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the all day drinker dances 

The last few weeks have been filled with so many painful stories that could have the power to rob people, including me, of hope. This is my reflection, that simply says, that in the face of pain, that God changes lives again and again and again. "The all day drinker dances"...

Sunday afternoon in a Devon village pub. We are jammed in like its Friday night having just been paid. The five piece band play a strange array of instruments and have pulled in a very different crowd. But the locals still hold up the bar.

The all day drinker taps his foot. He has heard so many less than average folk bands that have not distracted him from daily pints. But today something stirs within him. A melody long drowned in a sea of cheap bitter. The rhythm takes an unexpected turn with discordant vocals sliding into elegant, energetic harmony. The all day drinker slides off his familiar stool, stumbling into a long forgotten move. He’s dancing. Side stepping with ease and hips in time. Our all day drinker dances to a tune heard by all but the rhythm for him is one of happier days, before this place became his home.

The song’s over and with a fist pump he returns, comforts his dogs and orders another. Who knows if next weeks band will get him to his feet?

I have seen so many like him, our all day drinker. But when I meet them on my turf they have an encounter with a different song. Today's man had been into church a few times before and it hadn’t gone well. He had interrupted in slurred voice, as best I could, I listened and engaged. Rather than all day drinker, this guy was drugs binger. His sight awash with shots, maybe last night, maybe breakfast. We talk around the issue but time to cut to the heart. I offer to pray and clarify with him how. It’s not at home or on my knees, but now. Freedom is on God’s agenda. Our Father’s heart breaks to see ones he loves breaking in attempted self medication.

We begin the prayer and then the dance. It is one I’ve seen so often. Suddenly a man, no matter what chemicals tear at the fabric of his mind, is transported by a different and unexpected tune. Caught up for a moment in the song of heaven, embraced by the Spirit of God. Touched by the grace and mercy of their Father’s love won by Jesus. 

Sounds odd? It is. A man so transported that his body becomes peaceful and lips twitch as the Spirit intoxicates him for a moment. I have seen grown men become children, filled with hope and shrouded in safety as they rest in their Fathers arms.

But it passes and this man wrestles back his wounded, well worn identity. Somehow it is easier to wear for now.

The ways of coping with the pain work for a time. We medicate with drugs or drink or work. For some the covering is clearly destructive, reaping it’s havoc on body and mind. For others the inner wounds are dressed in apparent finery but they still separate and kill the life that was supposed to be so full.

Over time our ways don’t work. More pints needed to dull the pain. More wealth or drugs or sex. Maybe then we will feel something, we are so desperate to feel something, anything other that this.

For the man transported in the moment a seed has been sown. He may not even be conscious that his spirit has been awakened by the creator of the universe. I am learning patience. 

There is this old idea in the bible that the presence of God is represented by bread. That sweet smell fills the air. Jesus declares himself to be the bread of life, God! Once people have had a taste of that bread they start to get hungry for more. So many return. Not on my timing but on theirs and his. Only when they are ready or stirred by the changing rhythm of God’s song do they rise again from those bar stools and begin to dance.

The all day drinker still drinks. He has danced and returned to his stool. He’s be transported for a moment but returns to his familiar place. Unchanged and unstirred he stumbles home drenched in sorrow.

For the ones stirred by the memory of being truly held by the fresh presence of God there is the hope of new beginning and transformed living. Our turf, our church is filled with men and women like this. They return again and again until they are ready to be held in the tender arms of their heavenly Father and return to a childlike place. Ready to walk in hope and life. They get back onto the dance floor of life and move the the unforced rhythms of God’s grace. So no matter what I see, no matter how destructive, I have hope because I see the rhythm of God’s grace bringing the hurting to their feet to dance.