My name is Mike Chasteen. I have been a member at TMUMC for 20 years. Although admittedly, spent the last several years attending other churches or not attending at all. Six years ago, I went through a divorce. In several ways it was a blessing because it made me take personal inventory and step off the hedonic treadmill my life had become. Additionally, I met the most incredible and amazing person in my wife today, Gwen. Through Gwen, I have learned patience and calmness, that "just okay is more than okay," and leading a reasonable, not over-the-top life was a pretty good thing. I also got three bonus kids that are all very special. God's hand was all over us during this time, even though I didn't see it as much then.
At the same time of the newness and refreshment in my personal life, my middle daughter was struggling through an opioid addiction. I didn't see the signs. I had a hard time understanding her addiction and quite frankly kind of washed my hands of it and her. Don't misunderstand, I supported her through several rehabs and did all the counseling sessions a family member does but inside I was embarrassed, fearful, hurt, and ashamed. During her addiction and recovery process, there was tremendous strain on my new marriage and relationship with my other daughter. Several things transpired and three years ago I was essentially estranged from both of my daughters.
For two years, I wondered what they were doing, where they were, and spent a lot of time going over all the reasons I was so hurt. Constantly reliving every event, talking about it continually with my wife. Keeping the hurt and anger front and center, I had role-played how any reconciliation would take place, what I would say, what they needed to say, and how it would go down. It was all-consuming. Many times, I would tell friends what was happening – they constantly assured me that it would eventually come around, never judged me, and I am sure prayed for me.
Through her recovery, my middle daughter came to me for forgiveness, she was moving to California and didn't want us to leave things the way they were. It was a joyous reunion; my now sober daughter was back in my life. However, I still had so much anger towards my younger daughter, I wasn't ready to reunite with her.
About four months ago, on Facebook I saw Cory Asbury lead worship with his new song "Reckless Grace of God." The words were burned on my brain immediately, and on my heart constantly.
"Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God."
This was the beginning of the Holy Spirit moving in my life and making a whole lot of noise.
About three weeks before Easter, I got a text from Gwen saying we aren't doing the right thing for our kids and we needed to get back in church and be fully devoted. As many Christians do, I decided to use Easter as the launch point for my committed return to TMUMC. During the service, Daniel talked about the upcoming sermon series Reckless Grace. There is that word again – Reckless. At the communion rail, in prayer, I clearly heard the Holy Spirit whisper the word restoration to my heart. The Holy Spirit was making noise again. I contacted my youngest daughter and set a time to meet in the coming weeks to work out our differences. In my mind, I still had all the terms that would be required to restore our relationship, how she would have to go item by item and atone for every one of them. All the while not even considering that I owned part of this situation too. My actions also contributed to where our relationship stood.
The following week Doug started the series with a sermon on the prodigal son.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." – Luke 15:20.
I knew that message was directed at me and the only way I would find the kind of restoration I desired, would be to find full humility, remove my pride, and just simply forgive her. It's as easy as it sounds, but the hardest part is the total humility. When we walked out of that service I looked at my wife and said, "This was really about us." She looked at me the way she does, and said to call my daughter right now and see if she'll meet us for lunch today, right now. It took me about an hour (that pride thing), but I sent her a text and immediately she sent a text back and said YES!
Next was the hard part. I spent so much time conjuring up all the ways she would apologize to me and now we were going to see each other for the first time in almost 2 years. I said a prayer and asked God for His words and I heard the word "forgive." Seriously? What about all the pain, the hurt, the harsh words? Forgive? It was the prodigal son's father that had given me the example of what I needed to do.
On the way to the restaurant, I told Gwen that I thought the only way we get through this with a positive outcome is for me to immediately forgive my daughter when she sat down. I felt like that would lead to a productive conversation and the first step to rebuilding our relationship. When she arrived, I hugged her, we sat down and I simply said – I forgive you and we don't need to rehash every little thing because it wouldn't change my attitude of forgiveness. What followed was a very meaningful conversation about many things, stuff I had done, things she would have done differently, and a ton of stuff in between.
Because of God's reckless grace, we were both able to humble ourselves with each other, admit to our faults and transgressions towards each other, and we were fully restored. Saturday for the first time in three years, we had these two daughters at our dinner table breaking bread as a family.
The moral of this story is this – just because I haven't been in pursuit of God's grace, he has pursued me. Through a friend, a song, my wife, a sermon, communion, a message in prayer. He has sheltered my family through addiction and separation, even though I wasn't turning to Him for shelter. He allowed me to be prideful about my life situation and knew exactly when the right time would be to descend into my life to begin a renewal for me spiritually.
Daniel used Matthew 6:14-15 in his sermon this Sunday, "For if you forgive someone who has sinned against you your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you don't forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Daniel's message that forgiveness is a simple thing, remove your pride, admitting your failures and humbling yourself is where you find Grace; is spot on. I know because I have learned it.
Lastly – if you are a parent of an addict and you don't know where to turn or who to talk to, please reach out to me or to the church get some help for yourself. There are many resources available. Addiction is a family disease, and they don't really publish a manual as to how you get through it. Every moment is unpredictable, but others have probably been through every moment. The addict is not your child or a reflection of how they were raised; it is your child with an addiction.