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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Spiritual Journey at Kroger

After we brought Karis home from the hospital, I was sent out to pick up some prescriptions and a few minor groceries we needed. Somewhere along the line, someone had shared with Charity that a little wine each night helps increase a mother's milk supply (where do women get this kind of information?). Since none of our babies have excelled with weight gain at the beginning, Charity decided to give it a shot. A few observations from me as I purchased a bottle of Sangria:

1. I had no clue what I was doing. I've never had alcohol. I'm certainly not a "wine guy." I avoided it for years, probably for the wrong reasons, but also because their is some history of alcoholism in my family. I struggle with moderation in many things in my life, and don't see the wisdom of potentially adding one more thing to that list. I also don't drink alcohol simply because I don't want to. It smells funny to me. I've never understood the concept of an "acquired taste." (I don't like cigarettes or coffee either). If I put something to my mouth and didn't like the taste or the effect the first time, why would I keep doing it till I finally enjoyed it? Because of all this, I had no idea what to look for. What color is Sangria? Heck, what IS Sangria? What should it cost? Are their good and bad brands? How big a bottle should I buy? I stammered around the aisle for far too long asking myself all these questions. Of course, I only felt more stupid that my daughter Rachel is in the cart loudly (that's the only volume she has) asking me, "Dad what are you doing?" I felt like a total moron.

2. I didn't get carded. I'm only 29 and I go to make my first alcohol purchase of my life, and no one even wants to see my I.D. Depressing. I told myself it must be because I had a three year old with me, but reality says it's probably the gray hair that's showing up more and more. I'm now an "old man" to the teenage cash register girl.

3. I really kept wondering who would see me. I knew I was doing nothing wrong, yet I didn't want to bump into anyone I knew. I've been thinking about this element for quite some time and I see three different types of personalities I could have bumped into.

a) CONCERNED CONSERVATIVE--This is a person who's world would have collapsed had they seen the bottle in my cart. "Could a pastor really be buying alcohol?" Basically, they've decided they shouldn't drink (hey, I'm in their boat there), and have also decided that due to their convictions, no one else should drink either. It gets spiritualized by making comments about "worrying about what students in our youth group would think" or "you may really cause a weaker brother to stumble." Arguements are made far more in relationship to the condition of our American culture, rather than the Word of God. They'll state that an elder should be above reproach, specifically in the area of alcohol (to which they are right, Timothy says that too!) but they will wonder if buying one bottle will make people question whether I am truly above reproach. They have made up their mind, set their own standards (that go beyond what Scripture says, though I think they mean well...to honor God) and then want to impose those standards on everyone else. There's a part of you that fears bumping into this person, as a pastor, because you know they could make your life very difficult.

b) FREEDOM FIGHTER--This is the person who would make too big a deal out of the purchase as well. But, instead of condemning the purchase, they see this as a wonderful victory. They would, in a way, feel like I've finally arrived in spiritual growth, evidenced by the freedom I have to purchase alcohol. However, this person would probably be bummed when I would explain that I don't plan on touching the stuff (seriously, why drink something that smells like wet feet?). They'd further be bummed to find out that if this "medical experiment" does not work, this is probably the last bottle I will buy. This person has found a freedom in a Christian liberty, but sometimes can tend to look down on those who don't feel the same freedom. Freedom is beautiful and the person is so excited to have found it. Sometimes, however, their excitement causes them to be blind to the fact that others may not share their opinion. The freedom can be carried too far, at times, even ignoring other principles that come into play. (ie. While Scripture does say there is nothing wrong with alcohol, just with getting drunk, it's still wrong to allow a teenager to "experience this freedom" since federal law prohibits their consumption of alcohol. You break a governmental law, which Scripture says we are to submit to, for the sake of achieving some other freedom?) I didn't want to see this person either. Feeling like making them happy was probably going to involve me sacrificing some form of commitment for me...or at the very least, this thing would be made into a bigger deal than it is.

