In 2003, an aging Johnny Cash covered a song by the Nine Inch Nails called “Hurt” which became a hit almost overnight. The song includes these lines:
What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
I often hear those thoughts expressed in the things people share in addiction recovery groups. Recently, one of the men in the prison group that I facilitate told the rest of the group, “When I honestly look at myself, it hurts to see some of the things I’ve done and the ways of thinking I’ve gotten into. But what hurts the most is when people who love me say things like, “What happened to you? You’re not the guy I used to know. I loved that guy — where did he go?”
To me, that sounds a lot like the pain-filled words of God when Adam and Eve were hiding from him: “The Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9). Where had his loving children gone? What happened to the trust they had in him? I don’t know how much it hurt Eve and Adam to hear God’s words, but I know it hurt God badly to say it.
And I’m sure happy that wasn’t the end of the song for Adam and Eve and the rest of us, their children. We get to hear our heart-broken Father speak words of joy and relief: “…this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24). I love hearing the people in my recovery groups talk with joy about how they got a visit from their family members — they’d become strangers to their families, but now their families are seeing the man they loved, back again. And that’s just a dim echo of the “rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7).
I love being part of this restorative process — dead and alive again, lost and found — and I especially love knowing that the same thing is happening with me, too.