Today was one of those days where I didn’t expect anything too great or anything too bad to happen. Since Christmas is only a week away, I’ve been working heartily on preparations for the big day. That was until I called my friend, and I could there was a quiver in her voice. I asked what was wrong and she told me about the happenings in her house. The end result–I had to put my very ordinary plans on hold to take her sister (another good friend of mine) to a drug rehab center. One week before Christmas. And it’s an hour and a half away.
Being my best friend and co-conspirator in all things merry and not-so-merry, Sarah agreed to come along on the adventure as well. We tearfully helped my friend’s belongings into her sister’s SUV and watched as she kissed her mom goodbye. When they would see each other again was not known. My friend needed help, and we were taking her to get it. We waved goodbye and went on our way. From the backseat of the car, I hastily sent a message to Twitter explaining that we needed prayers because we were taking a friend to get clean.
God answered your prayers!
The ride down was smooth and pleasant, except when one of the sisters would dissolve into tears or apologize for her behavior (sister #1 for taking her to rehab and sister #2 for having to go to rehab). I tried to comfort the sisters, and the words I spoke and the calm in my heart soothed their gaping wounds, at least for the moment. When we got there, sister #2 hesitated for a moment, but I grabbed her bags and urged her forward as sister #1 gathered the necessary paperwork. I shot sister #2 a confident smile and led the way.
Once we entered the facility, the kind staff were eager to help both of my friends–sister #2 as she did her intake for admission and sister #1 as she navigated through the insurance/co-pay nightmare. Both sisters would come into the waiting room at various times, so Sarah and I entertained them with interesting facts from the Good Housekeeping and Family Circle magazines that were laying about. It came time to say our goodbyes, and I couldn’t help but cry as I held my dear friend so close and told her that I was proud of her for making this choice to save her life. I watched as the sisters locked together in a heartbreaking embrace as each one said, “I’m sorry” in breaking voices. And then she was gone–for a week? Two weeks? A month? Three months? We’ve no idea, but we love her so much.
Sarah and I walked sister #2 to the car as she sobbed silently and puffed on a cigarette. It had been a long, trying, and frustrating day for her. Sarah took the wheel as we drove home–sometimes lost in our own thoughts, sometimes exchanging banter, and other times assuring our friend that she did the right thing for her sister. No matter where we were in the conversation it went back to that:: “Did I do the right thing?”
You did, my dear friend. The strength and courage that you showed today amasz me. Your maturity and ability to handle this situation with such grace and such love is an outpouring of God’s work in your life. I don’t know if you recognize that, my friend, but you were being prayed for so passionately by people who don’t even know your name. Not only is this a testament to you, a testimony to them, but also an example of how God has never, never abandoned you.
It’s sad to see my friend away from home on Christmas–in a place with others who are longing to be with their families, too. But at the same time, it’s for this very reason that Jesus had to come; this is why we celebrate. To set people like my friend free from her dependence on substances that will never satisfy, to allow the Holy Spirit to permanently dwell in God’s people that we may use our words as salve on the injured, and to walk with our friends into the entrance of a rehab hopsital after they admitted to stealing prescription medications from us. Jesus came so that we could not only walk with people, but so that He could walk with us forever. And so in our walking, God could be found.
Shame and sin. A baby who saves. Ordinary people touched by His Spirit to experience God’s grace. Lost and given to hope. It has all the elements of the Christmas story, and it is a Christmas story, but it’s not a typical one. This story is about a woman whose sister loved her so much that she risked her relationship so that her sister could be well again. It’s about a woman alone in rehab on Christmas Day and the empty space at the table back home. It doesn’t have jolly elves or happily-ever-afters. Yet it’s a real Christmas tale, nonethe less. And it’s the reason He came.