When I was hired as the counselor/chaplain of The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Nashville, I had no idea that I would be working with about 1,400 men over the next 5 1/2 years or that my heart would be so deeply touched. I loved those men and they loved me.
Our program was free, so men who came into the center had “hit bottom.” They were broken, defeated, and humbled.
Part of my job was to interview every new man. They could tell I loved them and they trusted me, so they told me their life stories in vivid detail. Each of the about 1,400 stories was different, but amazingly similar.
My heart broke for them. These guys had done everything thing conceivable to destroy their lives. They told me how they had lied, cheated, been negative, been abusive, freely engaged in every conceivable sexual activity, partied hard, been violent, abandoned their children, used every drug imaginable, been cruel to their wives and/or baby’s mommas, stolen, and so much more.
They told me about the results of their fun-seeking behaviors. They had been overcome by anger, bitterness, and depression. They lost relationships with some (if not all) of the most important people in their lives. They lost job after job. They had lost any sense of self-worth. Many had been homeless. Many had been to jail and/or prison. Many had court orders against them. They were controlled by their cravings; their desires had defeated them.
Many wept. I cried with them. Most of them stayed in the program for a few days to a few months and then went back to their same self-destruction. Some came through several times. While I was there I knew 17 who died in their self-destruction. I spoke at a few of their funerals. A handful turned around and are clean and sober today.
It’s been six years since I worked at the ARC. I still see guys from there. They come up and hug me and thank me for working with them. My heart breaks to see them still caught up in their same self-destruction.
They remind me of my favorite grandpa who was extremely likeable and lovable, yet left wakes of pain in our family and in others who knew him. So why do human beings do that? Why do we hurt ourselves and others?
My comfort, my answer is: “If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.” There is supernatural transformation in radical abandonment of self-seeking to the living, resurrected Jesus Christ! Yet, I grieve that so many choose the familiar life of self-inflicted misery rather the narrow path of passionately following and obeying Christ.