Alan was 32 years old and had been a drug addict for twenty years already. (When I first heard someone tell me they had been addicted since they were a child, I was shocked. But by now I had already heard it many times. Children are introduced to drugs by their parents or siblings in an environment where drugs are an everyday way of life.) Alan had tried to overcome his addiction many times and had failed. He finally ended up in a homeless shelter, having lost everything he ever had. He was frustrated, hopeless and depressed. That is where I first met him, when I came around to pick up people for church.
When Alan felt the love of God and the church members for him, he was amazed. He quickly found a new way of life, devoting himself to God and involved deeply with the church. He was overwhelmed that people could actually love him regardless of his past. And he passed this on to others at the shelter, helping them get food and clothing and lending a compassionate ear when they wanted to talk. Before long, we celebrated Alan having 6 months of clean time. He was quick to thank God for doing for him what he could not do for himself.
Alan was ready to move on with his life, and had been looking for a job so he could get a place of his own. But his felony drug history kept blocking him from getting a job. Every week at church he asked us to pray for him to find a job. And though we prayed passionately, he continued to get doors slammed in his face. In his frustration, he cried, “I don’t understand it. I’m doing everything God asks. Why won’t He answer my prayers?”
We continued to pray with him every week, and every week he still had no job. He continued to reach out to others at the shelter, and watched as they all seemed to pull their lives together, finding jobs and apartments. But Alan was still at the shelter, still unable to get a job and move forward in his life.
When my uncle in Florida died, I thought since Alan wasn’t working, he could help me drive down to the funeral. He easily agreed and we headed out, driving the 12-hour trip straight through. When we got close to our destination, we saw the palm trees lining the streets and could smell the ocean air. Coming from the bleary winter skies of Cincinnati, the warm sunshine on our faces felt wonderful. Alan proclaimed, “This is it! This is where I belong!” I responded that I would love to be able to live in this warm climate, too. But he declared confidently, “No – I mean it. This is where God wants me!” His expression changed to excited anticipation.
When we arrived at my fathers place, Alan soon announced he had to go somewhere. I thought this strange, since he had never been here before. I protested that he didn’t know his way around and offered to drive him, but he insisted he had to go, and to go by himself.
The next day, shortly after the funeral, Alan called. He was so excited that he had found a job at a construction site just down the road. He had also gone into a church, and met the pastor. They had been talking through most of the night, and he now had a church where he felt he belonged. The pastor had hooked him up with a temporary apartment until he could get on his feet. Everything had fallen together. He declared, “I told you this is where God wants me! This is God’s will for me!” He knew that we had been praying for the wrong thing all this time. Instead of praying for a job for Alan, we should have been simply praying for God’s will to be done.
After I got back to Cincinnati, I heard from Alan a couple of months later. He was still working and had just moved into his own apartment. He was very active in the church, and was teaching them ways to outreach to the community, and especially to reach the hopeless and the outcasts. He was very upbeat and happy in his new-found life.