As we walked into the sanctuary we were surrounded by a sea of black. Quiet murmurs about the accident filling the crowded entrance hall. Over sized pictures had been printed and placed on easel’s so that everyone could remember her smiling face. She was a beautiful girl, eighteen when she died. One of the pictures was of her and my dad, muddy from a day of working on houses in Mexico. She had a catching smile, the kind that made you realize how little you smile. I didn’t know her all that well but my family did. She was in my moms bible study, went on the mission trips with my dad, and was friends with my brother.
The pictures only showed half of her life though, the other part was ridden with addiction. Addiction is weird in a sense that it is not picky. There is no criteria for addiction, no set of rules to follow, just a need. A perpetual need to do something despite your desire not to. She was a sweet girl and I have no doubt that she loved the Lord but at some point she decided it wasn’t enough. At some point the addiction overcame her and she wound up in a deadly accident.
As we sat in the funeral my sister in law weeped. I sat stone cold, a sobering reminder that I could end up just the same. I could end up in that coffin, letting my addictions over rule me. She wasn’t much older than me, living the same type of life that I was living just a little more severe. Her boyfriend had run off the road because he was on drugs and they had both died. More tears and memories of what a wonderful girl she was. I couldn’t believe I was sitting here. I held my moms hand saying a silent prayer that my mom would never have to go through this. I wanted to change, I knew my lifestyle was dangerous but I couldn’t help but think it wouldn’t happen to me. She was into serious drugs but I was just drinking, I kept telling myself that to justify the fear. My sister in law sat next to me, silently crying for her sweet friends death.
I am sad to say that this wasn’t the last funeral I went to for someone my age. I wasn’t the last time I would watch parents weep for a child. It wasn’t last time I would see drugs take another life or addiction choose a persons last days. I have been to far too many funerals of people who lived the same lifestyle I did but had to pay the price for it. I don’t know why I was protected, I don’t know why God chose to protect me and chooses to take others home. I have no explanation for this except maybe he wanted me to tell you this story. Maybe he wanted to give people a shed of hope in a world where tragedy seems ready to strike at any moment.
I tell you the flip side of my story because when I was fifteen I thought nothing could touch me. I was gambling my life with each shot, each time I drank and drove, each time I smoked another joint. I was taking the chance that I might not see college. I took the chance of not meeting my husband, not watching my brothers have kids, not going to my family weddings. I gambled my life and by the grace of God he chose to let me stay for a story. This is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about telling my story, because I feel like God let me run from him so I could give you a picture of the modern prodigal.
We are all prodigal in some way, we run from what God has planned for us because we think we know something better, We think we know what we are missing out on and it is only a grasp away. I thought if I could just get in with the “popular” kids then my life would be good. I thought if I could date the guys I wanted and go to the cool parties then I would feel whole. Not only was I not fulfilled but I was unhappy, empty, and hurting. With each drink I became a little more empty inside. So my goal now is to expose the lie, to shed a little light on a very dark lifestyle. I want others to know what they aren’t missing out on.
After I could see the lie I had been buying I adopted this verse to be my new lifestyle, Acts 20:24
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. “
I realized this life wasn’t worth anything if I didn’t let others know that God is full of grace and ready to forgive. He is always ready for you to run back home.