Every Life is Broken

If you live long enough, every life is broken. The life you planned, dreamed about, and worked for is suddenly no longer available. You might lose the job, discover you’re not as talented as you thought, have sudden financial problems, lose someone you love, or 1000 other things. The events are often entirely beyond our control. Sometimes, however, it’s because we did something stupid. Most of us have multiple disasters. After each one, our life is never the same.

I joined the Navy when I was 17 years old. After graduating from Boot Camp, I had to wait in San Diego for my security clearance before moving on to a secure base for technical training. One night I met two guys in a bar that claimed to be Marines. After a half hour or so, they said they wanted to go to Tijuana, which wasn’t far away, for the evening and wanted me to go with them. As we were driving down, suddenly, there were blue lights and sirens all around us. The police dragged us out of the car, separated me from the other two, and began questioning me. Finally, the police officer told me that the two men were wanted for multiple murders. They took men to Tijuana, killed them, and sold their identification. I was going to be their next victim. I didn’t get afraid because it was all over before I knew what was happening. These men were intelligent, articulate, and personable. There was nothing that gave away their intent.

I got locked up three years later, accused of something I hadn’t done. The cell was a large room with about 20 men. One of the men was being held for eight murders, and for some reason, he wanted me to be his friend. I was terrified of him. He was gigantic, with over 300 pounds of solid muscle. When I spoke with him, it was apparent that he was insane. Although not very intelligent and lacking in everyday interpersonal skills, something about him was the same as the two men who claimed to be Marines.

The room had very heavy metal beds. It was all I could do, primarily using my leg muscles, to lift one end of a bed an inch or two from the floor. One day, a man was sleeping with his head resting on the metal rail at the head of the bed. For no apparent reason, the big guy decided to kill the man while he slept. He picked up a bed and momentarily held it above his head as he aimed it at the head of the sleeping man. I was stunned and thought, That’s impossible. No one is that strong.

Someone screamed. It sounded like my voice, but I don’t actually remember yelling. The sleeping man woke and jerked his head out of the way.

It took five huge guards to subdue him. They put him in solitary for the night but returned him the following day. I was terrified. He was so strong that even if I could’ve found something to use as a weapon and struck a mortal blow, he probably would’ve killed me before he died. I was afraid to sleep. Since there was no evidence against me, after three days, they released me. I thought it was all over and didn’t know that there was any residual effect on me. Life went on.

I’ve been ordained as a minister three times. Once as an Episcopal priest and twice in non-denominational churches.

About 11 years ago, we had a Bible study at our home. A friend brought someone to whom he had been ministering. As soon as I met him, panic flooded my body, and I got that metallic taste in my mouth that came with too much adrenaline. I don’t know how but I knew he was a serial killer like those other three men. All I wanted to do was run. Had this been someone else’s home, that is precisely what I would have done.

I was supposed to speak that night, but my brain was cloudy. I couldn’t think clearly. I’m sure nothing I taught made much sense.

I found out the next day that the man had recently been released from prison for murder. He had already become the prime suspect in two murders committed after his release. I quit the ministry the following day, canceled all my meetings, and stopped even attending church. After that, I wouldn’t leave the apartment unless it was essential. We didn’t invite anyone over, nor did we accept any invitations. It took me a year and a half to return to a more normal life, but I didn’t go back to ministry. I found out later that it was PTSD.

Ironically, I had written an 85,000-word thesis on mental enslavement in school. All the while not realizing I was a victim. If the school reads this, they may want their degree back.

Last March, my daughter, Debi, died. Somehow the grief triggered the PTSD. I couldn’t function and just wanted to run away. On my first visit, a psychologist separated the grief and PTSD. I then had two sessions with a PTSD specialist.

It is still difficult for me to go into my daughter’s room or deal with anything that belonged to her. Also, the psychologist tells me they cannot make me unafraid of a serial killer. If I’m in the room with one again, I may panic. But, a few weeks ago was our first home meeting in almost 11 years. It was a very small group of friends. As I ministered during the Lord’s Supper that night, it seemed like the room suddenly filled with the presence of the Lord.

Although I stopped ministering years ago, I did not turn away from the Lord. In fact, my relationship with the Lord is even stronger now. I stopped studying to teach and studied to become.

I had already accepted God’s provision for salvation, so I wasn’t worried about going to heaven. The big elephant in the New Testament isn’t about faith or hope but love. It speaks about loving your family; I’m okay there. It talks about loving your neighbor, there I’m not so good. In fact, I’ve had periods when I have trouble loving my friends. Then it talks about loving your enemies; oh God. That’s when I realized that the worst struggles of my life may still be ahead of me.

It turns out that the Lord wanted me to look past the actions of others and see the soul he put within them and to be able to encourage or call forth that which he made them for. If they were a thief, murderer, or worse, look past that and see the potential of what they could be. I felt instructed to ignore their actions and lifestyles and let civil law correct that. I was free to call the police but not to judge them. I told the Lord that I was unprepared for this.

I don’t know if I had a dream or if I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it. Like most people, I can do the right thing on the big deals, but I am changed by thousands of small actions. The Lord wanted me to make a deliberate effort to show complete strangers kindness. Most of the small acts would never be noticed. The point wasn’t to change the world; the point was to change me. I can feel myself being changed. I still have a very long way to go. Every now and then, I am surprised by something that causes that old judgmental self to lift its head. The apostle John says everyone will know we are disciples of Jesus by our love. I guess I’ll need to wear a nametag a little longer.

2 responses to “Every Life is Broken”

  1. Your title nailed it. I think every major event in my life was filled with preconceived ideas that never panned out. I’ve had to let myself “die” to them and to any goodness of my own.
    Thank God for His grace, we will never stop learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathy Hillebrand Avatar
    Kathy Hillebrand

    This touched my heart…. I am not sure if it was your words or if it was the person writing them!!!! But, after I “composed” myself and reread it I knew it was both! You know that you have been like a brother to me since we met……… AND MANY THINGS HAPPENED ON THAT DAY. From me uhm uhmummm “almost” exposing myself (I was 12 afterall!!!! or Mother climbing under the table after Daddy FLIPPED a biscuit across the table to Lenore!!!! Either way, We all went into the kitchen and “prayed we did not ruin JoAnn the chance to see you again!!!! And then we found out that “YOU were just the kind of fellow that would fit in with THE CHAMPION SISTERS AND BROTHER! well actually Sandy helped your case by moving in with you guys. Well kinda……because SHE IS STRANGE ALSO! AHAHAAHH. But I am saying ALL THID IN FUN! YOU have always been an encouragement to me. I have hd DEBI on my mind for over a week now and my heart is breaking for you Jo and Steven. I have had to pause this email several times to get control. I think and pray for you DAILY! Love ya’ll and please let us know if we can do anything. You ALWAYS have a place in Charlotte!!! I hope we can be a part of ” The SHELTER” in the Storm of your Life” I love you! I thank our LORD AND SAVIOR FOR YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

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