasons – to escape reality, to “feel” good, to deal with the issues of life, to reduce anxiety and to be “part of the crowd.” But our verse for this evening highlights Paul’s plea for us to be “filled” or “high” with the Spirit – the Holy Spirit that is. And that idea seemed particularly good to me – I have never found anything to be more rewarding that to be in communion with God and connected to Him.
The verse for tonight is from Ephesians 5:15-20, when the apostle Paul tells us, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This verse was actually one that appeared in our Greek final for the entire year – as you can tell, it really stuck with me. My encouragement this evening is to turn to the Lord for your joy and happiness. Nothing compares to having a right relationship with Him, unencumbered by drugs, alcohol or other distractions from reality. My prayer is that you will rejoice in the Lord always. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…