It happened about 30 years ago. It was a Saturday and I was planning my suicide the following Monday. The only way it would work, I decided, would be if I stabbed myself in front of the altar. While I died, I would beg God for forgiveness.
What drove me to this moment was the pursuit of peace. I craved it but couldn’t find it. Everything was meaningless to me from a very early age. I could not sense hope in life and I longed for death. I tried to find peace in many places: mindset, pithy quotes, being perfect, relationships, drinking, pleasures, friends-and although those could lift my spirits for a moment, I always found myself crashing into a well of despair.
My road to suicide was accelerated by a hallucination I had three times my 15th summer. Each time it started as a bad high. Demons in my head taunted and screamed at me, sucking me down into an unknown spiral and I tried to claw myself out of their grasp. At the moment I was being pulled under and the fight was over, the entire hallucination would break up, literally end, and there before me, in my mind’s eye was Jesus. He stood there with a dignified power I couldn’t understand but which I welcomed amidst the chaos. With His hands open to me and in an authoritative yet loving voice, He said, “Child, in me you will find peace.” Each time He said it three times and then vanished from my ‘sight’. Like I said, I had that same (almost identical) experience three times that summer.
This altered the way I had been thinking. I had looked for the key I was missing but I did not think the missing key was God. I went to church. I believed in God. I could not understand how God could be missing. I believed He was big, powerful and perfect. I also admitted I was not, and hindered by sin. I understood sin. I suffered from guilt continuously. Painfully perfectionist, I felt every perceived failure intensely. Due to the hallucinations, I thought the key was to live life as Jesus wanted me to, sin free. I set out to do exactly that.
I failed miserably. I could not live failure-free. Despite being sensitive to anything that could upset my peace (failure of any sort), I couldn’t help myself. I kept doing things that heaped guilt on me and pushed peace far away.
That is how I came to plan my suicide. I rationalized it this way: ‘Jesus died because of sin so that must mean I have to die because of sin. If I die confessing every foul thing in me, perhaps He will forgive me and free me, and let me exist in peace.’ It was a gamble, but at this point in my life, I was desperate enough to roll the dice.
Well, you know that something happened because I am not dead. When I went to school that Monday morning I was called into a room and within an hour I was put into a drug and alcohol rehab program. I owe that to my best friend at the time. She saved my life and probably still does not know that.
Getting substance-free, I thought would be my salvation as it was a major contributor to what I recognized as sin. For two more years I tried to live sin free. I tried to be perfect. I tried to be anything but miserable. Despite my efforts, hopelessness and lack of meaning once again had me fantasizing my death. This time it was even more severe. The reason I used substances was to escape the realities I sensed. Now I was trying to live with my escape hatch closed and the realities I wanted to hide from still remained alive and active.
I went to college and my first semester I ran into a new Christian. He had written and hand-drawn tracts and distributed them to a row of mailboxes. To make a long story short, (and skip telling a wonderful miracle), I received one of them and we became friends. He gave me my first Bible.
I read it carefully and continually. I always had it with me. I even slept with it. I believed as I read and the gates were flung open. I don’t know how else to explain it except to say that something finally clicked. An incredible, indescribable peace washed over me and KEPT washing over me, every single day. I could see. All of a sudden, I could see. Jesus paid the penalty of my sin so that I could live in peace with Him. My peace was not dependent on the perfection or meaning I could create but on the perfection He is and the meaning He gives. The missing key, that life is found in God, not in a good life that merely acknowledged Him, was found. The call on my heart was strong not to only assent to the fact that He died and rose again on my behalf to make peace possible, but to follow Him and give up everything to do so.
I wish that I could keep your attention long enough to tell you of all the ways I have experienced God step into my reality and lift me out of it , experiences I have had that leave no shadow of doubt in my mind that He is real and active and powerful…and relevant. I will forego that now but leave you with this.
Since I became a Christian I, like every other human being, have had many painful things to endure. There have been defeats, failures and dreams dashed. Horrible life events, crushing disappointments and fierce battles with loneliness and confusion that are simply not fun to walk through. But I can attest to this. The peace He promised me never left me. It has remained even while I walk through fog, pain or sorrow. It has remained when the mundane and average life I lead whispers hopelessness and meaningless in my ear. My peace is not based on my circumstances anymore, nor my success or popularity. It is rooted in my life with God.
So dear reader, if you do not know peace, I offer to you what I have found. The Prince of Peace. Repent and Believe…..and He will give you peace.
For those who know this God already, I pray my story further confirms in your heart how marvelous He is.