I like alcohol now and then–a smooth blush wine when Tim and I eat Italian for dinner, a beer with a coworker after a long day in the woods, a ‘girlie drink’ with my ladies on a night out. I don’t even really like the taste (or the cost) compared to, say, hot chocolate–but I like what a single drink adds: flair, sophistication, culture. Multiple drinks, however, are a different story. I have not only a strong moral bias against drunkenness (the Bible says it’s wrong) but a preferential one as well–I hate the smell beer leaves on a person’s breath, I am afraid of those who have loosened their hold on control, and I’m terrified of those who have lost it.
I guess by definition, that places me somewhere in the category of social drinkers. Social drinkers do not allow alcohol to control them; they treat alcohol as an addition to a meal, not the meal itself. (I discovered this via a swagbucks search for ‘types of drinkers’). I also learned about “health drinkers” who drink for health related reasons or to produce a deeper sense of peace, which is tied to “psychological drinkers” who drink to feel better about life, which includes “depressed drinkers” who use alcohol to comfort and cope with crisis and “de-stress drinkers” who use alcohol to relax and gain a sense of control over the pressures and stress of life. Okay. I can relate to much of this if only the word alcohol were replaced with the words dark chocolate or movie nights or hugs. I guess we all have our comfort zones and safety nets.
The labels escalate. Problem drinkers head regularly to the bar (or the Beer Barn) for a buzz. Binge drinkers go extended periods of time without imbibing only to follow up by periods of extreme drinking. Alcoholics have lost control of their drinking habits, use the drink as a drug or medication to numb pain, depend on alcohol physically or mentally, and regularly intake excessive amounts of alcohol at once. Okay. Again, addictions can take many forms. If we’re honest, we all struggle with dependence on the wrong things. We’re all addicted to sin. Incidentally, in Christian circles, alcoholism takes on a special stigma as opposed to materialism or gluttony or an addiction to entertainment. But rather than hash out the hierarchy of varying sins, let’s think for a moment about Biblical drunkenness.
Perhaps my internal dialogue mirrors yours: “Biblical drunkenness?! Is there such a thing?!?!” “Oh, yes. Of course–for fools.” At this point, an army of verses from Proverbs comes marching in to support my conclusion. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (20:1); “Do not mix with winebibers” (23:20); “Do not look on the wine” (23:29-35). The Bible clearly states here and elsewhere that while alcohol has appropriate uses, drunkenness is not one of them. Okay. Lesson learned. Don’t get drunk. Moooving on…
Actually, though, instead of moving on (my normal response), today I got stuck. Stuck in a huge, deep, slimy mess of truth…from which I am now afraid of being freed. There’s more to be learned. Much more. There is another kind of Biblical drunkenness that isn’t for fools–it’s for the wise. It’s a kind of drunkenness where problem drinkers are good but alcoholics are even better–and this drunkenness is fatal to health drinkers (who die of heart damage), social drinkers (they starve to death) and psychological drinkers alike.
This Biblical alcohol is more commonly known as prayer.
Ezra was a prayer alcoholic (go back and re-read the definition of alcoholic again). It was his way of life. “I was ashamed to request of the king an escort…to help us against the enemy…because we had spoken to the king, saying ‘The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.’ So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and HE answered our prayer” (Ezra 8:21-23). So was Nehemiah. “And I said, ‘I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night” (Neh. 1:4-2:4). Not to mention Abraham, David, Daniel…
Paul was a life-style prayer (see all of his letters, including Romans 1:9 “without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers”, Philippians 1:3-11 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy…”, and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing”). Not to mention Stephen, Peter, Jesus Himself, and the Holy Spirit!
This addiction was not just for Bible Heroes. Try a dose of John G. Paton’s autobiography, David Brainerd’s journals, or even the child Louis Lopraz’s diary as recounted in Three Months Under the Snow by J.J. Porchat. Prayer to them was not as it is to me: abstract, intangible, theological, mysterious, unattainable. They were practicing drunkards, all–in the Spirit!
God was real to these men. I admit this to my shame, for it implies that He is not real to this self-righteous social drinker. I profess to believe God’s sovereignty, but these men lived it. Prayer to me is well-defined moments–at meals (2 minutes), after devotions (5 minutes), in church (30 minutes)–and neatly organized lists with an occasional ‘binge drinking’ spurt thrown in the middle of the afternoon for good measure. Oh, how foolish! How adulterated. How weak! Prayer to these men was a constant personal connection to a very dear Friend, Father, Master, Protector, Shepherd, and Lover. Addicted is too light a term!
So what kind of drinker are you?
Pray for me, and for yourself, and for Christ’s Church–that we would become God’s prayer addicts; constantly, liberally, uncontrollably dependent on Christ; and intoxicated, inebriated, three-sheets-to-the-wind filled with the Holy Spirit!
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms ad hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-20