c) ACCOMMODATING AMBIGUOUS--This person sees what's in the cart. Maybe they mention it, maybe I do. But when the discussion comes up, they neither condemn nor congratulate me. Rather, they shrug and explain that it's just one of those things that we'll never know about. Discussion, or worse yet, disagreement, scares them away from engaging in a conversation. Rather than digging into the Scriptures, going before the Lord in prayer, and entering conversations with others who are reading and praying...they just decide to ignore it all together. You'll never know where they stand (whether inside they are upset or pleased with you) and you never really get a chance to adequately explain what you believe (they are far more comfortable to move on from the conversation to other things). Honestly, this is the person I'd probably least like to run into. With the "conservative," I know however far they'd want to take this issue, they don't have a Biblical leg to stand on, therefore I believe my church would support me (and maybe the Lord would use this to start a very productive discussion in our Body). The "freedom fighter" will probably leave discouraged by me, but I don't really care. I figure that over time, they will hopefully see that I delight in the freedom from sin God has given (though I do not always practice it) but longed to be a slave to righteousness. Hopefully, in time, they can see the motive in my heart for my actions (but if not, isn't God alone really the only One who can?). This ambiguous person, however, would drive me nuts. Sure, there are things we can not know for certain, but does that mean we quit in the chase? I would want to explain to the person they have a responsibility to study the Word and come to conclusions. It's one thing to search God's Word and come away with the conclusion that the Bible is not direct on an issue. Just the study alone will benefit your walk, and more importantly, reveal the heart of God to you. It's a whole different thing to view the Bible as a "Magic 8-ball." Give it a shake and ask the question, "Does the Bible say it's ok for 21st century Americans to drink recreationally?" Then when the person doesn't get the immediate "yes" or "no" from their study, they give up...choosing not to look any farther. That scares me.

I left Kroger thankful that I didn't bump into any of these three people. (Actually didn't bump into anyone I knew). But it also reminded me to continually humbly submit my life before Christ. Without His grace, I can easily become any of these three.


  • At 9:02 PM, Blogger Jones said…

    Don't you hate situations that make you uncomfortable when you are doing nothing wrong? By the way, I'm person #3. If I saw you danny, I wouldn't have said anything at all because I know there isn't anything wrong with it as long as you don't get drunk, which I would trust you wouldn't do.

  • At 9:09 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    as long as you know WHY, and know the issues Scripturally, you're not person #3.

  • At 10:42 AM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    I am person #4. The one who doesn't like being labeled so he created a new category for himself, but doesn't yet realize that it's actually a category.

  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    I'm also #4, because Gary looks lonely.

    I didn't try alcohol until I was 23 and was mildly disappointed. Not so much with the alcohol itself (some wine on New Year's), but with the fact that it turned out to be such an insignificant experience. I kind of wanted alcohol to be a big deal and it simply wasn't.

    And isn't.

    I didn't really like it (in fact, nearly 7 years later and I've yet to try a glass of wine I enjoy), but I was assured that pretty much any form of alcohol is an acquired taste, which was okay with me, as I certainly wasn't in any rush.

    I have to admit, though, a very real confusion when I hear Christian debates about whether or not it's okay or appropriate to drink. Granted, if the person in question has struggled with alcoholism in the past or has some sort of medical/chemical issue that makes imbibing inadvisable... then, sure, best to leave it alone.

    Otherwise... is it really a "witnessing" issue, as I've heard argued? If so, precisely what types of people are we trying to witness to?

    Is it an "example of holiness" issue? If so, how? Isn't that just perpetuating a false myth about what the Bible says / Christians believe about alcohol? Why is the fact that Christ drank a "cop out" in the discussion? I've always thought it fairly relevant.

    Maybe it's a "sensitive to those that are struggling" issue, which is really only an issue when you're around those that are actually struggling. Besides, isn't there a difference between having a drink yourself and trying to pressure an alcoholic into falling off the wagon? And what's worse? Being insensitive to those who shouldn't drink, or alienating those that do?

    I'll be honest, aside from legal/medical/history-of-addiction, the only reason that makes any sort of sense to me is "don't feel like it", which is perfectly legitimate. Spiritualizing the issue, in my mind, comes off as an attempt to rack up some sort of points that don't actually exist.

    Maybe it's the tendency to equate Having A Drink with Getting Drunk, which, as Andrew alluded, are two entirely different things. I can't speak for everyone, but I can count on one hand with fingers to spare the number of times I've been what I'd consider "drunk" and, in each instance, I've been very aware of what was happening to me and kept going anyway. It's both fun and lousy, frankly, but it's a choice.

