And so it goes, and so it goes. And the book says, "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us." This is a quote from one of my favorite movies of all time, Magnolia. This quote rings true for my friend, Danielle. Monday, Danielle passed away in the ICU at the hospital downtown. It was a tragic end to what seemed to be a tragic life. Stories of abuse and addiction and prostitution plagued this 32-year-old’s autobiography. But what I knew of Danielle was that had such a passion to see people know God. I think this passion was there because she, too, knew him. She knew him probably better than I ever will. She knew of his love and grace because her life was filled with the filthiness of sin…and she wore it on her sleeve. She wasn’t ashamed to tell people that she walked the streets, doing anything possible to feed her addiction. She wasn’t ashamed to tell of her years of exotic dancing. She wasn’t ashamed to talk of her struggles with drugs. And she certainly wasn’t ashamed to speak of God’s grace and mercy and love. This is how she knew God…graceful, merciful, and loving. He wasn’t simply the God that she grew up with, or the God that she learned about since Sunday school, or the God that was distant. He was the God that was near and wrapped his arms around her in the midst of sin. I think that’s probably why she was able to speak of her struggles so candidly.
And then a couple weeks ago she was sucked back into it. The cocaine called her name and she went to find it. For 36 hours she was out there in the darkness…and no one will ever know for sure what happened. We can make guesses, but it does us no good. We can play the part of Columbo, but it still leaves questions in our mind. The simple fact of it is that for 36 hours, Danielle was gone. The Danielle that we knew had disappeared and the Danielle from the past was alive and well if only for a brief time. The scary thing is that it can happen to all of us. One minute we’re praying and following God, and the next we are on a quest for cocaine…or porn or lust or power or fame or pleasure or alcohol…whatever your vice may be. It can rear it’s head in an instant…and if you close your eyes now you might even be able to hear it’s voice in the distance, calling you back…beckoning you to come and die.
When JR and I found her, we could tell that she had a rough couple of nights. We took her in to the emergency room and left her there, thinking it would be a safe place. To our surprise, we later learned that it was in this very place where sicknesses are healed, broken bones are mended, fevers are brought down, and life is given that life was taken away. Not by the nurses or doctors or police or us…but by her. She took her own. And for nearly two weeks we sat in that hospital room with IV’s, ventilators and feeding tubes wondering…hoping…that she would come back. And yet all the while having the feeling of helplessness that it was the end of the line for Danielle.
This helplessness, however, was actually comforting. In this helplessness lied sense of hope. We were helpless on our own, yet understood that there was hope because of who Danielle had become. I am convinced that the Danielle of the past died in that hospital room, but the Danielle of today and tomorrow and forever is alive and well. And to hope, I raise my glass…knowing full well that in our helplessness, there is hope. In our struggle, there is overcoming. In our failure, there is success. And only when we truly embrace our downfall can we truly experience the love and grace and mercy that we find in Christ. “In your presence, all fear is gone. In your presence, is where I belong.”