a love like beer

He came staggering down the street, drifting from right to left as he wandered forward in halting awkward steps. The afternoon sun was hidden behind a thick layer of gray clouds but that didn’t stop his bloodshot eyes from focusing on the cases of beer in the open tailgate of truck in front of us. The drunk man teetered there entranced watching as the bartender hauled out the first case.

Being back at home in Equatorial Guinea is always a full experience; the deep rainforest greens and heavy humidity embraces you like a long lost relative and the beautiful and isolated sound of Spanish being spoken on the Central coasts of Africa. As much as things have changed in the passing of years, mirrored high-rise buildings where there were once only cocoa fields, much has stayed the same.

He stood there, puttering in his inebriation as he stared at the full cases, slowly drifting with the current of his own thoughts. In that moment he became a symbol of the Equatorial Guinea of my childhood, a figure of the spiritual emptiness so many still experience in my hometown. As I watched his profile I could almost read his eyes. If he could help carry those crates of alcohol into the bar maybe, just maybe, they would let him drink some for free.

He lurched over to the back of the truck and carried in a case. Triumphantly he returned to the truck to transport another. His leaned-forward face and uneven steps spoke of a thirst, a dedication, a passion so great, so deep, so strong. But instead of finding another thick plastic crate protecting and preserving the glass shells there was only a cardboard box with the fourth wall cut out. I watched as he analyzed the three-sided box, created a plan of action, placed his arms clumsily around its unsecured frame and began to walk.

But within the first steps he realized his plan was ill-conceived as the bottles began to shake against one another and tip toward the open wall of the box. As if time slowed down he began to throw his legs beneath the cascading bottles and twist his frame beneath the cardboard bundle. He lay there, legs twisted up under the box painful looking as if they were broken. The bartender came out and began to berate the drunk, but I sat there marveling that not a single one of the bottles was broken!

In that moment the words that came to my lips were these: A man will sacrifice himself for the thing he loves. Quietly I watched as the man lifted his disjointed frame from the ground, and I had to ask myself, “Do I love Jesus as much as that drunk man loves beer?”

What are we willing to sacrifice? What are we carrying that is only a shadow of what God has for us? Because unlike the hollow promise of the bottle that can only leave us with an empty bitter-mouth, Jesus brings us the wine of His presence, which He makes fuller, sweeter, richer. What are we willing to sacrifice today for the deeper presence of Jesus in our lives and the lives of the unreached, with a love like beer?