God Teaches Others through Our Weaknesses, Not Our SecretsBlog / Produced by The High Calling
From the time I was born until I was just about to turn eleven years old, my dad was a practicing alcoholic. I can say that I never saw him drunk. The fact that he went through a couple of six-packs a night didn't really mean much to me. I had never known any other way, and I assumed it was normal.
Little did I know that he had been fighting against drinking to excess for years. He used alcohol as a way to disengage from stress and the realities that he didn't like. He tried everything to stop drinking, right down to hypnotism. Nothing worked.
Then, during a spiritual renewal weekend at our church, he felt called to write his alcoholism down on a piece of paper, take it to the altar to lay at Jesus' feet, and ask his not-quite-eleven-year-old son to pray for him to be released from the bondage of alcohol. God answered the prayer, and he hasn't had a drink in twenty-six years. It takes a lot of humility to make yourself vulnerable to your child, and I avoid alcohol to this day because of his example.
My dad never had that opportunity as a boy. He found out well into his adult years that both of his grandfathers had been severe alcoholics. One of them was apparently so bad that his parents told him that particular grandfather was dead. Later, he learned that grandfather didn't die until my father was grown.
My dad's parents did not drink to excess so he never knew much about alcoholism or its dangers. Consequently, when he went to college he began to drink, and the problem grew until he was almost thirty-five. His parents decided to conceal the painful and embarrassing parts of their families' histories, and my father and his brothers weren't allowed to learn from past mistakes. They were left to make new ones in ignorance.
When God helped my dad to stop drinking, he had a choice to make. He could hide his alcoholism and recovery. After all, he had been a deacon in a Baptist church for over a year. It could cause a lot of problems if he admitted he was an alcoholic. But his integrity wouldn't let him do that. He chose instead to tell his story countless times to individuals and groups, and God has blessed hundreds, if not thousands, through my father's vulnerability.
One of the great things about the Bible is that it does not hide weakness. It gives us the whole story. For example, it takes Israel's greatest king, David, and tells us about his failures: murder, adultery, violence, anger, depression, lust, and even disastrous parenting. Why does it do that? Maybe because God is not interested in us having an impressive reputation as much as he wants us to have a repentant reputation.
Here's the irony in my dad's story. His integrity caused him to be vulnerable, and that has directly impacted his reputation for the good. People feel they know him. People trust him. He is a flawed man and a sinner. That is the kind of man God can use to draw people to himself.