My neighbors – my brothers.

From darkness into light.

I’m a night shift kind of guy. I have worked overnights for a long time, most of my adult life when you get to the nub of it. During that time I’ve grown accustomed to the dark and working alone, or with just a few people around. Part of that is that night people cling together a little more closely than the day crew. Part of it is that we are a bit more at ease with a small view of the world and darkness enveloping our existence.

I get off work and head home to do chores most days. This winter it’s included more than a desirable amount of snow removal. No massive amounts of the white stuff, but just enough every day or two that I’m required to remove it. Because I take care of dead people (my neighbor passed and I keep the house up until it gets demolished to avoid vandalism), absent people (a neighbor who moved but keeps the property up), and old people (one elderly neighbor who I’ve shoveled for for years) I cover a lot of ground with my beloved snow blower. And having lived in the “hood” for almost twenty years I notice things.

I live in the darkness out of choice. I actually have enough seniority to take a different shift (for the moment, anyway.) But there are lots of our brothers and sisters who are in a different kind of darkness and they cannot escape from their captivity. They are caught in addiction.

You probably are in love with someone with an addiction. A family member, a close friend, a mate, someone you know pretty well, or just the guy down the block. You’re supposed to love them according to Christ. But you don’t. You don’t even see them in the shadows of the night fighting the demons of addiction, crying for help and sobriety.

It’s not that you are mean-spirited or cruel. Many of them hide the fact that they are addicts. They do a great job on that account because of shame. But if you look out into the darkness you can see the footprints leaving the light and heading into the shadows. I see those footprints. I see them come back into the light on occasion. And I rejoice. Lots of prayer to work that miracle.

Lest you think this just a tortured metaphor, I was inspired to write this because of real footprints in the snow. I usually get the snow blower out and about just after 0800 and get working. And every time I’ve gone to blow snow this winter there’s been a single set of footprints past my door. It starts a few doors down and heads directly for the liquor store 2 blocks away. Their passage tells me that they’re timed to arrive just as the store opens – the first chance to “get straight” they have under state law.

Whose footprints? I know the family. All are friendly with me. I pray for them and wave to them, but there’s a sadness there that I cannot breach. A sadness and an illness that I’m familiar with in my own life. I have that cursed gene in my family, lost relatives to it, lost friends to it, lost brain cells to it. I see what it does to people and I am filled with remorse and sadness that we got kicked out of the Garden of Eden and took up that burden. And one of those fellow sons of Adam trudges past my door every morning of the week to replenish their stock of alcohol so that they don’t die from withdrawal.

I stop my blower and pray when I see the steps in the snow. I hope that you, dear reader, don’t suffer from that addiction. But if you do – there is hope. You can survive it and take those steps out of the darkness. I know it for a fact. And I’ll be praying that you find that blessing in your life.

Are you addicted? Are you in love with an addict? Are you working your way out of that life right now. Let me know, I’ll add you to my prayers.

Until then, be well and be with God.

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