Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 31, 1968
NUMBER 26, PAGE 1-3a

"I've Found God" — (More About Al)

Martin M. Broadwell

A number of people have asked for more information on the progress of "Al", first introduced in the September 23, 1968 issue of the Guardian ("Get Me Home Sober"). We stopped by pointing out that the story goes on...with an alcoholic there is never an ending. Even when he stops drinking for a year — ten years twenty years, there is always that first drink, then the world crumbles.

There was one thing about Al I didn't say last time. His wife had been married before and had a daughter. How could she and her 15 year old daughter survive the ordeal of never knowing when...? Maybe it was easy for them because his wife's first husband died with a bottle in his hand, dead from years of alcoholism.

"Never again!" she had said. "Never will I marry a man who drinks. The anguish, the distress, the torture is too much!"

But Al was different. He wasn't the pitiful figure of a man torn with years of drinking, whose physical condition was reduced to shambles by constant "lost weekends." Al wasn't like her first husband who was a "mean" drinker — beating her and the child when he drank too much (which was frequent, especially toward the last). Al was young — younger than she was — and he was bright and pleasant and full of fun and ambition. It was a relief to be alive again, after the sad, miserable years with her first husband.

She wasn't even sure if Al drank, and she never asked him. At least he didn't drink around her and the child. It took her a long time to overcome her fears of marriage, but finally they were married and she moved into his circle of friends.

Al's wife was moderately interested in religion. She worked at the bazaars at one of the denominational churches down the street, and attended some of the social activities. Her attendance at services was sporadic, because Al rarely went with her so getting up Sunday morning wasn't too easy for her. When their son was born, she dropped out altogether. Besides Sunday mornings became harder to face... Al was drinking pretty heavy on Saturday night.

By the time I discovered Al was an alcoholic, he had moved away, been gone for several years, progressed in the company and was now coming back to town on a better job. As he pleaded with me that day I spent trying to get him sober enough to fly home to get his family, his only desire was, "I've got to find God." When he finally got his family relocated, we had plenty of time to talk. We talked about alcoholism and why people drank. He was surprised when I expressed an interest in attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. One thing most habitual drinkers learn early is that people just don't have much use for drunks.

I was intrigued by the philosophy of AA, especially their strong creed that says that every member must "find God in his own way." Al didn't know where to look, because he had made a point of "losing God" most of his life. His wife wasn't much help, because religion to her was more social than spiritual. Church was a nice place to meet people and talk idle talk. It was good for the children to associate with other children their ages, but school really took care of that need. When Al suddenly had a burning desire to find God, she was unprepared to help.

"Finding God" to her was dressing up on Sunday morning, hurrying the children, and finally making it to an II: 00 o'clock service. To Al, the service was more like doing penance than worshipping God. The particular denomination had a lot of pomp and ceremony but little meaning to Al. He sat and was entertained. The choir sang, there were solos, vocal and instrumental, the preacher had a message on current affairs and that was it. Al failed to find God.

All of this time I studied and reasoned with Al and urged him to attend services with me. I volunteered to preach a special sermon just for him on the New Testament church. There were promises, but Al never could make it. His wife was anxious for him to come and begged him to take up my offer. But Al had decided that God wasn't at a church building. He had looked for him there, and been sadly disappointed.

One of the founders of AA "found God" in a hospital room. All the members can recite the story, and most of them hope to find God the same way. This founder was recovering from the results of one of his frequent drinking bouts, and suddenly "came to himself." He bargained with God that if he could just return home, he would devote his life to helping others who were fighting the same bottle. There is no doubt that his mission has been fantastically successful, as far as rehabilitating alcoholics. But no one will know how many people have died waiting for God to come to them in their bedroom!

That's where Al found God. After a hard day and night of struggling with himself to overcome depression and self-imposed guilt, he suddenly dropped to his knees and cried for help from God. After several minutes, the load and cares seemed to lift from his shoulders, and he was happy because he had found God. He told me immediately.

"It's wonderful! Every morning I talk with God and I put all my cares in his lap!" Sooner or later I knew Al would discover the truth — that God isn't a mysterious supernatural phenomenon that exists only in the still of the night or quiet of the bedroom. Al was an intelligent person of genius proportion. Sooner or later reason would prevail and he would look for a much larger God, a much more real being that could communicate on an intelligent plane. But these were perilous moments for Al.

Al had made up his own God, then found him where he thought he should be. He talked to him, calling it prayer. He prayed and called it worship. But there was no worship because Al put all the responsibility on God.

"Don't you want to know more about this God you have found?"

"I know all I need to know. He takes over my problems every day."

"But don't you owe him anything? Don't you have to do anything for him?"

"I am doing something. I'm telling everyone how wonderful he is — what he has meant to me."

Then Al turned on me, because he felt I had somehow held back how easy God was to find. He felt I had been selfish in insisting on studying and attending services. Just as Al had suspected, you don't have to go to all of the trouble to find God.

"Al, you've got enough sense to know that God is powerful enough and wise enough to reveal himself to man in an intelligent way. Why not read his word and study his commands and see if you 'can't learn more about him?"

"I know all I need to know!" over and over he kept saying it. "I know God takes care of my problems. That's all I need to know."

"But Al, you don't even know there is a God except through the Bible. Why not study it and see what other blessings are in store for you?"

"Because I've licked the only problem I have that amounts to anything, and I'm happier than I've ever been." Al was heading for another downfall, but at this stage reasoning couldn't change him. He had put the entire responsibility for keeping himself from being tempted up to God he knew nothing about. My fear was that, when this image crumbled, he would turn on God.

Al did well in his job, helped other alcoholics and spent a half-hour on his knees every morning. He was happy, and so was his family, but even his wife knew he was operating on borrowed time. Then he was transferred again.

Long nights in motels away from home. Problems with buying a home, finding a loan, adjusting to a new job, all of these began to look a little normal. But the problems and loneliness and lack of activity with Alcoholics Anonymous took their toll.

Al called me long distance the other Sunday morning. I knew the moment I recognized his voice that he had been drinking heavily. I held my breath, because somebody was going to be blamed. I prayed it wouldn't be God.

"Martin, I need help." It was as simple as that, but what could I do 200 miles away?

Talk! That's what you have to do at a time like this. He must talk, he must tell his problems, he must know somebody cares. So I talked and listened, then the words I'd dreaded to hear.

"I was wrong about God." he said, slurring his words slightly.

"How's that, Al?"

"I haven't found God yet. Will you still help me?"

"Do you still want to find God?"

"Yes, and I know now that I'll have to learn about him. I want a God that's real."

This was both exciting and disappointing at the same time. Now Al could be worked with, but he was 200 miles away. Even as I talked, I knew he still had a bottle to win that day. As the "DT's" began to approach he would need someone to talk to him. He needed someone right 'then — in this town — to talk with him more. So I took a chance. I told him to hang up and wait for a telephone call from a local preacher. There was a fellow I knew in his town that had compassion for people. I called the man, praying he would be home. He was!

Again, the story must stop without an ending. Someone else is working with him now. Al has come a long way. He found a god, then lost him. He's looking for the real one now. With time and prayer and wisdom, he'll find the true and living God! 2882 Hollywood Drive, Decatur, Georgia 30033