I think it was about 8 years ago when a friend of mine sent me a text and said she had something on her heart to share with me. That always makes me curious. If you want to make sure I show up for lunch, tell me you have a message for me from God.
This friend was a woman in my Sunday School class (that makes me feel old using that term). Think “community group.” Our class actually met on Sunday mornings right after the sermon. Or maybe it was right before. I taught the class and loved the women in it. LOVED them. I was able to be real. Teach truth. Use stories from my own life to share how Scripture speaks. And we got to pray and laugh and cry together. It was a short season of life but when I look at it from a few years away, it was a really good season.
So we decided to meet the next week on her lunch hour, which was good for both of us because we are both total introverts and she’s a busy lady with a tight schedule. We wouldn’t have time to linger too long.
I remember pulling up to park, picking out my salad, and grabbing my plastic fork. With every move I felt the Lord saying “You need to hear what she has to say.” I get nervous just writing this. Good nervous. Because what she had to say changed the course of my life. As I’m remembering it in my mind, I can feel the power of it.
We sat down at a two seater table and pretended like it was big enough for us to eat comfortably. I think we both appreciated being in the back of the room up against the wall where no one could hear us. It was worth the restriction of the tiny table.
My friend started to give me a little glimpse into her life. She’s a fellow boy mom, and she identified with the season of life I was in. She’s just a few years ahead of me. Thanks to Facebook, I can watch her life unfold and have a good idea of what’s coming for me in our next chapter. I love that.
But I didn’t know much about her past. She didn’t have a particularly juicy past. Just an ordinary one. She admitted that she struggled with a dependency on alcohol, mainly wine, to help her relax at the end of the day. The hard days and the mundane days. And then celebrate with wine on the good days.
Neither of us would ever have been labeled “alcohol dependent” - but not because we weren’t. Only because it’s culturally acceptable now to depend on alcohol to do the job of relaxing us.
As she spoke to me about her own story, I knew where this was going. The Holy Spirit had been prepping me for this. When the words “I need a glass of wine” would come out of my mouth…I felt a nudge. Every time. A whisper that said “I have a better way….”
I had just gotten really good at ignoring it. Especially because I was at a methodist church now, and no one would judge me for drinking. I am still really thankful for that freedom, because it forced me to choose for myself what I would do. Not just live by the standards of the people around me.
I chose to drink. Almost daily. I chose to laugh about it. I chose to share memes about it. “If your children are home and you’re drinking, you’re not drinking alone…right!?!?” Remember that one? Funny….not funny. Not at all really.
I knew I had an unhealthy dependence on alcohol.
You know what my friend did that day? She let me in on her life and said “Shea, don’t go there. Don’t do it. You have too much to lose. And there’s a better way. You know the way, Shea. Choose it.”
She held me accountable to my own words that I was teaching in that Sunday School class. I delight in leading women to the better Way.
A few weeks ago Kyle, our 11 year old, said from the backseat of the car “Mom, are you a hypocrite?” I answered very quickly “Yes!” and he said “Good answer!” HA! I said “Why do you ask? What did I do most recently?” He said “Nothing, I just think everyone is a hypocrite.” I love that kid.
Can I tell you how much respect I have for that friend? To this day, I think very critically about every glass of wine. I don’t just let myself depend on it anymore. I know a short walk is a better way to wind down. So is a chat with a friend. So is reading a chapter in a really good book.
So is confessing to God that I am absolutely dependent on Him for the grace to get through an evening when I’m so worn out. That’s the better way.
I know I could call that friend TODAY and say “I’m doing it again.” She would meet me for a salad and plastic fork and tiny table again and cheer me on to choose the better way.
Part of getting off my meds this year meant a promise to myself to NOT choose wine or any other alcohol as an easier way to fight depression. I don’t keep it in our house. God is faithful. He loves to lead us to the better Way too. I think He raised the volume on that still small voice any time I was tempted to have one glass and reminded me that His way is better. I’m living proof of that.
Last week I went to a friend’s birthday party. She loves wine. I had a glass, and enjoyed every sip. I left thanking God for the freedom to enjoy it. And the freedom to not be dependent on it. And for my friend who met me for salads. My faithful, powerful friend.