While riding home from Bill’s birthday dinner recently, I was sitting in the front seat listening to Collins catch up with a really close friend who goes to USC. Katelyn is like a daughter to me and a sister to Collins, especially since she has lived in Columbia the last year. She is one of those I fondly call “mah girl!”
As I was listening to them catch up, I heard Collins gently approach the subject of Katelyn’s friend Marcus who had died two months ago. In fact, Katelyn said, “Collins it was two months ago today, March 16.” They recounted times when Kate spoke of Marcus in the past. They discussed Marcus’ very poor choices and the horrific way in which he died. Marcus was drinking and taking drugs. Despite his poor choices…..Katelyn had done her best to remain his friend and urge him to stop…..she had even gotten a text from him hours before he died. The pain was still very fresh in Katelyn’s voice….the sadness and regret over not being able to stop Marcus from making poor choices….haunts Katelyn. I know this to be true because the day he died she came to my house to sit in my office and just process the whole thing.
When she arrived at my house that day…it was hard for her to cry at first….she was numb and in shock! The “responsibility” that she felt looked like a clydesdale horse sitting on her shoulders. As she talked, I prayed! As an adult…I realized…..she needed to grieve… and…..process….the loss of her dear friend ……but I wanted to help her take that “horse” off her shoulders! We talked at length about how she loved Marcus and all his great qualities…..and how great people with real potential…make poor choices that turn out to be “tragic” in the end.
We talked about how alcohol was the road that led to his drug use. Such viciousness and irrational thinking occurs in those who abuse substances. The abuse alters “rational” decisions one would never make if he/she were not under the influence and effects of the substance. I had to point out to her that she needed to separate herself from his irrational decisions. I shared with her what someone once explained to me…..picture a highway….and draw a solid yellow line in the center of the road…….on one side, the right side, is rational thinking…..and on the other side, the left side, is irrational thinking.
Picture the one abusing substances as traveling on the “left” side of the highway (irrational). When someone is abusing substances, it hinders their decision making. If you are not abusing substances that alter your decision making, then you are on the “right” side of the road……rational…….! Rational and irrational don’t mix so take note and stay on “your side of the road!” Meaning you will “never make sense” of the decisions or the whys of the irrational decisions people make when they are taking behavior altering substances. So don’t try, they do not mix….rational and irrational!!!!
When someone is “under the influence of drugs or alcohol” they usually DO NOT MAKE WISE decisions……AND THOSE DECISIONS ARE NOT YOUR FAULT….they made the choice to travel on the “left” side of the road. It doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person….but it does put them on the side of the highway that causes them to do and say things they would never do if they were not on the “left” side. I painted the picture of the road for her as it had been painted for me. It is a great visual that helps you remember to stay on the “right” side of the road when encountering people saying and doing things they are would not do otherwise. Those people who choose to travel on the “left” side of the road.
God’s purpose is for us to live Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” In essence…. we are responsible for ourselves and our decisions and how we choose to live our lives before God. He does not hold us responsible for anyone else’s heart or decisions. If we take on that responsibility, we are trying to be God and we are not! It is a freeing thing to realize God only holds us accountable for ourselves. Of course, as Christians we cannot ignore….the scripture found in I Corinthians 8:13 which talks about not causing your brother or sister to stumble,”Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” If you are guarding your heart before God, then I think you will be able to distinguish between whether you are causing someone to stumble versus someone making a poor choice all on their own.
The purpose of this post is two-fold…..poor choices lead to regret!…..sometimes “tragedy!” In scripture it is called “reaping and sowing!” Galatians 6:7-8. The second point I want to make is based on Galatians 6:5, “For each will have to bear his own load.” WE are all responsible for the choices we make. You cannot make someone of age do anything. You can make a young child behave outwardly but you cannot dictate what is in “someone’s heart!” That takes a Holy God who is more powerful than any substance we can consume.
Today, if you know someone who is choosing the left side of the road, pray for them. Don’t give up but don’t carry the burden of their choices on your shoulders. If YOU are the one choosing the left side of the road, it is not too late to make a course correction. Seek help. Seek the Lord.