They say, “You can’t choose your family.” That isn’t quite true for Andrew who, because of his brokenness and family history, has had to choose surrogates for years – brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. His family ties run deep in our church.  Joan is one of his “mothers.”

It turns out my thought of shielding Andrew from the news of his friend’s overdose well was unfounded. I didn’t tell him, but Joan did. She had a wiser view of the situation. I didn’t want him to go to a darker place. Joan didn’t want him to overdose, so she told him about Aaron and made a loving plea for him to not follow Aaron’s example.

Andrew seemed to take it to heart. “It’s hard for me to believe Aaron is dead… he was not a hard drug user and all of us on the streets know fentanyl is in heroin and fentanyl is the number 1 most deadly drug.

“He did seem to struggle with mental issues. I tried to get him to smoke weed a few times and he said that it wasn’t for him, yet he did like to drink. We both did,. God is now with our friend. I only hope he asked the Lord into his heart before he died.

“We all know that God loved him and gave him the tools through people like you and our friends from church. Did he use them? I hope one day to find out.”

This recent letter reflects a maturity that Andrew still struggled toward eighteen months earlier, as he was thrust into isolation, “the hole,” and often expressed regret for his choices, rather than the choices of others.

“Even though I feel broken, God will still continue to work in me as long as I let him. I feel as though I am just starting to know him. I feel like God has given me one last chance to shape up… Yes, drinking and drugging has been a problem in the past, but I’ve learned it only makes things worse. I haven’t gotten anywhere in life in over ten years…”

His mind drifting to family and adjusting to prison life, he began that letter to me with fond memories of our family. “Hey, how’s things? Your daughter was pregnant and soon to have a child when I was out (of prison). Did she have the kid? Boy or girl?”

It always surprises me how he avoids being self-absorbed and self-pitying in his situation. It is a good example for me and others. There is no good explanation for this except that God has worked in his life. In the same letter he celebrates having gotten a copy of Our Daily Bread, a Christian daily devotion guide. “I really like the prayer at the end where it says, ‘Thank you, Lord, for saving me. Please shine your light brightly through my broken life so others will be invited to know you too.’ Even though I feel broken, God will continue to work in me as long as I let him.

Ironically, I think a turning point for Andrew – a mindset reset – was his incarceration. The loss of freedom led him to true freedom, from self and from habits of mind that put him there. Next time, he shares five pieces of advice for his friend who later overdosed, advice that could have saved his friend’s life.


(Read Andrew’s story here Thursdays and Mondays)