The beauty of recovery is that it is a shared gift that both creates and restore bonds of friendship. This is the story of how I met my dear friend, TR, who was snatched from a pretty dark place.
We met at a tryout for solo parts in “Lamb of God”, a Robert Gardner production about our Savior. At the time, I told the Lord that I didn’t need a solo, but I would be at the tryout so he could use me as he willed. I prayed that the people who did need to sing the parts would have them. In the waiting area, I sat down next to a giant of a man who very much dwarfed my small frame.
As he conversed with another fellow, I overheard him say, “Someday, I would like to be a counselor. I would like to help people.” I turned to him, introduced myself and said, “Can you tell me what has inspired you to want to be a counselor?” He began to tell us of his recovery from a drug addiction that had turned his life upside down. When he realized I was an addiction recovery missionary, we both felt a profound and mutual bond. The Spirit poured over me such that I felt I had just met my own brother.
Vocal Audition Journal Entry 2/26/2017
I felt a great love for my ‘competition’. One Brother had overcome a narcotic addiction and is now long-term stable. He wants to become a counselor. I lost my sense of nervousness as I told of how powerful our recovery meetings are to others nearby. I sang with clarity and gratitude for our Savior. Oh, how I love him… The Lord led me to people I love all day long. I finally got home and knelt on the floor in prayer with tears of gratitude. I was overcome.
Neither of us became a soloist, but we practiced together in the chorus for the production and had some very spiritual times together. He told me he would come to a group meeting to help my men, and he did:
Journal Entry 3/23/2017:
TR gave a wonderful story of how he thought he would never come back to church. His life was a real mess from addictions at a fairly young age. Now 44, and with some true trials overcome, he was able to be at a church meeting with his parents. He looked them in the eye and said, “After 18 years, your prodigal son has returned.” I couldn’t help crying.
A week later, we were practicing together at St. Olaf’s church.
Journal Entry 3/30/2017:
My friend, TR was a bit somber at the practice last night. He told me he was going to a funeral. I said, “I’m sorry, may ask for whom?” He related it was for his friend who had died of an overdose. My heart broke as the story of my cousin’s sons played in my head: two dead from drug addictions. I saw deep pain in his heart as he continued, “The worst part is that I was never reconciled to him. When I decided I had to get out of drugs, I was at rock bottom, and I’m afraid I did and said things that were harsh. But if I hadn’t gotten out, it might have been me.”
When I talked to him the following week at a practice at an Episcopalian church, he appeared to be much more at peace. He told me that he had a wonderful experience reaching out to his dead friend’s family. He comforted others at the funeral who had been in the same desperate group as he had before. They could see the powerful light he now carried and asked him how he made it out.
I know how he made it out because I know the pain of addiction. Only our Savior can change hearts so completely and so fully. We sang the powerful words of our Savior’s death and resurrection. I continued seeing TR periodically as he became an ARP (addiction recovery program) facilitator and later a missionary.
The most beautiful memory I have is when TR was sealed to his wife in 2018. I am a temple ordinance worker, and it happened that the sealing was scheduled to occur on my shift. My coordinator made a special adjustment to allow me to be there.
Because I was wearing white, I found I blended better into the background by standing and assisting as a worker than by sitting in the midst of the company of TR’s friends, and so I was the last to be seated. I counted some 10-missionaries there in a very full room.
TR’s wife was simply radiant and deeply in love with her giant teddy bear husband. She was receiving the reward of her patient persistence for him and now there was a kind of regal beauty manifest in both their countenances as the Holy Spirit sealed them together as husband and wife for time and for all eternity. After everyone was gone, I was the last person, to step forward to wish them well and I was overcome. One needs few words at a time like this.
Every person in the temple has a story of redemption, none of which is finished, but each of which is beautiful. I plead with everyone to prepare for these blessings. Our Father in Heaven will not withhold these blessings from his faithful children.
O how my words in vain impart
What glows within my grateful heart.
No tongue could ever right declare
What tender love is written there.
Ten thousand gifts could I employ
To show my praise, my thanks, my joy!
All of my life, yea, all my days,
Still not enough to sing Thy praise.From “Jesus My Savior”, Lamb of God by Robert Gardner
TR has offered to share his story in a subsequent post. I am looking forward to him telling his own story. He and his wife now serve as missionaries themselves.