I was in the eighth grade when the woman I babysat for on a fairly regular basis called my mom to inform her she was pretty sure I had been drinking booze from her cabinet while babysitting. Now to some parents this might not have been a big deal. Not so for my mom. For her, this was a HUGE deal. See, my mom was a TEETOTALER. For those of you who aren’t sure what a teetotaler is, it is defined as one who completely abstains from any intoxicating drink.
My mom didn’t drink and her kids better not be either.
Imagine her horror when her nearly perfect, God-fearing daughter was said to be drinking – and on the job no less! Now imagine my horror. I was busted. And for what? Some tonic water (I had heard of gin and tonic so I chugged that down like a champ and never felt a thing) and a few sips Boone’s Farm wine. Calling it wine is being generous. I remember not liking the taste at all, but my girlfriend and I had great fun in that rebellious moment.
The fun didn’t last long. I had to apologize, own up, and deal with the fallout of breaking my mom’s heart.
I’ve thought of this blemish frequently over the years and am always reminded of how adamantly opposed my mom was to any sort of alcohol. What was that all about? Was it that she had seen and lived the consequences of mistakes made by people around her who were under the influence? Was it that since she had never drank, it became this dark, mysterious, scary thing? Or was it simply a deep devotion to her Baptist beliefs?
She always wanted me to think it was the later and wasn’t afraid to frequently tell me how drinking alcohol was not God’s plan for my life. (And how I would end up dead or pregnant if I went down that path.) Somewhere along the line, I began to assume that the Bible must be darn explicit about not drinking alcohol. Why else would my mom be so passionate about it?
If she were still with me today, I would surely ask her. It’s something that puzzles me because it turns out that nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Do not drink alcohol.” It does, however, clearly warn against drunkenness and is quick to point out many a bad thing that occurred while people were under the influence.
But for me, the conflict comes in all the scriptures that include some reference to wine, as well as the symbolic nature of it within Christianity. In John 2, Jesus (at the request of his mother) turns water to wine at a wedding feast. Much like today, weddings were all about the party and the wine was the center of it. It would be hard to deny that Jesus probably enjoyed a sip or two of wine here and there.
At the last supper, he took the cup of wine and passed it around to his disciples, offering it as a symbol of His blood that was about to be offered for the forgiveness of our sin. Consequently, wine continues to be used in Christian services throughout the world today.
But wine also destroys families. It tears lives apart. It takes ahold of good people and enslaves them to it. There is likely no one reading this whom has not personally been ill affected by someone drinking too much, and the sin and consequences that have followed. Some of you might have even been the one who has been the one inflicting the consequences.
How does this happen? How does something that God clearly created and used for good wreak havoc on our personal lives and our society?
I am convinced the answer is simple, but it’s not easy. When we use wine (and alcohol in general) to fill our dark places, heal our brokenness and numb our pain, we are using one of God’s gifts in place of the gift of God. Anytime we find ourselves focusing on using the “stuff” of the world, whether it is alcohol, fancy toys, a big house, perfect kids, or career success, we ask these gifts to fill a place in our heart that only He is meant to fill. Only when we are drinking of Him will we find the satisfaction that we are searching for and the ultimate peace that comes with it.
That’s my prayer for us all.