I received a gift this afternoon, right before it was time to leave the office for the day. It was just after 5 pm, and my phone rang and a voice on the other end told me that “my son is doing so well now.”
All of a sudden, I felt like I was floating above storm clouds after months and months of darkness and now, surprisingly, bright sunlight on a clear cool day.
Good news was something I seemed to have lost, and to find it again, with no advance warning, was unexpected and deeply welcomed.
At first, I didn’t process that sentence. It didn’t make any sense. No way. There was just no way he could be talking about his son — maybe someone else. I have seen this play out way too many times to believe in the words that came through phone into my ear.
I had not asked him about his son in months because I was afraid to. He is a good friend and we have known each other for close to 30 years. At first, we would talk about his son’s progress — the successes and the stumbles — and about this ominous monster that threatened to eat him alive. But after months and months, I began to hold back, worrying that my questions and my concern for his son were making the hurt and the pain worse for him. The amount of bad news always seemed to outweigh the good.
His son is an addict — as bad as any I have known. We have followed his sad story now for well more than a year. It is a story that I know all too well — rehab, recovery, release, relapse — rehab, recovery, release, relapse — again and again.
My friend’s children, my friend’s parents, my childhood friends, my old friends, my new friends, children of doctors, children of schoolteachers, rich ones, poor ones, young ones, old ones. No pattern there. The drug has no favorite; it is an equal opportunity trap with no conscience, no compassion.
It’s not that I ever give up on people, but if there is one life issue that comes close in my mind to hopeless, it would be addiction. I hate it.
But to hear that his son now may have turned a corner, may have beaten his addiction, just felt like a gift to me because I knew how much of a miracle it must have felt like to my friend and his wife. And that may have been why I was so moved. After months and months of struggling with the growing impact of this pandemic — the chaos and the feeling of increasing hopelessness — I was able to rejoice for another’s success.
Instead of obsessing about my own happiness and my own welfare for just a moment, I bathed in the glory of another’s redemption instead, and my heart swelled. Momentarily, this odious thing we are all going through, disappeared and the weight lifted.
My wife, Christina, forwarded an email to me last night that Richard Rohr had sent out. If you don’t know Richard, you may want to. Search for him on Amazon. He is a wise, cool head in any storm, and his faith, and his explanation of the role of faith in our lives, is compelling and healing to most.
Richard said that in today’s time of chaos, that “somehow, our occupation and vocation as believers in this sad time must be to first restore the Divine Center by holding it and fully occupying it ourselves.... What other power do we have now?... All else is tearing us apart.”
Richard said, “I recommend for your spiritual practice for the next four months that you impose a moratorium on exactly how much news you are subject to — hopefully not more than an hour a day of television, social media internet news, and/or political discussions. It will only tear you apart and pull you into the dualistic world of opinion and counter opinion, not Divine Truth, which is always found in a bigger place.”
Instead, he said, “I suggest that you use this time for some form of public service, volunteerism, mystical reading from the masters, prayer — or preferably, all of the above. You have much to gain now and nothing to lose. Nothing at all. And the world - with you as the stable center - has nothing to lose. And everything to gain.”
The gift I received from my friend’s child’s recovery took me only halfway to where I need to take myself. I had nothing to do with his recovery or his redemption. The remaining half requires that I take action to help, to focus, to engage in the well-being of others around me and not drown in my own inward focus. I can do this. If I can, so can you.