‘Alcohol gave me wings but then it took away the sky’

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By Glen Doss, Major – 

“I know that God loves me but…but…”

The young man had been conversing casually, easily with the chaplain, but now his demeanor took a decidedly different turn. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his face downcast.

The chaplain asked him again: “Al, you said you have known for a long time that God loves you. But are you loveable? Loveable, in the eyes of God?”

Tears mounted in the young man’s eyes. “No,” he finally said. “Cause I sure don’t feel lovable. I have hurt so many people….in the streets…in the gang life. People who didn’t even deserve it, just so my friends would like me. But God loves me anyway, doesn’t he? But how can he? Considering all the bad things I’ve done.”

Al had a tough upbringing. Repeatedly abused as a child, he blamed himself for it. His self-esteem was shot through and through. Consequently he did not believe in himself and had turned to alcohol and drugs to escape the emotional consequences. When intoxicated he felt on top of the world. The fabricated sense of self-confidence was so euphoric he quickly fell in love with it and eventually became dependent. In the normal progression of addiction, life degenerates. As Al’s life began to fall apart, eventually his self-esteem hit an all-time low. He told the chaplain, “As they say in AA, ‘Alcohol gave me wings, but then it took away the sky.’ I realized I was trapped in my addiction.” Today he was seeking a new life, one free of drugs, alcohol and the criminal lifestyle.

I told the young man, “As you follow the directions given to you, your self-esteem will grow and the attraction of the intoxication high will fall away. You know the Lord, Al. Christians have a decided advantage here, for they know that God loves them. The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, tells us so:  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. To ‘believe in’ Jesus is to trust in him, cling to him, rely on him. That is the meaning of it. As you rely on Jesus rather than yourself, you tap into the greatest power source in the universe.

“Today, Al, God’s love is raining down on you. Close the invisible, love-proof umbrella you’ve been holding above your head for so long and accept his love; let it drench you through and through. Allow yourself to sense just how much God loves you.” At this the young man eagerly nodded, smiling.

“Do you realize how much God loves you?” I asked. “You must be loveable, of more worth to him than you can ever imagine. Consequently you can count on the man who died for you to be there with you, supporting you as he teaches you in the midst of each new challenge. And you must learn to love yourself.”

Al was shocked. “Love myself?” He exclaimed. “But how can I love myself? After all the bad things I’ve done! The people I’ve hurt! Why…why, I hate myself! I’ve hated myself my whole life!”

I opened my Bible and suggested he read Matthew 22:36-40. When Al looked up from the text, I asked him, “Now, what did Jesus say are God’s greatest commandments?”

He replied, “To love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself.”

I pointed out, “Notice Jesus didn’t say that we should hate our neighbor as ourselves or even dislike our neighbor as ourselves, but love our neighbor as ourselves. You see, Jesus wants you to love yourself, just as he loves you.

“God loves us all, not just the ones who do good, but everyone. As we realize this and then come to love ourselves, a most wonderful change occurs within our hearts: we love God back. In 1John 4:19 we are reminded: We love because he first loved us.

“Just as God wraps his arms around our necks and holds us close, so we wrap our arms about his neck and hold him close. As we do so, the bond of love between God and us grows stronger and stronger, the scales fall from our eyes and we see the truth that has been there all along, but until we obeyed remained hidden from us: the God of love is revealed in a most profound and life-transforming way.”

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