The smell of coffee, cigarettes and frying bacon did little to help my hangover. So it was with effort I made myself eat my scrambled eggs in the little Minnesota café that June morning so many years ago. The night before had been rough. A bad case of anger and frustration stemmed from my soon to be ex-wife’s demands for free gasoline and paying her to spend time with her own children. I was ashamed of how I drove 30 miles to a tavern and spent the next few hours drinking beer and trying to calm down. The eight cans of beer did their job and I did calm down. But then I made the very unwise decision to drive the 30 miles back home.I made it out of town to the next county okay but soon saw flashing lights behind me and I pulled over. A Minnesota Highway Patrolman put me through some field sobriety tests which of course I failed. And then I was on the way to the county jail. I don’t remember all that happened that night so long ago. But I remember removing my shoe laces and belt and having my fingerprints taken. I remember the detached way the law enforcement officers treated me. I knew I had crossed the line and I didn’t blame them. Humbly and politely I listened and obeyed as they booked me and finally locked me into a cell with a toilet, a plastic covered mattress on a hard bunk and four bare cement block walls.I slept fitfully for a few hours as the alcohol fog lifted and as soon as the sun rose I stood by the window of locked steel door and watched and waited for someone to let me out. I could see a clock showing that it was almost 5:00 am and a passing deputy told me I wouldn’t be allowed out until at least 6:00. I didn’t like the feeling of being locked up. I stood and watched the clock tick the minutes slowly by. Finally, shortly after 6:00 am another officer unlocked the door and told me to follow him. I tried to smile and be obedient. The jailer watched me as he went over the inventory of my personal belongings, including my shoe strings. When he was finished he said I was free to go as long as I showed up for my court date and he led the way out into the bright Minnesota sunshine.At the door he told me that I would be able to retrieve my car once the garage that towed it opened at 9 am. And he said, “You know, you were the most polite drunk we’ve ever had in here. You really need to make some better choices.” And he shook my hand and wished me good luck. I was glad that my head hurt so badly because his kind words made me feel like crying.Only six months ago I had moved to a small town to take the rural carrier job and had no close friends. And I was embarrassed to ask anyone for help. I didn’t know how to handle my emotions let alone deal with my wife’s decision to end our relationship and walk away from our family.I had almost three hours to wait with nothing to do and a splitting headache. I walked slowly making my way from the sheriff’s office to the downtown area several blocks away. I was in no hurry. Eventually I found a little café that was open and serving breakfast. Inside were a few sleepy farmers and a tired looking waitress pouring coffee. I walked quietly in feeling dejected and sat down by myself at the counter and ordered coffee, eggs and toast. And water.I slowly ate the eggs and toast with frequent sips of coffee. The nausea from my hangover decreased slightly and I asked the tired waitress for more water. She sighed as she filled my coffee cup and headed for the water pitcher in the back. My eyes followed her as she went past the front door and a man much older than me walked in.He took off his hat and scratched his head as he started to sit down and then he noticed me. “G’morning!” He said cheerfully. “What are you doing in here so early?”“Hi, Ray.” I grinned sheepishly. “I, uh, had a bad night I guess.” I met Ray at the small church I had attended and had talked to him by his mailbox a few times when I delivered his mail as a rural mail carrier. And I had helped him mail some pelts to a fur company.“Mind if I sit here?” Ray asked as he took the stool next to me. The waitress brought him a glass of water along with my refill and took his order. When she walked back to the kitchen Ray swiveled a little in his stool to face me.“You okay, Paul?”I swallowed hard and looked towards the stack of clean glasses behind the counter in front of me. “Naw…I really screwed up.”For some reason I found this man I barely knew easy to talk to and for some reason I needed to talk. I took a breath as Ray stirred cream into his coffee. I looked around and the other mostly men in the café were talking low or reading newspapers.“I just got out jail.” I confessed. Ray’s eyebrows went up but he kept smiling at me. “I was arrested last for night drunk driving.”“That can happen.” Ray nodded at me. “I don’t know why. A guy can make up his mind to behave and stay away from drinking and something happens and the next thing he knows he’s out drinking again.”“I usually never drink,” I said softly. “I think drinking is wrong…” Ray leaned closer towards me to hear. “I was just so… mad at my wife…We’re divorcing you know.” I didn’t know how to explain it. “I heard.” Ray said.“I just feel like such a failure. I let my kids down and myself down, and I don’t know how to fix things.” I started to spill out my story of frustration and bad choices and Ray sat with me, eating his breakfast and listening and not saying much. I barely knew Ray yet here I was telling him I was not only getting divorced but that I was a drunk too. I felt like a complete failure but I couldn’t stop talking.“You know, Paul,” Ray said putting his fork on his plate, “These things are just a part of life I think. People are going to make bad decisions now and then. I’ve done it a time or two myself.” Ray chuckled. “More than a time or two, actually…”“But the very things I know to be wrong…that’s what I’ve managed to do in the last few weeks. I don’t know what’s happening to me.” I said.“Well,” Ray looked over my head at the wall behind me. His eyes seemed to go far away for a minute then he looked back at me. “A man just can’t judge himself by a few bad choices. What counts is what he does when he messes up. Does he keep on messing up or does he decide to make a change and do better? I think the Lord understands when we screw things up, I mean isn’t that why Jesus died on the cross? But God also expects us to come back to Him and ask forgiveness and to ask Him for help to try and do better.”I nodded my head and thought of my two little girls, two and three years old. I was responsible for them and I knew I had let them down. “I want to ask for forgiveness and try and do better,” I said quietly as I looked at my plate. “I mean I have to do better.”“Tell you what Paul.” Ray said as he patted my shoulder. I’ve been in the same boat as you a time or two. I don’t know what comes over a guy. But sometimes I end up doing just what I try so hard not to.”I looked up at Ray as he avoided my eyes. “You mean?”“Oh, yeah!” Ray nodded. “But, you’re going to have to work at making some changes. And I tell you what. I’ll be praying for you and you can be praying for me.”For the first time in a long time I started to feel hope. “I will pray for you, Ray. And I sure would appreciate you praying for me.” Ray nodded. “And thanks for talking to me.” Ray smiled. “I’m glad I came in and saw you. A guy needs somebody to talk to now and then.”“I really appreciate it, I didn’t know what I was going to do…”Ray nodded as he stood up. “Well…I’ve got to get going, I’ve got some things to pick up and then I got to get back to the farm.” Ray slapped me on the back. “But I’ll be seeing you around.”“Yep.” I smiled. “I’ll be seeing you.”I watched Ray give his money to the waitress at the cash register as I yawned and stretched. I looked up at the clock and noticed it was almost 8. I had another hour to go before I could get my car. Later I was walking to the garage and I noticed it was a nice day. I kept picturing myself in the bottom of a hole. I could see I had two choices, dig myself in deeper, or start to dig myself out. And it seemed like God had just handed me a shovel. “Thank you, God,” I prayed, “For sending your lost sheep an angel.”And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me! I’ll recognize the sound of your voice. Psalms 119.176 The Message.