Sunday, February 21, 2016

Wine, Whine, and the Sober Life

This week I responded to a group message where I was challenged to come up with a life application for whine and wine.
I did, because if I will climb a stupid telephone pole 10,000 feet in the air for a challenge, there is clearly not much that I won't do if dared.
Unbeknownst to me however, was that in doing it, I was going to stumble on a thought that would almost immediately change the course of my day.
Here's what I said:
" 'Whine', when indulged in too much, will distort your perspective and stain anything it spills onto."
Cute, right?
But, after I wrote it, I couldn't stop thinking about it, which looking back is probably not the ideal order of events, but....
but, I couldn't stop wondering if the analogy held true.
And, because I am whining a lot lately,
I felt like knowing, how far does this analogy go?
So, I started to overthink it and break it apart, because that is what I do.
And, I considered wine.  It comes from tended grapes that are grown until they are ready to be pressed into a sweet inspiring drink.
A drink that is good for your stomach when taken in small doses.
A drink that makes for good conversation and brings out an atmosphere of openness.
And I wondered, could 'whining' actually be the same?
It grows slowly in our hearts, out of fear or disappointment.  And we tend to those places.
Eventually, those things are "ready" in our hearts and, as we are pressed down upon, they break open to bear the drink.
A complex drink with many notes and many layers.
And, the whining, - the "this is hard", "this is sad", "I feel exhausted" -  brings about an atmosphere of openness and good conversation.
It is healing for our souls.

And, just like with wine,
that is only true in small doses.
But, for many of us, it becomes our drink of choice.
And then we are in trouble.
Consider wine - meant as a gift - if indulged in too much.
It distorts, it makes one sick and it stains relationships.
And, isn't whining the same thing?
Meant as a gift.
An opportunity.
When indulged in, bears a high cost.
It distorts our perspective, making everything around us seem wrong.
We start to need it too.
It becomes hard for us to wander through even the good things in life without it.
We start to believe our safety is found in its ability to prepare us for the bad thing that is around the corner.
We start to feel like it is the only way we can handle conversations with the people that we love.
But that is our alcoholic talking.
That doesn't make sense.
Everyone around us can see, it is not keeping us safe - it is keeping us prisoner - keeping us lonely.
It is not creating an atmosphere of openness - of good conversation.
It is shutting us down.  Protecting the broken pieces that were trying to tell us they were ready for healing.
And, like an alcoholic, once we have reached that addictive point, the cure is to stop using it altogether.
But consider that.
We break out in a cold sweat even contemplating life without it.
We need it.
Just one more, "Yeah but"  Just one little "I can't do this" "They should have noticed" "They never will"  "I'll never be" "It's all their fault"
And the alternative that I will have to replace my drink with, brings me to my knees.
And I suppose that is the right starting point for it.
Because from there, I can bring it to Him.
Expose my fear and my hurt,
and beg Him to take it from me.
Ask Him to be the strength that I walk through "it" with - whatever "it" is - knowing that underneath whatever "it" is this time is all of the fear and the insecurity that made the "whine" taste so sweet and feel so necessary.
And, here is the incomprehensible beauty of the whole thing.
I can go to Him.
He wants me to.
And instead of whining, I can weep.
I can struggle.
I can break.
And because I am an addict to my "whining" - I have to go to Him, before I go to the other. I don't get to "have just one" - it will take me over. It will win.
So, I have to go to Him often.
And I can.
He wants me to.
And, He says I can go with confidence.
That He knows.
He came.
He walked.
He struggled.
Consider His tears when His friend died.
Consider His sweat when He begged God to take it away.  He also struggled to submit to God. It brought Him to His knees.
But He showed me how to not turn away from the struggle.
He demonstrated a different way.
Back to the Father, back to the throne, and ask again.
"Father, I don't want to do this - take this from me"
And He found resolve to obey; to do His Father's will.
they were sleeping
and the loneliness and the weight was again too much.
And He showed me what to do -
"Father, please."
He didn't live this earth - it's pain, and it's disappointment, and it's distraction - to hold over my head a perfect way, and beat me down with His sinlessness.
He lived it to woo me.
To pave a path to His throne.
Because He knows choosing the Father's way is hard.
Engaging in what is happening around us can be overwhelming.
And, the whining, the giving up, the distortion of reality -
They don't pause life.
They prolong pain.
They rob of us the ability to truly live.
They steal us away from our calling, away from wholeness,
away from relationships and away from healing.

I was reminded in a sermon by Andy Stanley this week, why we are told to approach the throne of our King with boldness:
"Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrew 4:16
Because the mercy and grace we need for right now is at His feet and He will give it.
Every time.
We don't need to grasp it from those around us.
He offers it freely.
And why can He?
Because our high priest sympathizes with our weakness.  He was tempted in every way - without sin.
And sin is to deny God by trying to be Him or by worshiping something that is not Him.
And Jesus had every opportunity.
But He didn't.
He bowed.
He begged.
He sweat blood.
And, He received mercy and grace in His time of need.
He was strengthened to submit.
And able to walk the road He was called to walk.

I wanted to whine so badly today.
I could taste the sweet temptation.
But to give in would not have given me the mercy I needed for my struggle.
And so, I showed Him my weakness.
I engaged.
And, I didn't have to limp to Jesus and explain what a failure I was. I didn't have to brace for His disappointment.
I was given a different way.
I bowed in front of this King who knew.
Who cared.
Who walked it ahead of me -
and died to give it to me.
And the mercy I needed didn't remove the cup from me.
The grace I received didn't change my circumstance.
But the drink of His mercy filled me with hope.
With courage.
With peace.
With His drink I could see - without distortion - the truth of this life.
His will.
His way.
The courage to hope. To want. To cry - all found at His feet.
The good and the hard - all kept in His hands.
His open hands.
And when I turned away from Him and the loneliness and the weight threatened the freedom I had found in His will - I followed His example and I turned back. And I cried out again.
And, I will keep going back.
Because there is no alternative that is as rich and full as His mercy and grace.

This God friend.
If we live a thousand years,
we will still not fully comprehend His love.
If you are like I am,
Weaker than you feel you should be.
And you are drowning your sorrows in anything that will numb - know that your heart is trying to tell you something.
Your hurt is ready.
It wants to be dealt with.
And numbing the pain of it by indulging is not His will.
And friend, whatever the hurt, you are safe to go to Him,
He is calling you.
He wants you.
And, when you are ready to put down your whine of choice - He is ready too.
Ready with the mercy and the grace that you need.
That you crave.
That will satisfy your thirst in the most powerful and freeing way.
Keep fighting friends.
Your sober life is calling.

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