“He Didn’t Put Me Here To Go Through Life Alone”
The room is about three-quarters of the way full – mostly men. It’s cold outside so everyone is slow to remove their layers as they find a seat among the rows of chairs in the Shelter’s Chapel. There are a few Christmas decorations lining the old stained-glass windows and a large Christmas tree in the right-front corner. A nervous group of men sit along the front row, anticipating the start of the Graduation program. The rest of the room is filled a combination of men currently enrolled in Bethesda’s programs, former program graduations, staff members, board members, volunteers and few scattered family members.
After a few minutes, Barry, one of the counselors, gets up to begin the ceremony. He opens with a joke or two, but the pride in his voice as he introduces the first graduate is both sincere and joyful. Barry explains his connection to these men, emotionally sharing his own experiences a former homeless addict and Bethesda Mission program graduation.
Over the next 20-30 minutes, the six graduates get up, one-by-one, to share a piece of their stories, praise God and people around the Mission for their recovery, and share a big hug with their counselor. I wished they’d felt comfortable talking longer.
There was a common theme that was repeated throughout the testimonies. Each man shared of a former belief that they didn’t need anyone beside themselves, a series of events that led to being desperate enough to walk up these steps and through these doors, and the humbling realization that they needed both the empathy and correction from the counselors, along with the support of their new brothers in the program and the grace and truth of the Heavenly Father.
“The reason I’d been so unsuccessful is ‘cause I’d been going at life alone… I had a life-style of isolation…I didn’t think I needed anybody and I was safer by myself. What I’ve learned is that life is a team sport, and that I need other men…I need to pursue these relationships and have fellowship. It’s not easy but it’s necessary,” one graduate shared. “I feel like I’m headed in the right direction now because I’m not headed into it alone – I have a church; I have a sponsor; I have peers… Like the Bible says, ‘as iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another’… He didn’t put me here to go through life alone.”
Chuck Wingate closed out the program with some words of both caution and encouragement: “Despite the celebration and the genuine joy we all feel here tonight – we are all really proud – but you guys are going to through a day or a period of time when you feel flat… it’s inevitable. So, what preparation will you make to get through that?” Chuck went on to suggest, “Think about your power source and make sure that what drives your life cannot be turned off by anybody.”
The guys were told that they are always welcome at Bethesda to visit and were encouraged to keep in touch and utilize us as a resource for those flat days. I am praying that they will do that. It is always encouraging to hear success stories, but they are often tainted in mind by the knowledge that not everyone enjoys the success of full recovery and accepts Christ as Lord. Will you join me in praying for our men – the ones currently in the program, the ones who have already graduated, and the ones who are yet to come? Pray for their hearts to be softened, their families to be accepting, and their power source to be the Lord Almighty.