You can listen to Pastor Woody’s testimony here.
Good morning. It’s good to be here with you. Is this microphone working? Good. The word of God, as it’s translated for us in the English Standard Version of Ephesians 4, verse 26, says this: Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. The message, which was written by Eugene Peterson … He paraphrases that verse by saying this: “Go ahead, be angry. You’d do well to be angry, but you don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge, and don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry.”
I was more than angry. I was one of those people who suffered from that dreaded disease of trying to please. The disease to please. I had let the sun go down on my anger over and over again when I fell. No matter how hard I tried to make the people around me happy, this kind of anger had become a deep root of bitterness. Drinking actually seemed to help a little bit with the pain, but then, about 11 years ago, my wife developed a drinking problem. She had a problem with my drinking. It made me ashamed and it made me angry.
Then my pastor developed a drinking problem. He had a problem with my drinking. It made me ashamed and angry. Next, me earthly boss developed a drinking problem. He also had a problem with my drinking, and that too made me ashamed and angry. I thought I drank just fine. Isn’t drinking a Christian liberty? The problem for me was that an open bottle was an empty bottle. I did not have the liberty to stop once I had started drinking. It was a real thorn in my flesh. It made me ashamed and very angry.
I sought help through Alcoholics Anonymous. How could anybody in my position go to somebody in the church and say, “By the way, I’m one of your missionaries, and I have a drinking problem.” This, too, made me ashamed and angry. In Alcoholics Anonymous, there’s a deal where you pick up a white chip to signify surrender and commitment to stop drinking. I had picked up enough of those chips to tile my whole bathroom. I’d get a month, and then I’d go out. I’d get two months, and then I’d go out and drink again. It made me ashamed and angry.
Finally, I heard a man speaking at an AA meeting one night, and he focused on the fact that God alone was the solution to my drinking problem. He quoted from the AA Big Book, which says this on page 25: “There is a solution. Almost none of us like the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, and the confession of our shortcomings, which the process requires for successful consummation.” There was nothing left for us to do, but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools that had been laid at our feet. We have found much of heaven, and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had never even dreamed. The great fact is just this and nothing less.
We’ve had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude towards life, towards our fellows, and towards God’s universe. God has commenced to accomplish those things for which we could never do by ourselves. Rocketed into the fourth dimension of existence. I heard that and suddenly I wanted to be on that rocket ride and my anger began to subside. I asked this guy if he’d be my sponsor, and he said, “Sure.” He asked me, “You know what your problem is?” I said, “Well, I’ve been going to AA meeting long enough to know that I’m clueless. I know I can’t stop drinking, but I really don’t know what my problem is.”
As I looked at him, somehow I knew he knew. “What’s my problem?” I said. “Your problem is so simple. You are ashamed to be an alcoholic.” Duh! Of course, I’m ashamed to be an alcoholic. I’m an ordained minister and I can’t stop drinking. It makes me very ashamed, and it makes me very angry. “Well,” he said, “there’s shame in being drunk, but there’s no shame in being an alcoholic because that is what God has allowed you to be.” I thought this nut’s from Pluto. “When you stop being ashamed,” he said, “and instead, you’re grateful to God that he has allowed you to be an alcoholic, you’re going to be in the position to help an awful lot of people.”
At first this made me angry, but I started introducing myself as Woody, a grateful alcoholic. After a few days, almost about a week, I began to believe it just a little bit. Paul says in Romans: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of salvation, the power of deliverance to everyone who believes.” My last drink was April the 24th, the year 2000. Drinking today is not my problem. Today, thinking can be my problem. Not a drunk, but rather a thunk, which can put me into a shameful funk when I mistakenly start thinking I can control my anger. Jesus handles anger much better than I do. I’ve learned to let Jesus do the driving when I get angry. I give him the keys.