The Right Question

The recent death of a beloved actor has again raised a firestorm of debate about responsibility, accountability and addiction.  This morning’s edition of The Courier and Press yielded yet another op ed piece discussing the issue, and there’s many essays on the web for consideration.  I’ve read most of them (and good majority of the comments that follow) and I hesitate to enter the fray when there are many others, on both sides of the question, who know so much more than I do about the grip, torture and science of addiction.  I can’t help but feel, however, that we’re not asking the right question. 

One thing is clear; if we begin the debate with the addict, we’re too late on so many levels.  We’re too late for the addict, we’re too late for the addict’s family, and we’re too late to prevent this horror from happening to one more person.  Why do we spend so many minutes and words placing blame and pointing fingers?  Simple.  It’s because it feels constructive and makes us believe that we’re actually doing something to solve the problem.  “The addict is selfish.”  “The addict is sick.”  And so it continues.

Without a doubt, discussion and research need to continue, but to truly eradicate this scourge, to stop this self-destructive march toward tragedy, we must ask a different question.  And I don’t see many in the mainstream media or inter web attempting to do that.

Pain, insecurity, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness and despair.  All of these words have appeared in the multitude of recent articles and commentaries.   These words are mentioned but glossed over.  Spoken but ignored.  And then, the finger pointing resumes.

So let’s stop right there.  Read those words one more time.

Pain, insecurity, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness and despair.

It’s the human condition, folks.  And until we’re ready to admit that, we’re gonna keep on looking for ways to fill up the gaping hole in our soul with stuff, distraction and temporary relief.

We all know this but we go along, on our merry way until an untimely and tragic celebrity death like this pricks us in an uncomfortable place.  Why?

Because we have believed the big, fat lie. 

People who have made it, who are successes in their chosen work, who have achieved the highest awards and received the biggest pay checks, who are beautiful and connected and brilliant aren’t supposed to die alone on a bathroom floor.

They have the best access.

They have the unlimited resources.

They have the most friends and fans and followers.

When I saw the photos from the funeral last Friday, I was struck with a lightening bolt by the contrast between those pictures and the ones we see each week from the latest Hollywood, awards extravaganza.  You know, the red carpet ones.  This parade of images was much different.  Downcast faces.  Eyes covered. No designer dresses.  No hours spent in hair and makeup.  All the trappings peeled away.  No where to hide.

We must strip it all down.  Just like the mourners filing into the church.

So let’s consider this question.  Before that first pill, or bottle or needle, before the reach for that destructive relationship, before that next plate of food or purge, before turning on that computer or video, before betting on that game, when we’re alone and the pain is searing and there seemingly is no hope, what have we got?  What have we REALLY got?

My heart and my soul have been wrestling with this for days.  Every time I click on a link, every time I read another article, I hope that someone will say it.  Because someone needs to say it loudly and unashamedly to a broken world filled with souls hoping for relief.

This is it.

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW.

It’s not what I’ve read, or been told, or just blindly believe. It’s what I live.

My life is intentional.  Yours is, too.

My life has a purpose.  Yours does, too.

I am perfectly loved.  You are, too.

I am worthy.  So are you.

I mess up but I am forgiven.

I am eternally redeemed despite my past.

I have joy despite my circumstances.

I have a peace that doesn’t make sense.

I have ALL THIS because of the One who said,

“I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full”.

John 10:10

To the full.  Fullness to overflowing.  Spilling onto the floor fullness. Think about that.  (It’s not called The Good News for nothing.)

Be warned, though, it’s not the popular thing or the mainstream thing and if you dare speak it, you may get into deep, deep, um… stuff.  That’s probably why this conversation doesn’t have a voice on many newsfeeds.

Please understand, my life is still messy and complicated and challenging even as a follower of Christ.  I’m not promised anything differently.  But that longing, that emptiness, that hopelessness and that despair can be filled and will overflow to depths unimagined before.  In addition, all the insatiable panics and pains of daily living that could send me out looking for “something more” are replaced with miracles and marvels that make life on this earth truly delightful.  And, it’s relentless.  It pursues me and blesses me and surprises me anew each and every day.

I hope you know this too.  If you don’t and you’d like to hear my story, I’d love to share a cup of coffee with you.

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