“It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.” Exodus 32:19
I just got the phone call that young Jay Menifee, age 24 was found dead in his apartment. We don’t know yet if it was the “Money Shot” that intravenous drug users refer to when they purposely overdose to end their life or if it was accidental. Jay was a drug addict that we had been working with for the past year and a half. He had a little daughter not yet in kindergarten. When the call came in I was driving down the street. I felt like someone had hit me in the gut with a sledge-hammer. I had to pull over for 15 minutes to cry and mourn. Once they started the tears wouldn’t stop. He had been doing so well from where he was when he came to us nearly two years ago. He had been sober. He had gotten a good job with a friend of mine in the HVAC business and was doing a good job. He had a natural aptitude for mechanical things. He had gotten his own apartment. He was involved in church. Now he is dead and I’m mad as hell.
I’m not mad at Jay. I feel a deep sense of loss and sadness for Jay. Such a young life with so much potential wasted. I feel sadness for his little girl who won’t have her daddy to watch her grow up and who won’t be there for her at those crucial times of her life. That is my sadness. No I’m not mad at Jay. Some might say, “Well James why are you so upset? He was just a low-life drug addict who got what he had coming to him.” No, he was a human being for whom Jesus died and he was a very very sick person.
I’m mad as hell at the worthless vermin who peddle the drugs! I’m mad as hell at the scumbag that sold the drugs to Jay. Right now I would give a great deal to have just five minutes alone with him in a locked room. I’m afraid only one of us would walk out of that room. Is it bad for a pastor to say that or even think it? So be it. I guess I’m just not a very good pastor because I mean it with everything that is within me.
The next week when we held Jay’s memorial service it was a packed house. People got up and spoke and as people are want to do they spoke a lot about good memories of Jay and there was even laughter. I understand the need for people to do that but something was boiling up in me. Then as I sat there, waiting for my time to get up and wrap the service up, Jay’s little girl wandered over to me, put her arms around my neck and hugged me. That sent me over the edge. Her daddy should have been there for her to hug and he wasn’t. He never would be again. In fact, one week ago he had been a living, breathing being, and now he was nothing but a pile of ashes.
I stood up and said, “I’m mad as Hell.” This thing here tonight is a pig pure and simple. A nasty, smelly pig. No matter how much lipstick we put on this pig its still a pig. This is a pure tragedy, and nothing we say or do is going to change that. I have nothing tonight to feel good about, to laugh about, or to smile about. This is a pig and it’s a huge tragedy.
It was less than a year ago that I got the call about Shane Higgins. Shane wasn’t a drug addict like Jay. Shane was an alcoholic. He abused the legal drug of alcohol. He did it in fact to the point that the organs of his body shut completely down and he died. He was 39. We had worked with Shane for about six months before he went back out to his drug. He was dead three months after he left us. My own father died the same way at the ripe old age of 41. Shane outdid him by two years. Shane was the first alcoholic I ever met who beat my dad to the grave simply from the abuse of alcohol. Shane was no doubt a top-notch, professional, git-er-done alcoholic in order to accomplish that!
I guess the call today reminded me of the sadness and loss I felt when I got the call about Shane, and perhaps my own father when I was just 18 years of age.
It reminded me also that I guess I’m mad as hell at so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ who treat the legal drug of alcohol with such a cavalier attitude while it wreaks havoc on families and individuals in our culture many times more than illegal drugs.
That’s the dirty little secret that most don’t want to talk about. But it’s legal so we scream about our “freedom” to drink socially and the Shane’s and the Jay’s of this world who will “die if they drink” don’t get a whole lot of support from us. We are exercising our “freedom in Christ” after all and if you have a problem with it then sorry. That makes me mad as hell!
James M.Reeves, DMin.
Senior Pastor, Celebration Fellowship, Ft. Worth, Texas
Author: Refuge (How Hospital Church Ministry Can Change Your Church Forever)
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