Straight Paths

Ronnie was 45 when he enrolled in outpatient hospice services with end-stage cirrhosis of the liver. He’s lived with his sister, Net, for the past 13 years. But Ronnie does have his "man cave", a minimally renovated shed behind the main house, to which he frequently retreats. After all, a man does need a little solitude from time to time.

Ronnie admits he’s an alcoholic but explained, "I haven’t drank for two years." Net stated, "The doctor told him that if he drinks anymore it will kill him. The only time he wasn’t drinking was when he was sleeping. Mom used to buy him beer, but I’m sterner than mom. Ronnie took after mom. He’s soft hearted. He would give you the shirt off his back. But he lost his family over drinking."

Ronnie testified, "Nobody makes you do anything. You’re the one who does it. Nobody is holding a gun to your head. They aren’t twisting your arm. When I was a kid my dad told me, ‘Son, you made your bed; now you’re going to have to lie in it.’ When I was a kid I didn’t know what he was talking about. I thought, ‘I didn’t even make my bed!’ It took me a long time to figure out what dad was talking about."

I told Ronnie that his testimony reminded me of the George Jones song, "Choices": "I’ve had choices since the day that I was born. There were voices that told me right from wrong. If I had listened, no, I wouldn't be here today; living and dying with the choices I made."

Then Ronnie exclaimed, "I met George Jones! Me and my wife lived in Lakeland, Florida, before we broke up, and George Jones had a house down there. He always bought his whisky at the liquor store where my wife worked. And our house was just across the road, so I saw him all the time. He was just as common as me and you. He drove an old Volkswagen Beetle. He told me he had fancy cars too, but he would rather drive the old beetle. He once bought a decanter of whisky that looked like Elvis from the liquor store. That’s where he came up with the words in that song, ‘I drank Elvis to the pelvis’".

Men and women have been blaming since the "Garden of Eden". You know the story; the serpent talked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. Then Eve gave Adam a bite. When God confronted them, how did they respond? Adam blamed his wife, "It was the woman you gave me." Then Eve blamed the serpent, "The serpent tricked me."

We aren’t much different, are we? Or at least I’m not. Several years ago my marriage was on the rocks. Or on second thought, maybe I was. I vividly remember sitting at the kitchen table and praying, "Lord, if only Susie …" Then my heavenly Father stopped me in my tracks. That "still small voice" (I Kings 19:12) spoke to me loud and clear, "What are you doing to show her that she is the most important person in the world to you? There’s never an excuse for unholy behavior. You are responsible to me no matter what anybody else does. You just put me first, and I will take care of the rest." That’s been over 40 years, three daughters and four grandchildren ago. Thank God for loving me just the way I was, but loving me too much to let me stay that way.

The Eagles wrote the song, "Get over it", 26 years ago. The first time I heard it I loved it. My friend Jerry told me that anytime he starts complaining his "little sister" Lisa jokingly tells him to "get over it": "I turn on the tube and what do I see, a whole lot of people crying ‘don’t blame me’. They point their crooked little fingers at everybody else; spend their time feeling sorry for themselves. Victim of this, victim of that, your momma’s too thin, your daddy’s too fat. Get over it! All this whining and crying and pitching a fit, get over it! You say you haven’t been the same since you had your little crash, but you might feel better if I gave you some cash … You don’t want to work; you want to live like a king, but the big bad world doesn’t owe you a thing …. Complain about the present and blame it on the past, I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little _ _ _." Get over it!

We’ve all had "choices" since the day that we were born, haven’t we? But when we try to escape responsibility by blaming others we actually end up escaping forgiveness, mercy, redemption and freedom, don’t we? You see, our lame excuses don’t fly with God. God can’t and won’t forgive excuses, but the Good News is He will forgive sins sincerely confessed: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9)

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at lorenhardin53@gmail.com . You can order Loren's book, "Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course", at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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