My friend, Pastor Dan Page, tells his story today. You’ve probably never heard one quite like this. This is the true story of a man, a pastor. He’s courageous, brutally honest, lovable, highly-gifted, and a friend I would trust with my last nickel. But this is more of a story about our triune God. Look for Him here and I think you’ll see Him smile.
Not Being Drunk Sure Is Sobering
by Dan Page
“People don’t change when they see the light; it’s when they feel the heat.” I get that.
“I repent, making no excuses, I repent, no one else to blame.” I get that too.
Back in 2005 I spent most of a month at Laurelwood Hospital, an inpatient psychiatric facility, in Willoughby, Ohio. I signed myself in on June 3rd, walked out on June 6th and forced my way back in on June 9th. I was locked down in the dual diagnosis unit until June 13th and remained in the recovery unit until my release eleven days later. In the midst of depression and “self-medicating” (the Bible calls it being drunk), I’d come to the end of myself, which, as it turns out, is a great place to be!
As any one like me who ever parked themselves in Romans chapter 7 knows, things got really ugly and really messed up. I hadn’t had any alcohol since a couple years after I became a Christian in 1982. Then somewhere near the end of 1999 I began a mostly off-again battle with alcohol. I knew it was wrong every time and I very rarely drank. I did it in total isolation. Man do I know now the saying, “The enemy builds strongholds in secrecy and enforces them in silence – break the silence, break the stronghold.”*
By the beginning of 2005, I was drinking several times a week. By June it was nearly every day. The guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear, frustration, heartache and mental torment were relentless. God saw to it that I got found out—and everything hit the proverbial fan.
I’m thinking about the first sentence I wrote at Laurelwood: It’s either humble yourself or be humiliated; God wants us to walk in humility. I learned at Laurelwood there’s a direct correlation between not drinking any alcohol and never being drunk J … seriously, I can say with great joy that God met me in the hell I was in and led me out for good. Psalm 51 speaks deeply to me. As does Romans 8 (especially verses 1-4). James 5:16, too. And, of course, Ephesians 5:18.
What makes this story a little more interesting perhaps is that prior to my little summer vacation I was in full time vocational ministry as the pastor of a church here in Northeast Ohio. Even more interesting is the fact that I’m still the pastor of that same church. “What? You’re still the pastor?” Yes. “You weren’t fired?” No, I wasn’t. “You didn’t have to resign?” No, I didn’t. Absolutely amazing, isn’t it?
It was quite an intense process and it certainly wasn’t quick or easy. I was sure the ministry as I’d known it would end.
And it did. But not in the way I was thinking. God gave me the grace to repent and, ironically, things at our church are better today than I ever dreamed they could be. What I thought was a certain off ramp with no return became a rest stop. And before long I was put back on the road with great gratitude, lasting freedom, and abiding joy.
Here are some things I continue to learn:
1. There’s no real or lasting freedom without brutal and thorough honesty.
2. It’s humble yourself or be humiliated.
3. “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Proverbs 29:25
4. Real repentance acknowledges explanations but rejects all excuses and any blaming of others.
I am grateful for the grace of God that cleanses and covers me. It is so nice not having to hide. It sure is refreshing to be in His presence knowing I can rest completely in Him.
His grace being red like blood calls me to share my stuff, sing for joy, and give Him thanks!
* Dr. Richard Dobbins