The Ghosts of all the Things We've Done Wrong

 
 Have you ever made a mistake that followed you around? Do you have trouble forgiving yourself or others? How about judging others on their mistakes? Sometimes forgiveness is not deserved but a gift that we can give another person. Learn more about forgiveness in addiction in this post by Grey Ministries.
 

OPAL: Gloria, you know Otis?

GLORIA: No, I don't know Otis, but I do know what you told me about him.

OPAL: You know he's a criminal? He's been in jail.

GLORIA: Baby girl, come on. I want to show you somethin’. See this tree?

OPAL: Yeah.

GLORIA: Hmm?

OPAL: Why are all those bottles on it?

GLORIA: To keep the ghosts away.

OPAL: What ghosts?

GLORIA: Ghosts of all the things I've done wrong.

OPAL: You did that many things wrong?

GLORIA: More than that, baby girl.

OPAL: But you're not a bad person.

GLORIA: Doesn't mean I haven't done bad things.

OPAL: But there's whiskey bottles on there, a-and beer bottles.

GLORIA: That's right. I know that. I'm the one what drank what was in ‘em, and I'm the one what put 'em up there.

Oh, baby girl.You know, a lot of folks have problems with liquor and beer. Get to start drinkin’ and can't get stopped.

OPAL: Are you one of those people?

GLORIA: Yes, I am… but you know somethin’? These days, I don't drink nothin' stronger than coffee.

OPAL: Did the whiskey and beer and wine… did they make you do all those bad things that are ghosts now?

GLORIA: Some of’em. Some of’em I would've done anyway, with or without the liquor and the beer… till I learned.

OPAL: Learned what?

GLORIA: Till I learned what was the most important thing.

OPAL: What's that?

GLORIA: Oh... it's different for everyone. Got to learn it on your own.

But, you know, we should judge Otis by the pretty music that he makes and how kind he is to all them animals, 'cause that's all we know about him now... right?

OPAL: Yes, ma'am.

GLORIA: All right, then.

My son read, “Because of Winn Dixie” in school. Have you read it? I hadn't heard of it. I told him when he finished we would watch the movie together. What a great movie it was! I mean, a bit cheesy acting, but an excellent premise. 

Sorry if this is all old news for you but it’s the first time I’d seen or heard of it. 

One of the scenes really got to me. Gloria, a nearly blind older woman, took Opal to her tree filled with bottles to teach her a lesson on judgement and forgiveness. 

Gloria was an alcoholic and in order to “keep her ghosts away” she hung up all her old liquor bottles on a tree. It was beautiful in a haunting sort of way. I imagine the colours the bottles put off in the sun was striking; making rainbows out of mistakes. 

Which got me to thinking, what do we do to keep our personal ghosts away? Gloria faced them head-on. She strung her sin for all to see, keeping herself accountable to God, shining down through it from heaven. 

We tend to hide our sins- don’t we? I know I do. Put my head down and move on.           

One of the biggest hurdles for our loved ones who have struggled with, or are currently struggling with addiction, is the shame. Their ghosts and bad actions on account of them are everywhere. Can you imagine that for a moment? Everywhere you turn- home, work, friends, family, haunted by the ghost of your choices...

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Click to Tweet: One of the biggest hurdles for our loved ones who have struggled with, or are currently struggling with addiction, is shame. Their ghosts, and bad actions on account of them, are everywhere.

One could argue they made a wrong decision and therefore must suffer the consequences. In some sense, I do agree but I also know we all make bad choices; our sins are not all so visible.

OPAL: Did the whiskey and beer and wine… did they make you do all those bad things that are ghosts now?

GLORIA: Some of’em. Some of’em I would've done anyway, with or without the liquor and the beer… till I learned.

Until We Learn...

In addiction, there are so many difficult choices on both ends. The pressure to stay addicted is everywhere. Alcohol, drugs, sex, video games, food and other precarious lifestyle choices are readily available. But you know what isn’t readily available? Those rainbows made from mistakes. Hope, love, forgiveness, peace, understanding and forbearance- they’re hard to find. Even in "good, church-going" Christians. 

“My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.”

-John 15:8 (CSB)

Oh, snap. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.”

-Galatians 5:22-23 (CSB)

Double snap.

Our difficult choices stem from fear, anger, sadness and frustration. In trying to figure out “what to do” we often do it wrong. Trust me when I say I’m “preaching to the choir” here because I know full-well I have a bottle tree full of mistakes in my own backyard. 

Do you? Yep. I’ll bet you do. 

There is no fancy metaphor this week, the point is simple- humility makes us good humans. What if, for one week, we challenged ourselves to respond to sin mindful of our own mistakes? Helped our loved ones by being rainbow-makers and scared their ghosts away? 

“But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.”

-Matthew 6:15 (CSB)

One sincere, “I love you, I forgive you and I see you,” is the greatest act of kindness we could ever give to another person.

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Click to Tweet: One sincere, “I love you, I forgive you and I see you,” is the greatest act of kindness we could ever give to another person.

OTIS: …I’m not a bad man, just, not a lucky man. But you, when I look at you,

(sings)

You are like a butterfly
A caterpillar's dream to fly
So bust out of this old cocoon

And dry your wings off
Butterfly
Go ahead and fly

Let's be like a butterfly, shall we?

 
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