Back in high school I was pretty straight laced. When I say “pretty” I mean the most edgy thing I did was swear. Around the time I turned 20, this began to gradually change. Not dramatically. 90% of the time it is still true. But now there is that troublesome 10%. While that 10% has given me some great stories (like my rather hilarious first kiss story), it’s also led to some moments I’m not so proud of.
Saturday evening I had one of those moments. In contrast to lots of people, my night was quite tame (sober or drunk, there are many lines I will not cross). But I did get very drunk in an environment I shouldn’t have. With people I shouldn’t have been drinking with. While I appreciate the fact that I didn’t do anything else worth regretting, I regret that.
To some people, this may seem like nothing. To those people who know I’m a Christian, this might seem like a big deal.
As a Christian, especially as a Protestant American Christian, drinking is a touchy subject. Getting drunk is a complete no-no (Paul writes a lot about not getting drunk). Partying it up with the renegade group at a Church party is entirely imprudent.
The context alone made my decision less than upright. Why I drank made it worse. A lot of drinking goes on in the Bible and the times when it seems most acceptable is when it is done in the context of connecting with and enjoying other people at an event. That is not why I drank so much that night. I did it because I didn’t want to make the effort to really connect with the people I was with. I drank to simulate the feeling of enjoying myself, and them. Which didn’t exactly work for me.
To me, context and intention play a big role in ethics. Jesus said that the essence of our religion is loving God and loving others. I drank that night because I wasn’t in the mood to be loving. I wanted to be entertained. When I wasn’t, I decided to do what might be entertaining.
While I worked my demo job Sunday, I felt nauseous, slightly dehydrated and insanely remorseful. I spent most of the day internally apologizing to God.
There have been times that I’ve wished that the Biblical writers would have clarified what constitutes drunkenness (let’s be honest, if you drink, you know that there is a wide spectrum ranging from that wonderful glowing buzz to blackout drunk). I don’t need any clarification to know I crossed a line that night.
As a Christian, coping with regret is kinda complicated. Yes, we know we have a savior who intercedes on our behalf for forgiveness. But there is also a lot of pressure on us to be perfect. To live out our new identity as children of God righteously. When we fail, in big or small ways, it’s hard to forgive ourselves. Let alone really believe that God will forgive us (the Christian community certainly has a hard time forgiving anyone, be they Christians or not, for most faults).
None of my apologetic praying really made me feel that much better. When I got home, I spent a long time standing under hot water hoping it would wash away some of my shame. Then I resumed reading the book of Hebrews. This is the epistle that I’ve spent the most time in. It was exactly the one I needed to read that night.
The writer talks a lot about how Jesus is our high priest, offering a sacrifice on our behalf for sin. There was something a little comforting about being reminded that other priests continually had to offer sacrifices both for their own sins and others. It illustrates that fallibility is a part of the fabric of our fallen reality. God knows this. He stresses that Jesus became a man just so that he could truly understand our weaknesses (since he and the disciples drank often enough, I’m sure he can understand this one). One of the great benefits of his sacrifice is that it can actually relieve us of our shame. What I took away, in short, is that I need to suck it up, humbly accept that I’m forgiven but learn my lesson.
Repentance and forgiveness are such fundamental aspects of Christianity, yet I found relearning these basics this weekend. While I’m not so proud of myself, I’ve been able to forgive myself and move on. I definitely wont be making that mistake again.