Playing Around With the Poisonous Snake

Day 23 in Proverbs


Proverbs 23: 29-35 “Who is always in trouble?  Who argues and fights?  Who has cuts and bruises?  Whose eyes are red?  Everyone who stays up late, having just one more drink.  Don’t even look at that colorful stuff, bubbling up in the glass!  It goes down so easily, but later it bites like a poisonous snake.  You will see weird things, and your mind will play tricks on you.  You will feel tossed about like someone trying to sleep on a ship in a storm.  You will be bruised all over, without even remembering how it all happened.  And you will lie awake asking ‘When will tomorrow come, so I can drink some more?'”
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Which of us has not seen this picture?  Maybe not in the mirror, but certainly around us. And then again, maybe in the mirror!

Alcohol has never been a major issue for me.  I have never been prone to drink much.  I have a body chemistry that doesn’t seems to deliver as much pleasure from drinking as it does to others.  In other words, I am not a cheap drunk.  (My struggles come more from things like chocolate cake!) While hanging out with my friends and a glass of wine does relax me, it’s more about the people I am with and the actual sitting around doing nothing that makes me more relaxed.  The drink has little to do with it.

I remember growing up when alcohol was taboo for God-fearing people.  Or at least they pretended it was.  I remember people hiding their beer when they saw the preacher in the grocery store and talking about what a close call they had.  Like having the preacher think badly of you is worse than what God already sees!  (Though I guess sometimes they are a bit more judgmental.)  I never understood that….and giggled about it even then.  I also giggled when my college roommate poured a 12-pack of beer down the sink in college because her mom was coming to visit.  She was of legal age to drink, but she said she didn’t want her mom to think badly of her.  I told her to tell her it was mine.   She said she didn’t want her to think badly of me either!  (And no….it never occurred to her that there were other options than throwing it away.  I think maybe she was already suffering from some damaged brain cells.  She not only drank, but she drank a lot.  And often.)
 
I don’t think God has an issue with alcohol in itself.  I don’t believe Jesus was turning the water into grape juice at those weddings.  When it becomes wrong is when your life becomes this picture painted in Proverbs….when alcohol controls you and your life.  When you can’t enjoy a day without a drink.  When it changes the person you are.  When you forget what you have done, when you forget who you are, when you forget your responsibilities and your dreams.  When your life is a big drama.  When you are mean and argumentative to the people around you.   When your decision making is different than when you are sober.  When you put yourself into positions when you are not safe, and when you put others in those positions, too.  When you need it and want it…more than you need and want anything else.

I’ve seen the destruction it can cause.  I have seen people change when their lives become more about the next drink than about living.  But I’ve also seen the fun times it can accompany…..the wedding and ballooning toasts, concerts in the park with friends, the joyous parties, the delivery by the cabana boy.  Fun times where people are still in control and not the alcohol.

People need to make their own decisions about alcohol.  I think it is one of God’s gifts to be used in moderation.  If you can handle it.  Some can’t.  Ever.  Some people need to accept the fact that their blood chemistry responds to it a bit too much.  It becomes too important to them.  They need to think about giving it up completely.  Or if they have seen alcohol negatively impact members of their family, consider never once taking a drink.  That blood chemistry thing…..it runs in families.

Whatever you choose, you don’t want to become like my friend Angela Gill’s drunk and naked neighbor.  Scaring dogs, confusing young children and making the eyes of your neighbors bleed.  It doesn’t become you.

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