*Disclaimer* It is probably a little outside the norm to write about a man you barely knew after he passes and without the consent of his family but I bear with me because I have something to say.
A few weeks back John Pitzer passed away. I have not been able to get definitive information about the nature of his passing but familial rumor has it that he fell off the wagon and overdosed on his substance of choice. As a pastor I get the chance to mourn with families and friends at the loss of their loved ones more often than I would like. Still, I cherish the opportunity to get to try and bring some words of hope and peace to grieving people.
John was not an avid attender at our church. He had other priorities, vices, and jobs that sometimes took him away. No lie though, when John did show up I had a better Sunday. I couldn’t have been the only one.
John had a way of bringing a sense of openness, vulnerability, and authenticity to our service. I would often times get to talk with him briefly before or after services and I won’t forget the cheeky banter but also the cut to the point, no holds bar, confessional type moments where he laid bare his concerns. These moments are precious to me. He lifted my heart in the few times I got to talk with him and I don’t want him forgotten.
So many times, once we give in to the pressure to smoke, snot, swallow, shoot, or swill (you name it), I think the Enemy of God breathes a sigh of relief–one less person to lead to destruction. Don’t get me wrong, in the Name of Jesus we can find liberty, freedom, hope, power, and new direction. God was able to raise Jesus Christ from the grip of death by the power of the Holy Spirit so redeeming people from the chains of drug addiction is well inside the bounds of the power of Christ’s work. Sadly though, that power is only made effective in the lives of people who seek the Lord and yearn for his will for their lives over their own. God is always working, always wooing, always calling us to him but drugs have the profound ability to grieve the Holy Spirit and make the still small voice of God mute for all intents and purposes. Drugs suck! Once they have their claws in us to many times we manage to isolate ourselves, destroy our relationships, disappoint ourselves and others with alarming frequency, and get ourselves into financial pinches that only heighten the stress and perpetuate our dependence on substances other than the sustaining power of God in our lives and the peace that walks us through every situation (high and low) by the power of his Spirit.
John Pitzer struggled with drugs. Those who knew him well have felt the sting of disappointment, stress, and anger. But John was created in the image of God. C.S. Lewis has a famous line, “you have never met a mere mortal.” John bore the precious image of God. He was made for a purpose. He was on this planet to love and be loved and drugs robbed him of that. Worse even, drugs led him to squander the image of God in him. We all bear the mark of our God. We were created to live in this world has stewards of his creation, fully alive in him, in perfect harmony with God and with each other but instead we chose our own path–a path of sin. In our own ways we all have mocked the image of God rooted deep inside. Instead of showing love we show hate, instead of kindness – bigotry, instead of patience – rage, instead of hope – despair. We all have chosen paths other than what God had for us.
In the end we all face death. It is our curse in sin. But, because of what Christ has done for us in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension though we have a choice in how we face our foe.
It is a great tragedy to see a human being die. John is no different. A life marked by drugs is often quickly forgotten, even by close friends and family because drugs manage to severe ties long before death and we tend to mourn the loss of our loved before they even pass because in all reality if feels like we lost them a long time ago.
But there is hope! John should not be forgotten. He was a precious child of the living God. The Lord loved him so much even through his bondage to substance abuse that his own Son (Jesus Christ) suffered and died in his place. As Christians we leave ultimate judgement to God. We resist the temptation to become put ourselves on the judges bench, judging others mistakes, vices, behaviors. Instead we ought to pray to see the people around us who are suffering with the eyes of a suffering God who never gives up on his kids. John should not be forgotten because he will never be forgotten by our holy God.
It is a terrible thing to see someone squander the image of God implanted in them. We are all destined for eternity but we sometimes treat life like it is fleeting, useless, unwanted. Drugs become a friend in that darkness, but a dark friend indeed. Instead of leading us to the light–wholeness, healing, mended relationships–they make us retreat into the darkness, alone, isolated…
If you are struggling with substance abuse today, please don’t forget John. Instead, seek help. Seek the blood of Christ. Seek counseling. There is hope today even if you can’t see it in the middle of your situation.
We will all see John again one day. Some day soon, Christ will come again in glory and we will all stand accountable for our lives. Instead of debating which side of the isle John will be on we should take this time to look inside ourselves and ask if we are squandering the grace of God in our own lives. Are we living lives worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ?
John will be missed. Don’t forget him, and may his memory move us to action.