Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sober Mercies - How Love Caught Up with A Christian Drunk

I grew up in a world that was so anti-alcohol, anyone who had a six pack of beer in their fridge was terrifying. I would fully expect such a person to guzzle all six in one sittng and then promptly turn into a dangerous physical and sexual abuser.  Maybe I watched one too many "very special episodes" of tv shows like Little House on the Prairie, but that is actually what I believed.

Having grown through the issue of drinking alcohol to the point of being a regular but conscientious consumer of it, I do wonder at times about how much is too much. Maybe it was that curiosity that led me to read the teaser about the recent release from Jericho Books called Sober Mercies by Heather Kopp, and to request a copy to read and review.

Like me, Heather came to follow Jesus in a church that did not approve of drinking alcohol but moved theologically, physically and financially to a place where it was accepted. But that is probably where our ways part in relation to alcohol.  Heather writes about hiding wine in her purse, making secret treks on foot to gas stations for beer, and the careful hiding of empty bottles from her husband. But Heather is self-deprecatingly humorous as she tells her story, endearing her to your heart like a girl-friend you just haven't had the chance to meet yet. And maybe that is where the goodness of her memoir lies: her inner dialogue, her self-justification are so very normal and almost familiar, that she carefully shines the light on how you go from casual drinker to raging alcoholic...and then...beautifully...from raging alcoholic to healthy, honest human being dealing with being human in a world that often feels overwhelmingly painful.

I read it in one sitting. I couldn't put it down.

She writes engagingly.  She tells you things you secretly wonder. She makes you laugh. She uses the excuses that you would use.  She's so normal. And so Christian.  Being a Christian colors this story with so much irony and so much more grace as she gets to the root of why she drinks.

Heather writes, "...I got the distinct impression from my fellow Christians that if you were a true believer, you weren't supposed to feel unfulfilled or empty, because that would mean that something was missing from your life. And how could that be the case when you had Jesus? How could you still be thirsty when you had a river of life flowing out of your very soul?"

And that is the universal appeal of this story.  We all have reasons to drink til we pass out. Most of us don't drink like that, but many of us have reasons to. We have hurt. We have issues. We have things that make us so crazy we don't know what to do.  A few drink. Some of us smoke pot. Some of us are workaholics. Some of us binge on churchianity and become too Christian to function.  All of us need help. We all need grace.  I know I can't be the only one who sometimes hates myself so much that trusting that God loves me feels insane. And yet, it's my best way out of hating myself and being healthy. Reading this story reminded me of the depth and length of God's love. It reminded me of the realness of God's love.  It reminded me of the stubbornness of God's love.  And that we all need it.

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