I hadn’t thought about this until President Obama’s Inaugural Address last Tuesday. He said to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again”. I remember when I had to do that myself. This is how I did it.
I was lying in my own vomit, drunk on a sidewalk, outside a bar, in 1994 or ’95. The year isn’t important but what happened is. I don’t know how I got home that night but the next day I remember sayin’ to myself: “Man, I gotta do something”. I admitted there was a God, or a being, an entity, something, greater than me – there had to be!
And I knew there were people out there who were a lot smarter than me but I couldn’t go up to them and say “Look, I’m a real screw-up and you’re not. What do I do?”. I was sure they’d lock me up if I did. So, I chose God, the Bible and a quiet private place.
As a kid I’d been given a King James Version of the Bible and remembered Jesus’ words were printed in red ink. After a little digging I found that Bible and figured I’d read only the red words. Different people had lied to me so many times over the years that if I was going to believe anything I’d read those words first and decide for myself if I believed them or not.
I started flippin’ through the pages and eventually ended up in the Book of John. The 38th verse Jesus asks “. . . what seek ye?”. When I read that it was like He was in my head saying: “What do YOU want?”. Like I had any right to ask Him for anything? I got real scared and closed the Bible. A few days or weeks later I picked it up again.
Flipping through more red pages, I was reading bits and pieces here and there when I stumbled across the part where it says I could ask for anything by praying. But how do I pray? I know what I’d been taught as a kid but I sure didn’t believe that anymore. After looking around a little more I found the Lord’s Prayer – sixth chapter of Matthew. It says “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. Deliver us from evil? That’s when I figured out evil was a place and I was in it. So I said if these words are true – “You can deliver me anytime now”. I wasn’t being rude. I was saying: “Look, I really need some help here”.
Then I realized I got to evil by going through temptation so temptation must be a place too. Next, I thought that would make a good name for a bar: “Temptations”. Then I felt bad for thinking that. It was the first time I felt bad just for thinking about something. I used to think you only felt bad after you did something bad. But I don’t think that way anymore. So I started saying the Lord’s Prayer because of the words “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.
As the days went by I kept saying the Lord’s Prayer and things changed slowly but they did change. I met new people, had more overtime, and started smoking more. Funny, when that first weekend came and went I felt like someone had been watching to see if I’d go into that bar or not. I was literally scared, to go to the same bar I’d been to for a couple years – weird, I know, but I couldn’t explain it at the time.
I kept reading the red pages and ran across another story in the book of John. Jesus was talking to a very smart Jewish man – Nicodemus. Jesus said the wind blows wherever it wants to and you can’t tell where it’s coming from or where it’s going. And that’s how it is for people who are “born of the spirit”. Since I was scared to go into the bar that I’d never been afraid to go into before, I figured out two things: 1) it was “the spirit” making me afraid so I wouldn’t “go in there”, and 2) that’s what “lead us not into temptation” means.
Since then I’ve come to rely heavily on the red pages and to me they’re sacred scriptures. I think other people have books that are sacred to them. And just like I can’t do everything my scriptures tell me to do, I’m sure other people can’t do everything their scriptures tell them to do. But it doesn’t mean we’re not both trying. So like the song by The Who with the line that goes “who the ___ are you?” I realize who am I to tell other people what to do? And by the same token, who are they to tell me what to do? That way it’s even. Like in the Lord’s Prayer “. . . forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” We both try, we both fail, and hopefully we’ll both get another tomorrow and a chance to try again.
The latest big thing I’ve found is in the 25th chapter of Matthew. Jesus says whatever I do or don’t do I’m doing it to Him. So if I do wrong I’m also doing wrong to Him. He goes on to say that I will “go away into everlasting punishment”. I don’t want to go away into everlasting punishment. So I try to think more about people around me. I also don’t worry about getting even or getting revenge on someone whose done wrong to me because by doing it to me they’ve also done it to Jesus. And there will come a time that they’ll be going away into everlasting punishment. So I don’t have to deal with them and I don’t. That makes me feel really good. It makes me feel free.
In President Obama’s Inaugural Address he said for those of us who are fortunate to have things, we should use those things to help people less fortunate than we are to get through this economic mess before there’s nothing we can do about it. I’ll do it because that’s what Jesus said to do and that’s what He did. The fact Barack Obama said the same thing Jesus said – well that’s just icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned.
Just like I used to have a problem with drinking – I think some people have a problem with money. If I was one of those people I would admit that to myself. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it because it’s no one else’s business. I would agree there’s something or someone more powerful than me out there. And the last thing, I would just read the words of Jesus when I felt like it because a) it doesn’t take very long to do, and b) those words work. He did it about 2,000 years ago and me, a drunk from the sidewalks, did what He said about 15 years ago and it even worked for me. 2,000 years ago you throw a rock up in the air and it would come back down. You throw a rock up in the air today and it’ll still come down. Because it’s like that song by Bruce Hornsby – that’s just the way it is.