Thursday, January 23, 2020

Cancun, Not Drinking, and It Being Well With my Soul

I can hardly believe it's been over 13 months since I last found myself writing.  Yet when I was in Cancun a particular situation arose that left my best friend leaning over saying, "I could see this being a blog post.  I miss you writing those."  So, here I am.  Bare with me as I attempt to breach an oft controversial subject: Drinking.

For the purpose of this post, I am not going to address whether or not drinking is okay.  If you'd like to have that discussion, I welcome talking with you personally about it.  But for this post, I just want to address the issue of drunkenness and hypocrisy.

On our second day of the trip, we went on a 45 minute drive to another resort to spend the day.  On our way back, we found ourselves crammed in the back row of a 16 passenger van that was plum full.  Just imagine my 6'4" husband in the very back, knees crammed into the back of the the person's seat in front of him.  It was comical .. until it wasn't.  Us 4 and 2 others were the only sober people in the van.  And for 45 minutes we endured every possible criticism, question, confession of sin, and condescending remark possible.

It started with a simple enough question: "Did you guys get some of that champagne?"  We all answered, "No."  One would think that would be sufficient.  But it wasn't.  And it became very clear, very quickly that we were the salt and light in that van.  We stood out.  We were different.  And I won't lie, it was hard.  By the time we arrived back at our resort, I was on the verge of tears.  Both because I'm an introvert and it was crowded and overwhelming, but also because of just how lost and deceived the world is.

Again, saying that those who drink are lost.  I have family and friends who drink that I know to be faithful followers of Christ.  One of my favorite pastor/teachers drinks wine.  This isn't what this is about.

Here's where the dilemma is for me: so many think the only way to enjoy oneself is with alcohol. There is no moderation or responsible drinking. We were repeatedly told to loosen up, have fun, do whatever we want because we were on vacation and no one had to know, etc.  One woman, who I'll refer to as "May", was loud, obnoxious, belligerent, and was primarily the one with all the questions and comments.  May at one point asked if she could ask us something.  We said "yes" then she said, "You already know what I'm going to ask, don't you?"  Confused, we said "no".  Then she said "Are y'all Southern Baptist?"  Ah, there it was.  The assumption that we don't drink because of a denomination.  And it's a pretty prevalent assumption.  Southern Baptists are in fact known for their stance against drinking.  Here's the thing, there is such blatant hypocrisy that the outside world looking in is utterly confused and disgusted and want nothing to do with religion because of people who profess one thing and yet live something entirely different.

May said "My husband is on a softball team full of Southern Baptists.  'None' of them drink while out as a group....but get one of them by himself and he'll out-drink everyone."

See what I mean?

May told us all about the affair she was having with a much younger man.  Even told me I should try it....with my husband sitting right beside me.  "What he doesn't know won't hurt him. Gotta do what ya gotta do."  Another passenger declared to May "You're as much of a whore as I am!".

To be in a situation knowing that proclaiming the Gospel to those who wouldn't receive it and honestly weren't in the state of mind to understand was disheartening.  I would have loved to have those conversations with May when she was sober.

Instead we got "Why?  WHY don't you drink?"

And our answers were simplistic because the Bible is clear about 'throwing pearls before swine' (Matt 7:6): "Because as counselors we work with addicts and see the damage it causes."  "Because it doesn't appeal to us."  "Because we have a blast without it."  "Because we don't have regrets at the end of the day."  And a bit of humor was added... "Because we like to remember our trips!".

Here's the reality.  When we woke up and went down for breakfast, we were inevitably met with "Would you like some tequila, a mimosa, something else?"  When we asked for virgin daiquiris and pina coladas, we were asked "Why?"  "For real?"  "Seriously?"  "Really?".  We had one individual tell us that in 3 years (three YEARS) that he has never had someone refuse alcohol.

I said earlier this isn't about right or wrong. That's a conversation for another time. It's about consistency and integrity.  It's about being men and women of our word.  It's about living in such a way that our lives testify to Whom we belong.  It's about regardless of whether or not you choose to drink that no one can say that drunkenness is okay.  It's about stepping away from the notion that people can't have fun without drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, etc.  Here's the thing: even as drunk as those people were, they saw something different in us and I would never risk giving that up for any amount of alcohol.

In Acts 5, the apostles had been arrested, beaten, and told not to proclaim the name of Christ.  Yet the following verse always gets me: "They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ".  It's not my natural tendency to rejoice at trials and the difficulties of life, but I tell you, something about that encounter has changed me.  Yes, it was hard.  Yes, I could have literally just broke down and cried.  But never in my life had it been clearer that the way we have chosen to live our lives stood out that much - we were salt and light to a dark world.  Salt and light to drunkards and adulteresses.  We were grace and compassion in the heartbreak of such depravity.  And it is my hope and prayer that if they remember anything from that day it's that there are those among them that are the real deal.  Faithful, obedient, followers of Christ.  Those that live what they preach.  And that just as we stood out that day, that we'll stand out in their minds in the coming days ahead causing them to question and wonder "What...Who....makes them different?"

That day I had on my shirt that said "It is well with my soul."   May read it and bewildered said "Uh, uh.... that's too deep for vacation".

Yet as I sit here, I have ZERO regrets from our vacation. I remember every single bit of it.  We laughed until we cried.  We were adventurous.  We left without having damaged our reputations, our families, our faith, and the image of the God we serve.  We have J-O-Y incalculable.  All without alcohol.  And I can with great faith say it is well with my soul.

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