That is a big deal.
To graduate you must have met all your stated goals and adhered to all of the programs restrictions.
The majority do not make it all the way through like he did.
I am going to call this man Mark.
Mark is a big guy.
When he arrived he was also an angry guy.
Big and angry equals scary!
Anger is one of the common denominators for many substance abusers.
Though Mark did not act out very often, he always seemed to be simmering under the surface.
The Mark who graduated yesterday is still a big guy, but now instead of anger, you sense a gentle, caring spirit abiding in a man of peace.
Through a client's time in this particular program they can earn certain titles. One of them is "Strength." That means that they offer help and encouragement to others through their example.
Mark had earned this distinction.
During the time of graduation everyone is invited to give a word of encouragement to the graduate.
One-by-one clients and staff (and the one lone volunteer-me!) voiced their high regard for him and their vision of hope for his future.
There was a common thread throughout; Mark had made much progress and thus has been an inspiration to many.
I heard the words humble and teachable quite a bit.
How did Mark get to this place of strength?
By learning humility. He turned his will over to God.
In one of the early group sessions this man had gotten a glimpse of how others saw him and it stopped him in his tracks.
Mark was sick and tired of being sick and tired, so instead of drawing on his abundant anger, he received what was said and began to do some serious self-examining.
As I sat there reflecting on what I heard, the thought came to me that strength, in deed, is found through weakness.
At one point, the man before us took his wife's hand and with tears streaming down his face expressed his sorrow over the past and his pledge and commitment to a better future.
That is true strength.
Strength of character.
There is only One Source for such strength.
The Living God.
In the Second book of Corinthians, the Twelfth chapter, Paul shares how he had cried out to the LORD to be delivered from his weaknesses. In the ninth verse he shares God's answer:
"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'"Paul also shares his response.
"Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me."We are all weak, whether we admit it or not. The way of strength is by admitting our weakness and turning it all over to the Almighty, All-Powerful God.
In the Fourth chapter of his letter James quotes from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah,
"But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."As my friend, Mark, contemplated going back out into the world, he admitted that he was a little frightened, but added that it was a good fear. It will keep him going to his God.
Yes, the world, which represents his old way of doing things, is waiting to drag him down again, BUT Papa is greater and is going with him!
It is my prayer that he does not forget that all the strength that he has to forge ahead comes directly from our Gracious God!