    Again, I'm not everyone, but in my case, I can tell when "drunk" is coming and I stop. I'll allow that there may be some out there that have no idea what's happening to them and whammo! out of the blue, they're suddenly flat on their back.

    But, once again, it's a fairly simple proposition to avoid drunkeness, even if you want to enjoy a drink:

    - Go slowly
    - Eat
    - Give yourself a limit and stick to it
    - Avoid high-alcohol-concentration drinks (eg. shots)
    - Don't mix

    In the end, there's nothing vulgar or coarse or debauched about alcohol. Really. I was raised to believe that there was, that it was a very un-Christian practice, which paints a picture of Christianity that it doesn't deserve.

    By the way, don't knock acquired tastes. Some of the greatest pleasures/lessons in life are often a bad initial experience.

  • At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    danny i miss your constant wisdom. thank the Lord everyday for the wisdom and talent He's blessed you with to make silly college freshman desperately miss their youth group and church.

  • At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    eek sorry that was me>>>sarah :)

  • At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Rachel said…

    Amen to Sarah's comment from the Greenville girl at Hope!
    (that means Rachel, in case you're having an off-day :) )

  • At 9:15 AM, Anonymous brian said…

    I wish I could have run into you at Krogers...halarious. I've had some of the same situations. great post.

  • At 7:54 AM, Anonymous ~d said…

    hey, danny - is the real reason you'd hate to run into person #3 because you wouldn't have a chance to speak truth to them (especially if you couldn't engage them in the conversation you really wanted to have)? that you wouldn't get a chance to explain exactly what was going on? you are such a truth-speaker, and i don't mean that in a negative way at all. in fact i, also, am a truth-speaker. it's almost a compulsion for me...and perhaps that could be bad in some ways. but if you never did engage them in conversation, how would you really know for sure that they were avoiding the topic instead of simply not really seeing it as a big issue? (is that the "person #4" that others are refering to?) and why do we have to worry so much about what others are thinking when we know we are doing nothing wrong? i realize that as a pastor you are always under more scrutiny than most of us, and since i don't walk in your shoes, i am probably making some wrong assumptions here. these are my own truth-speaking dilemmas and thoughts that come to mind as i read this particular blog. i love to read what goes on in that mind of yours, though, because it also causes me to think...and i love to think.

  • At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great article. I agree with you, and I don't see anything wrong with a Christian partaking in a little drink once in a while, as long as there's restraint there. I appreciate your voicing the multiple, conflicting thoughts that we've probably all faced in similar circumstances.

    But, I must say this as someone in the medical field (although I know this wasn't the point of your message): a nursing mom should NEVER drink alcohol...it's an "old wives' tale" that alcohol consumption increases milk volume--in fact there are studies that prove the contrary, that it actually HINDERS production. Let alone that your smaller-than-average newborn will have increased risk from the alcohol getting into her little system. Believe me, there are many better and safer ways to help with milk production! Have your wife talk to her doctor. Please, please, please, encourage her NOT to drink while she's nursing. I hope you take this in the spirit in which it was written...I'm just concerned for the welfare of your child (and any child who can't speak for themselves).

    Thanks for letting me "constructively criticize"! Other than that (and back to the original topic), I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

  • At 12:12 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    i think you are right on with the dilemma. i often need to just let it go. i either worry, or seek for every oppotunity to be a "teachable moment." sometimes i just need to let it go.

    it also means i struggle though with those who don't want to engage a topic. i just can't comprehend casually saying that "we can't know" when the work has not yet been done. of course, there are secret things of God (Deut 29:29) which we can never know. but i struggle with the person who chooses to avoid the discussion all together. (you're right though, I probably stand the risk of placing someone in category 3 that is really category 4).

    concerned anonymous,

    thank you for your concern for us and our daughter. the experiment was very short lived and has ceased. we obviously would not do anything we thought could harm the baby and had been told by other medical professionals that alcohol doesn't get into the milk. of course, they could have been wrong, or this may be a controversial issue, with research not giving a definitive answer either way. i don't know.

    i do know, however, that it didn't work like we wanted. and that probably means i will not face this dilemma ever again.


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