Preston Yancey writes in the Coming Clean Austin Outtakes that he wasn’t “raised in a house where alcohol made a showing. It wasn’t actively demonized, but it wasn’t given favor.” He was recalling the night Seth came clean to a group of friends, came clean about his recent acknowledgment he was an alcoholic. Preston and others there had a drink in hand. It gave him pause as he considered his shift from being raised in a faith that were squarely abstentionists.
Preston goes on to write: “I see now the icons of bourbon and gin for what they are—
not signs of community, but signs of otherness…I still haven’t gotten beyond the impulse to see alcohol as secretly and seductively insidious. It’s an icon of rebellion. Not by its doing, but my own.”
Rebellious years. They are as common for those of us raised in the church as anyone. Sometimes I think perhaps more. It’s like the fruit in the Garden of Eden. The one that is forbidden is the one we want to taste.
Have you noticed that diabetics have an especially sweet tooth? Or that when you have to fast before a blood test is a time you are hungriest?
For me, Preston’s words reveal a side not seen. Beer commercials portray drinking as community. It’s an easy one to buy in to. But for me, the rebellion would be my motive and that doesn’t create community. To call it otherness is right. As he says, not be the doing of the drink but by my own.
We recognize wine as being the most common drink in bible times. We’ve all heard the stories that it was more available, and healthier than water. The bible speaks little about drinking specifically other than to say don’t drink to drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18). It espouses drinking wine for the stomach’s sake (1 Timothy 5:23). There was that embarrassing incident of drunkenness with Noah which sounds more like drinking stories of today.
Earlier this year, author Sarah Bessey wrote on her blog about her decision to quit drinking:
I grew to love the imagery of wine in Scripture, to see it as an emblem of the New City and of heavenly banquets. I liked the sophistication of wine, the theology of wine, the metaphor of wine, the community around wine at the table. I liked the celebration of champagne, the warmth of a cabernet, the summer light of chardonnay.
Without noticing, I was drinking almost every night now. It didn’t bother me in the least.
Yes, the Scriptures provide us with beautiful portrayals of wine. The first miracle Jesus performed was turning water into wine. It was, and can still be a sacred drink.
What’s a Christian to do?
For Sarah, it began with what she recognized as a prompting of the Holy Spirit.
“I am always grateful how the Spirit isn’t harsh or overwhelming but rather how at the right time and in the right moment, we know it’s time to change.
We begin to sense that this Thing that used to be okay is no longer okay. The Thing that used to mean freedom has become bondage. The Thing that used to signal joy has become a possibility of sorrow. The Thing that used to mean nothing has become something, perhaps everything.
Or at least that’s what happened to me. It was fine, everything was fine. And then I knew it wasn’t going to be fine for much longer.”
That’s the thing. For some, it won’t be fine much longer. Can you be honest enough to recognize if this is you? It is not easy to give up a habit. It’s not easy to change in front of your friends. It’s not easy to say, “Just water please” when your friend’s glasses are filled with temptation.
After a long day, when all you want to do is unwind, what do you reach for now?
I’m thankful to Seth and Preston and Sarah and the others who are writing publically about something about which the church has said little. There’s no right or wrong answer. There is a discussion that needs to be open and filled with grace. It needs to be true. And the Church needs to be a safe place to have it.
If you or someone you know may have an alcohol problem. find a Celebrate Recovery or AA meeting in your area. Today. Reach out. Speak out.