The Pursuit of Salvation

Caleb and I sit by the window in McDonalds, looking out at those who use the safe injection site in downtown Victoria. 

We haven’t connected for a few weeks so the conversation ranges over mixed terrain. The topics mirror life, nonlinear. Methadone, the roll of a sweat in helping break “a run,” the grandchildren - his nieces and nephews, the great danger of sexting for young girls, survival tactics during the recent spell of cold and rain, and the crazy disparity of the price of goods “on the street” from those in stores.

As we catch up, we pass familiar theological landmarks - guilt, shame, forgiveness, hope, perseverance, and, underlying them all, the question of salvation. These themes are not new to us. We have named them in many conversations although, each time light strikes one theme more than the others.

This day, the promise of salvation attracts my attention, possibly because of the deep sense of bondage felt by my son.

The captivity remains stark. How spirit wrenching and soul-draining to arrive at the place where even a day’s optimum amount of drugs does not bring peace; and yet to know that much of the day or week has been exhausted in pursuit of those substances and false promises. And this rhythm sets the beat not only for one day but the next and the one thereafter. No relief.

We share a sad laugh at the punchline, “How’s that working’ for you?” Not.

In religious terms, the promise of a drug life resembles that of devotion to an idol who takes everything and leaves you broken, exhausted, alone. I refrain from giving my own list of habits and heresies to which I have succumbed over the years, exchanging vast quantities of time and money in what turned out to be a fool’s pursuit.

Caleb’s mind remains bright, a rare blessing after decades of drug abuse. I enjoy the conversations and miss him during those times when he gets dragged into the abyss. We name the deep realities because it is part of what we do, part of who I am. But neither of us holds the illusion that this knowledge will save. Doesn’t hurt. But the simple naming of the demon will not open the door that will spring Caleb into the new life he desires.

 So I am left again to ponder the mysteries of salvation, a fitting task for this time of year. Strip the decorations, sentimentality and nostalgia from the season and the much-beloved and mangled Christmas story vibrates with the deep yearning for salvation.

Strip the decorations, sentimentality and nostalgia from the season and the much-beloved and mangled Christmas story vibrates with the deep yearning for salvation.

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Granted, the Bible paints on a massive canvas. Social, political and economic reversals form part of the early prayers. The song, the Magnificat, now pinned to Mary, contains revolutionary sentiments.     

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.

In this age, such visions need to be dragged out of storage. But right now, the focus of my plea for salvation sits across from me.

He will continue to try, to keep the promise to use the safe-injection sites, to eat, stay warm and beat the bushes for detox and ways to be accepted into the Our Place Therapeutic Recovery Community.

I, and the rest of the family, continue to be alert for opportunities, resources, people who might be part of “the team.”

All good and important, but something more than the best efforts of all us will be needed. For that we wait and we pray.

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