“Jesus was teaching us by example that often the best way to help the oppressed, the sick and the poor is to touch them with our compassion. Jesus had compassion on people; we should have compassion too.”
I didn’t get any sleep that night. Not because of my chronic health issues. But because of a belligerent relative. It was midnight, and like Cinderella, my idea of a perfect evening came crashing down. I’d finally dozed off.
The bedroom shook. Before I could utter, “Earthquake!” There it went again, “CRASH!” I jumped from the bed. The noise came from the upstairs hallway bathroom.
I wondered if I felt an earthquake and the crashing sound was the towel cabinet hitting the floor. I scrambled out of bed and hurried to the bathroom.
I heard her mumbling as I flipped on the light. That’s when I saw her wedged between the toilet and vanity.
I gritted my teeth, ignoring the pain that shot through my jaws. I felt the tremors as my back started to lock from the rage. I shook with frustration while I squashed the urge to kick her.
I hated myself in that moment, because of the dark ugly thoughts.
“Grace? Compassion? I don’t want to, Lord. Not for this!”
I turned away. I didn’t want her to see the tears forming in my eyes.
She didn’t deserve mercy or grace. She needed to be locked away. In rehab. But, would it even help?
Looking at her sprawled on the floor, I wished we had the money to put her away, to put her in a sanatorium like the wealthy people did in the past.
“Let me help you up,” I said.
She rolled over and swatted my hand away, “I’m fine. I’m fine.”
But, she wasn’t. She couldn’t get up off the floor!
“Can you sit up?”
“I’m fine!” She yelled, slurring each word and pushing my outstretched hands away.
I’m ashamed to admit that I wanted to punch her in the face. “You. Are. Not. Fine.” I told her.
Finally, she managed to sit up. “Oh. Oh.” She kept repeating as she held her head.
“Did you hit your head?”
“Oh. I’m fine.” She tried to stand up, but failed and rolled over onto her side.
“Let me help you!”
She couldn’t stand up, so she started to scoot across the floor. She made it to the doorway and sat there for a while, holding her head and moaning.
Eventually, she rolled into the hallway and tried to hold onto the wall for support. Her hand slid down to the floor. She lay there for a few minutes before lifting her arms over her head. “I need help,” she admitted.
I bent down and stretched out my hands. I ignored the searing pain in my back and arms as she latched onto my hand splints and pulled herself up.
“Let me get you in bed.”
As soon as she was on her feet, she yelled, “I’m fine!” She giggled and shuffled to her room and slammed the door shut.
“I can’t do this!” I muttered.
I went back to my room and sat up in the bed. Fuming.
I didn’t volunteer for this assignment.
I wrestled with the idea of calling my husband, but he was on the road and wouldn’t be able to come home and help. Like it or not, this was all on me.
I can’t remember how long it took for me to calm down and get ready to try to go back to sleep, but before I could get under the covers, I heard her running back to the bathroom.
I went to check on her. She stood in the dark, trying to locate the light switch so she could find the toilet. And once again, she refused my help. I waited outside the door until she was finished and back in her room.
She was up and down several more times before I reached my limit and called it quits. I was done. No more. I closed my bedroom door, turned off the light, and pulled the covers over my head.
I heard her shuffling down the hall to the bathroom.
I refused to move.
I heard her stumble and fall.
I remained where I was.
She began coughing and gagging. I heard her flush the toilet.
I stayed where I was.
She got up three more times, but I didn’t move.
I had no idea what I would have to face at sunrise:
Her passed out on the floor again?
Her leaning over the toilet, vomiting?
I tried to pray because I didn’t want the cold, hard lock on my heart and mind to take over and become the norm.
“God help me!”
I couldn’t get beyond that desperate plea. I was ashamed of the hate and rage I felt. I knew those feelings were wrong.
Normally, she was fine to be around, one of the most loving and generous members of our family. It was not a secret that she drank. My husband and several family members had already confronted her and expressed their concerns about her drinking problem, but she refused to get help.
This was the first time that her drunkenness affected me. I was alone with her to deal with it. I never imagined I would have to face this monster one on one.
To be honest, I didn’t think it was fair, and I hated feeling like God was challenging me to honor my decision to exhibit grace throughout this year.
Would I be willing to dig deep and find it within myself to walk in love – not accepting the drunken stupor, but looking beyond it to the person who suffered from the sickening addiction? The person who needed love, compassion, and help from the Lord, just like I did?
I was ashamed of the foulness of my initial reaction.
The more I thought about it and prayed for God to fix my heart, I began to understand that I needed the Lord’s touch just as much as she did.
Her weakness was openly displayed.
Mine were just as awful and obnoxious, but they were hidden. People could not perceive those ugly thoughts, but God knew my heart and knew I needed healing.
I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I was aware that I was not without sin, so how could I want to be her judge and jury? I had no right to condemn her – only to speak the truth in love, and to pray for her, and to trust God to do the transforming work in her life.
Where was my compassion? My humility? My gentleness?
“Father, forgive me and give me the compassion I need to get through this.”
I understood that God’s grace and mercy covered me every day. Now, He was asking me to show grace to her, to be tender and loving, in spite of the difficulty of the situation.
The next morning, I scrubbed and cleaned the mess she’d made. I checked on her, and realized that God had radically changed my outlook and attitude and provided me with the strength to help her.
I never want to go through an experience like that again!
Our family realizes that she desperately needs help, so we have started making plans for an intervention. It won’t be easy, and I’m sure feelings will be hurt. Yet, I notice how this ordeal pulls the family closer as we learn how to confront the problem and to support our loved when she makes the decision to be sober.
Commitment. Encouragement. Prayer. Compassion. Trust. Humility. Some of the things I’ve noticed flowing more frequently and naturally as we come together. It’s God’s grace in action and on display.
It seems like God used this horrible ordeal to show me how easy it is to become self-righteous, to forget that He created each one of us in His image and that He loves us all.
I’m not sure I want to know what my next lesson on “G-R-A-C-E” will be, but I’m praying for the strength and courage to face it head-on. I’ll look back on this episode and remember how God got me through it and trust Him to get me through the next one, too.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your steadfast love, for the mercy You extend to us when we fall short. Forgive us when we judge others, when we get puffed up with self-righteousness and pride, when we forget that Your grace saves us. No matter how difficult the person or circumstance we find ourselves in, give us the wisdom we need to do Your will and reflect Your glory.
Scriptures for reflection:
(Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 12:7; Luke 10:30-37; John 8:1-11; Romans 14:10; Romans 15:1-13; Ephesians 4; Hebrews 4:16)