-Sharing God’s Gifts-
I recently read Eric Clapton’s autobiography that he wrote in 2007. In case you don’t know, Eric Clapton is a legendary blues guitar player who became famous in the 1960’s and 70’s playing in bands like The Yardbirds, Cream, Derek and the Domino’s, and Delaney and Bonnie. He’s also had a very successful solo career.
I knew quite a bit about Clapton’s music career but learned some new things about the man from reading his book. For me, the most noteworthy things were not about his music or guitar playing, but about his faith and humbleness. Here’s a summary of three things that stood out.
Addiction & Recovery
Clapton got addicted to heroin in the 1970s. He went into rehab and got clean from drugs but immediately turned to alcohol drinking over 2 bottles of alcohol every day. He went through an alcohol treatment program at the Hazelden clinic in Minnesota. Clapton stayed sober for a few years but relapsed in 1987.
He went back to Hazelden a second time. During his times at Hazelden he was able to abstain from alcohol but when he was about to be released for the second time he realized that he had done nothing to deal with his desire/need to drink. Days before he was about to be released, he became scared and terrified. He knew that unless he did something he would go right back to drinking.
He had no idea what to do but something came over him and he fell to his knees and began praying. He knew that he was at the end of his rope and wasn’t going to make it on his own. Clapton had a Christian upbringing and on his knees, he asked for God’s help.
A few days later, he felt something had changed inside him. “I had found a place to turn to, a place I’d always knew was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in.” He left Hazelden in 1987 and has never touched any drugs or alcohol in over 33 years.
Clapton knew he would always need God’s help to sustain his sobriety. So ever since that first day when he got down on his knees and prayed he continues to get on his knees and pray twice a day and asks for God’s help and gives thanks for all he’s been given.
Sharing His Gift
But his powerful story of sobriety doesn’t end there – it gets better. In the 1990s Clapton built a house on the island of Antigua. While spending time there, he noticed that there were many people on the island who had problems with alcohol. He talked to his business manager about doing something for them when he got the idea to build a treatment clinic for the local people. He bought the land, started construction, and engaged a health care provider to partner with him to build and run the clinic.
During construction, the healthcare provider backed out of the project. There was no one to help fund the construction and no people to operate the clinic. His manager advised him to abandon the project because Clapton didn’t have the money to fund all the construction and fund operating costs for the treatment programs.
Everyone was telling him to stop the project. But Clapton didn’t feel he could abandon the clinic. Although he had no idea how to fund or staff the clinic he knew that his own sobriety was dependant on sharing his gift with others. That’s right – he knew he had been given an incredible gift that saved his life and blessed him. He knew that in order to sustain that gift he needed to share it with others. He proceeded to personally fund all the construction and engaged with the local government leaders on the island to gain their support for the project. With help from others, he hired a person from the Betty Ford clinic to oversee and run the treatment programs.
He began fundraising by holding auctions and concerts to fund what is called the Crossroads Centre. Many of his friends in the music business contributed their time and money to the effort. He auctioned off over 100 of his own guitars and sold off most of his art collections to fund the center. He raised millions and his dream of a clinic became a reality.
At the end of the book, Clapton does not talk about his accomplishments or career highlights. He doesn’t mention what he’s done, awards, recognition, or what he’s achieved. Instead, he writes about what he’s been given. The gift of sobriety is the most precious because he knows without it he would not have his family and probably would be dead. He also highlights the people who helped him and inspired him. Most are other musicians who he learned from and helped him. At age 71, Eric Clapton doesn’t look at what he’s done or accumulated, but what’s he’s been given.
It’s a good way to look at things and it caused me to reflect. My faith and God’s grace is a precious gift. But, it’s not something that I should hold as something private and keep to myself. God’s grace is a gift that was meant to be shared. When I think about what Jesus did on earth I quickly realized that’s exactly what he did.
Our lives are not ledgers of accomplishments, skills, and possessions. Our lives and faith are gifts meant to be shared with others.