I have written about my suicide before but I feel compelled to do so again. I do not remember the gun going off. I do not remember what it felt like as the bullet ripped through my tongue and teeth. I do not remember it destroying my left eye. I do not remember when the bullet, now separating into fragments, entered my brain. In fact, all I can really remember is saying to myself, “There is no hope,” as I put the barrel of the gun under my chin and pulled the trigger. I do remember floating over my dead body as I was being transported to the hospital. I was told that I passed out due to a lack of blood. This caused my heart to fail. I vaguely remember the emergency personnel bringing me back to life only to slip away again. This time, I was taken to a place where I was with others who had died. Strangely, I was not afraid.
I remember there was an accuser, I do not know if it were the demon who had tormented me for two years or whether Satan was there to accuse me. I remember that the evil entity, whoever it was, said, “He killed himself. Church law says that he now belongs to me.” Then another voice spoke up. Was it an angel of was it the Lord, I am not sure, however, the angel, or the Lord, said to the evil presence, “God grace trumps Church law, he belongs to us. His price has been paid.”
Then the one speaking turned to me and asked, “Do you want to go back?” I knew I had a choice, but I also knew I needed to say yes. I was aware there were others there as well. Some of them were in a state of being beyond horror, terror, pain, and fear. They reflected the hopelessness and true suffering of a regret that will never go away. There were others who seemed to be in a state of bliss that was far greater than happiness, pleasure, joy, and peace. However, once I said yes, I awoke in the intensive care unit. I had been unconscious for eleven days, hooked up to a ventilator, feeding tube, monitors, wires, and tubes. I was alive.
At first, I did not know what had happened. While I was being moved from intensive care to a room I asked the nurse, “What happened to me?” The nurse replied, “You were shot.” I then asked, “Who shot me?” The nurse replied, “Do you know who shot you?” I answered no. The nurse then told me, “I have been told the shot was self-inflicted.” My mind took this bit of information and began racing. “What was the caliber of the gun?” I asked. In my mind, I wonder if it had been an accident. If I had been shot with the 9mm then I could believe it was an accident. If it was the .45 then I knew I had decided to kill myself. The nurse did not know. It took two days to find out that it was the .45. Yes, I had intended to kill myself.
Why, why did I do this? What finally brought me to seek to end my life? I had lost hope. I felt that I was a total failure. I had been pushed out of a church, forced to retire, and had done irreparable damage to my lower back. I was in constant, chronic pain. I had just moved from a small town to a larger city. Covid had struck and I could not get a job. I had turned to self-medicating to try and ease my physical pain. This did not really help. Mentally and emotionally, I was a wreck. I had no friends to support me. My dear wife tried her best to help me, but I resisted her and felt I had been abandoned by God. In my insanity, I believed my only choice was to die. And so, in a drug-induced state in total despair I killed myself. I did not think of what I was going to say to God, or how I was going to try and rationalize what I had done. Selfish, that is what I was selfish.
My poor wife was in the next room when I pulled the trigger. Selfishly I did not think of what my actions might do to her. I did not think of my daughters, grandchildren, or anyone. I did not think of what I was about to do to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I just wanted to end the pain. It was a very selfish act. I am sure the Lord wondered watched me with sadness. Why could I not depend on God to help? Why had I become so willful?
It has been two years since the event. I lost my left eye and most of my teeth. My vocal cords were damaged. The amount of brain damage has not been too extensive as far as we can tell. Mostly I cannot remember how to do some of the physical things I had participated in and taught. I cannot tolerate a lot of stress. I have panic attacks when I am in a situation that is stressful. I use a cane to help with balance issues.
I spend most of my time now studying and seeking. I thought that the Lord was calling me back into the church as a pastor. I even tried sending out resumes. I had some responses that made me hopeful. I have been able to accept the lack of responses and the responses that were rejections without experiencing emotional or mental pain. I do not blame God. I do not blame the churches that are not interested. After all, I am a 67-year-old man who may be qualified in every sense and have experiences that could be very helpful to others, but I am not the image most churches look for in a pastor. I am okay with this. There is no person to blame for any of this except myself.
I am now seeking to be accepting of my situation. Willingness is the answer to willfulness. I am entering into the physical, economic state of poverty. I have controlled the back pain to the point of being able to do some physical work for about thirty minutes before I must sit down so I cannot find a job. I am too old to file for disability. I am dependent upon my wife to be the true breadwinner even though she is 66 years old. She truly is a servant of the Lord.
I am learning to deal with regret. I am learning to deal with my self-caused handicaps. I am constantly reading and studying spiritual direction and discernment. God is very good to me. Pray is becoming more meaningful and intimate for me. I have peace, a peace that does surpass anything the world has offered me. I am seeking about all else to live in the reality of the repetend prayer I turn to every day, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk. 22:42 NIV)
I have no idea, yet, of the reason, the Lord sent me back. I feel it largely had to do with the prayers of my wife and children. I do believe God has a purpose for me. I am more than willing (not willfully but willingly) to be whomever the Lord wants to shape me into being. I am amazed at how God can still love me, use me, affirm me, and bless me despite continual sinfulness and stupidity. I have come to know the hope expressed in Jesus’s parable, “”Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people– robbers, evildoers, adulterers– or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Lk. 18:10-13 NIV)
Another repetend prayer, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”