I remember one of the most difficult weeks of my life. It happened in October 2001 (a time that was difficult for many, many people). There was one week in particular: a long-time member of the church where I was preaching passed away on Sunday; I was able to be in the room with him and his family as he took his last breath. My daughter was born on Thursday. She was moved to the NICU on Friday. I preached the man’s funeral on Saturday.
There is so much about that week that I simply cannot forget. So many images, so many actions are seared into my memory. I remember the sound of my friend’s last breath. I remember the wail that came from his wife. I remember the indescribable feeling of love for my daughter as she entered the world. I remember the fear when I came back to the hospital (after picking up our first born child) only to learn she had been moved to a different hospital that had the NICU. I remember my parents showing up less than hours after I called to tell them (they lived a little bit more than 8 hours away). I remember the tubes, wires, and beeping machines. I remember the room in the NICU that had 8 beds with children whose parents never visited. I remember being surprised by a gift from the family after preaching the funeral. I remember my dad telling me that he was preaching for me that Sunday. I remember the Xrays and other tests. I remember that even though we had no biological family in the city we lived, our daughter had six grandparents and 12 aunts and uncles listed on her approved visitors sheet.
My wife and I could barely function. We went back and forth from the hospital to home. We loved on our son at home and our daughter at the hospital. Somehow, we ate and survived. Somehow, we made it until we were all able to get home as a family.
As I reflect and remember, I realize I should not use the word “somehow.” I know exactly how we made it through.
My wife and I made it because we were able to rely on something that we knew was greater than the two of us.
There have been many times in my life when, upon retrospection, I realize I only made it through because of someone or something else. Times of transition: moves, marriage, children, job changes. In the midst of all of it, I felt overwhelmed and questioned if I was doing the right thing. I often wondered how much longer the difficult season would last.
But as I got further and further away from each of those episodes of life, I realized that I made it because I was able to rely on something stronger than me. As I have grown older, I am able to recognize the need for that reliance and I can lean into it quicker. I don’t always have to wait until time has passed to realize how much other people are helping.
Yet for some reason, I used to struggle with the idea of needing help to overcome my addiction. For me, that was alcohol, but how many of us can come to realize that we need help from someone or something outside of ourselves for everything except that one thing: alcohol, drugs, food, social media fighting, money, pornography, gossip. How many of us are addicted to some behavior that we think we must struggle with in silence and isolation because no one could possibly help or understand.
Although it may take time, I think many of us are able to appreciate and even learn to lean into help through some of life’s normal occurrences as well as the unexpected difficulties. But for some reason, we want to resist when it comes to acknowledging and giving up our addictions.
I know how to rely on other people. I have done it often. When I resist relying on others or on God in the face of my addictions, it’s not because I don’t know how. It’s because I don’t want to.
May I have the strength today to acknowledge I don’t always have the strength I need. But the strength I need is definitely available.