Dear Craig and Andrea,
We met the other day on Sparks Street Mall in Ottawa (is there any part of Ottawa that is not under construction?). I picked up coffee for Craig and me (the first time I’ve ever walked into Tim Horton’s and asked for a “double-double”, and you were there!) and tea for Andrea and some timbits, and you told me your stories.
I’ve heard situations like yours before. You’re two good-looking people, smart, capable: you get hooked on drugs, and everything falls apart. Even as recovering addicts, it feels like you’re coming to the plate with two strikes against you when you try to rent a place or get a job: “I’m not judging them,” someone in charge might say, “but I gotta manage my risks!”
Andi, you told me you can’t get a job because you don’t have a place to live. That surprised me, but thinking back to the Downtown East Side, I knew people who had jobs but still couldn’t afford to leave the neighborhood: but at least they had a flophouse or a shelter to go to. And maybe it’s different in BC.
Ten or fifteen years ago, I might have seized the opportunity to push the Gospel and tell you, “God has a plan for your life!” Not that that isn’t true, but I can’t help thinking it rings hollow when you’re couch-surfing, shelter-hopping, sleeping apart because you can’t find “two-together” and have to sit in the blazing sun on a concrete sidewalk as people walk past, either consigning you to the SEP Force Field* or consoling themselves by muttering, “They don’t want food – they want drugs!”
But I know this:
Because I’ve been there: it wasn’t drugs that did me in, but I was older than you when things came to pieces and all I had left was to turn to God — through Jesus Christ — and let Him turn me around. You’ll find things do get better. You come out the other side and the lousy stuff you’re going through now will seem like a dream. Only it wasn’t: it was very real, and the dung of that existence becomes the fertilizer of a brighter future.
I did give you this bit of Scripture:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11
That word from the Lord comes at a time when His people were still captive in Babylon and things looked pretty dark for them. We are God’s people, and when we remember the thoughts He thinks toward us — or even that He has thoughts toward us, and doesn’t leave us alone in a dory in the middle of the ocean — we can be confident that He’s going to lead us out of our captivity, even when it’s self-imposed.
So keep looking up, my friends! There’s a reason why I decided to walk down Sparks Street Mall and not head for Byward Market where all the cool people go on a Saturday, or up to Parliament Hill with the tourists. The Lord is trying to give you a message, and it’s a message of hope.
Love you guys,