I was in the pastor’s office of my church the first time I ever considered committing suicide. It was a gentle summer’s night in the rural southeastern collective of my youth. The air was sweet with honeysuckle and filled with the incessantly soothing chirp-chirp-chirp of crickets. Lightening bugs drifted lazily above the dewy landscape as the trees danced in the breeze. It would have been a picturesque vision worthy of any cherished childhood memory had I not somehow found myself locked in a small room with a crooked and musty old raven I had never seen before. Dressed in her Sunday best, she had slithered from the barren abscess of some forgotten crack in the dusty floorboards of this country church to bear down upon me with all the unsettling elegance of a condemned plantation manor. It was time for a ritual.
All but suffocated by the lurking stench of stale almonds and death, I closed my eyes as she drew my hands into her clammy grasp and began her mystic incantation. At first I offered nothing but awkward compliance, and then the thought seemed to wash over me with the gritty finality of any other monumental revelation one might experience. For one beautiful moment I was certain beyond even the most inconsequential of doubts that I should willfully sever my connection with the material realm.
“Can I go to heaven now?”
“Yes, Michael. If you walk out of this church tonight and get hit by a car, you will go to Heaven.”
Her devastated face cracked into the infected and ruinous remnants of a smile which sometimes wriggles its way into my nightmares even to this day. The office door swung open, and as I stood before the hopeful gaze of the congregation my only urge was to scamper outside and take my post in front of the next set of approaching headlights. I was eight years old, and I had just been saved. I had everything to die for.
That night was fifteen years ago. While I have largely forgotten many of the oblivious fancies of my youth, I could never quite bring myself to let go of that perilous little occasion. In many ways it brought an end to one of life’s most precious eras and ushered in a season of confusion, abasement and strife. A trial I’m not sure I’m finished with even now, and a debt I hope to someday repay in full.
“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”
There are some things which can only be truly learned when locked in the act of dirty, unrepentant coitus with the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor. How easily we forsake the things we take for granted as truth when presented with the opportunity for immediate fulfillment, for instance. We all do it. Some of us live by it. What I’ve failed to open my eyes to for so many years is how simple, beautiful truths have a nasty way of contorting themselves into hulking monstrosities whenever we lose them within the passion of the now.
Salvation touches our lives in many ways. As a young boy I thought it would come in the form of a wooden cross, a light in the sky, a feeling in the heart. As a young man I felt it would come to me in the caress of tender fingertips, lost within the wells of compassionate eyes. A smile that, upon lighting across her face, seemed to decimate entire realities.
It never came for me in either instance. It was lost to me first out of confusion, then out of spite. Although I still wander, I now cast it aside out of necessity. If life is a simple truth, redemption is the sweet enticement which drives us to forsake it.
I have been out of order for several days due to a strange zombie-esque infection in my leg, a couple of trips to the doctor, and the persistent annoyance of dealing with the exotic filth of a new southeastern town. If anyone would like to help contribute to GodlessFellowship.com, feel free to message me and I will publish you with love and tenderness.