Yesterday, I was walking someone to the room where our new young adults class is meeting. When I got to the threshold, I saw a familiar face; a young man in his 20s, shoulder length jet black hair, nicely dressed, with a deep, wounded look in his eyes. His name is Matthew and he is the son of one of the rehab facility ladies. His mom discharged in January, but is now back for another go at rehab (possibly her 5th or 6th).
His mom is an example of the reality that my friend Kimberly was explaining to me recently. Kimberly is also a graduate of the rehab facility. We reconnected about 5 months ago when she asked the church for some financial assistance while living in a small treatment home. I learned more of her story through the course of several conversations. Like Matthew's mother, she too had relapsed after discharge. Now, she is nearing her six month chip (she told me with remarkable honesty, "I've been working on this six month chip for a year and a half!")
I had asked Kimberly to help me understand a phenomenon of sorts that was puzzling me. How can it be, I asked her, that after interacting with so many women through our outreach ministries, literally thousands of women, our church has not seen more women "remaining" with us after discharge? I understand that they are from all over the city and that they have all kinds of transitional living situations to work their way through, but surely three or four or ten would make it back to the church over the course of 5 years? WHERE were they?
Kimberly's answer was so obvious yet it had alluded me. "Well, Tammy, a lot of them don't stay sober. Addiction's a b****."
As soon as I heard these words, I thought, of course.
This truth not only gave me a strange sense of relief, it also affirmed what I have come to understand our true mission to be: to serve as a transitional church and be that "wrung" on the ladder for each woman, should she choose to climb toward God. I know we can't "save" them from their issues. I know we are powerless over their addictions. I know it is not our job to keep them in recovery. Our job is to be a cool cup of water for a time; to bring hope and love and acceptance to them in a season of their life when they can find little evidence of it.
And that brings me to Deborah.
I ran into Deborah at an event Friday afternoon that I was volunteering at. I recognized her immediately and for a change, it was me who called out, "Do you remember me???" She smiled brightly then presented her two year old to me. "Ms. Tammy, remember LuLu?" she said. "She was just a baby when I was 'there' and now look how big she is! Another month and I'll be off probation!"
That baby, little LuLu, was a walking testament to her mother's sobriety. Two years. Astounding. And it seemed that Deborah had her life in reasonably good order. She was making it. She was ... progressing.
It was as if the room filled with oxygen. I breathed it in deeply and felt incredibly thankful.
Matthew, Kimberly, Deborah, and thousands of other names that I can't produce from my memory banks. God is with each of them. And God has allowed me to see that.
Even more astounding.