“Bang!!” The gun went off. My ears were ringing, my constitution shaken, and I, for a brief moment, felt as if I were in a dream. However, my heart did not stop, nor did I lose control of any bodily functions. I was quite surprised to see how composed I was. You see, before this event actually happened, my mind’s eye would not have imagined I could handle it.
I am getting ahead of myself.
The fear of future events often scares me. In my mind, that which may come upon me is often too much to handle. How would I respond if such-and-such a situation were to occur? How would I respond if that happened to me? I remember the Terri Schiavo incident which, in 2005, held the country’s interest so intensely. For many of us, not only did it create a sense of sorrow, but also of personal struggle, as we wondered how long we could live in such a horrific situation. I remember specifically thinking about how terrible it was. I seriously could not think of a worse situation. The referred suffering of others (in this case, her parents’ suffering) is often too much to bear. You know, the suffering we experience as we look at another’s situation. The loss of a child. Chronic pain. A fearful situation. All of these qualify. With Terry Schiavo, if the pain I felt was so severe, how much more so her parents, who had to live with her condition for years? I thought the only thing that could be worse was if she was aware of her condition, fighting to free herself.
In truth, there are millions of things others go through, which I would think too hard for me to handle. From people banding together to take down a terrorist-controlled airplane, to being without a job for months or years, the prospect of such challenges is hard to fathom. As well, with world news and the internet, we are (over)exposed to so many experiences. These drain us of our energy, spiritual and mental. They cause us to cry out to God wondering where the world is going. It seems like every day for the last ten years I have heard at least one person say, “What is this world coming to?”
However, there are two things I try to keep in mind when soaking in the world’s trouble, pain, and suffering: 1) The world is not worse or more evil than it was before. There are not more troubles today than there ever were before. We are just saturated with more knowledge of these troubles, because of how quickly-disseminated and plentiful information is today. 2) It is not as bad as it seems. Seeing as how I have already written on number 1, let me talk about 2 for a moment.
I don’t mean to undermine the severity of people’s difficult situations (including my own), but I am realizing more and more that the prospect of suffering or troubling situations is quite deceptive. As I said, I could not imagine how my faith would hold up to a situation like that of Terry Schiavo. However, a similar situation occurred in 2006 with my mother. Even worse, she is aware of her situation. Her aneurysm and stroke have left her paralyzed in body and mind, but not enough to make her oblivious. Here I am five years later, living through my nightmare, yet able to bear it. The Lord often gives us the strength we need only when we need it, not at the mere prospect of needing it.
Okay, back to my story…
I had been counseling a couple in a troubled marriage. Don’t get me wrong; I am not too good at counseling couples’ marriages. However, I did marry these two and, as is often the case with those I marry, they called on me as their marriage turned sour. Unfortunately, their marriage did not make it. We tried, but reconciliation was not achieved. The gentleman involved was heartbroken, discouraged, and extremely depressed. Living in his new home (with one bed and one couch), he called a friend of mine, who then called me. “Michael, you need to get over to Billy’s [not his real name] house.” “Why?” I responded. “He is not doing well,” he said. “What happened?” I asked. “He is at his house crying – wailing. . . and Michael, he has a gun. He says he is going to kill himself.”
Please don’t judge me. I have heard it all since that day. “You should have called the police!” “You should have thought about your family.” “You should not have gone over there.” But, as scared as I was, I decided, after a brief call to the guy, to go to his house and see if I could at least disarm him.
Now, to connect this to the subject of my post, many things went through my mind. One other time I have had to disarm someone who was threatening suicide. The feelings of fear and dread were plenty. “I may very well die.” “People who are like this (emotionally unstable with a gun) are not to be messed with.” I was as scared as I had ever been. The prospects of dying at the hands of someone out of control were beyond difficult to face. But at the time, I thought I might be the only one who could take the gun from him.
I pulled up to his house and timidly walked in the door. There he was, pacing back and forth, banging his head on the wall (literally). My first thought was that he was on some serious drugs. My second thought was my main goal: get the gun. I began to talk to him. Erratic is the best way to describe what he was saying and doing. Due to his mental state at this time, conversation was not really productive. He would leave the room and then come back. Sit and then stand. Talk and then scream. After about ten minutes, he went into the kitchen. I heard some crashing, screams, and banging, then he slowly walked back into the living room holding the gun. It was a nine millimeter. I could not tell if it was loaded, but he was carrying it with his hand on the trigger. Then he started playing with the chamber in front of me. Finally, I said, “Give me the gun,” in as calm and unalarmed a voice as I could muster. He did not respond; he just kept messing with it. “Give me the gun!” I repeated. Again and again I requested he hand it over to me. I was sitting on the couch; he was standing right in front of me. Finally, something began to turn…in a good way, I thought. He released the clip (the part that holds all the bullets). It fell to the ground. He picked it up and gave it to me. I was very relieved. I quickly put it out of reach and asked for the gun again. He then cleared the chamber, releasing the final bullet. It fell to the ground at his feet. I thought about quickly picking it up, but he was too fast. He then picked it up, put it back in the chamber, and BAMMM!
My ears were instantly ringing. However, to my surprise, I was still calm. I took the gun away from him and examined the bullet hole deep in the floor right by my feet. I think he was as surprised as I was that he had just fired the gun. He looked at me and said, “I am sorry. I don’t know why I did that.” And he ran into his room. I sat there for a moment and thought about what to do next. I got the gun. Should I leave? I thought to myself. Quickly, however, I found him and continued the conversation, attempting to help him trust in the Lord. Today he is much stronger and is moving on with his life, There have been no more incidents.
As I have thought about this event over the last few months, I have found one thing that stands out more than any other with regard to my own expectations (and let me speak selfishly about myself here): I was not scared. When it came down to it, and the gun was being waved around, I had confidence. Don’t get me wrong; I believe the Lord was ultimately responsible for my ability to stay composed in this dangerous situation, but I did not feel his presence. I did not see an angel behind the guy. I did not have any “spiritual sixth sense” at all. It was intuition. The bullet struck eighteen inches from my feet and I stood up and quickly grabbed the gun. But I was not scared. Startled? Yes. Terrified as I was when I imagined, during the drive over, what could happen? No.
To this day, I don’t know if what I did was the best thing for me and my family, but it did reiterate to me a valuable lesson: the prospect of the thing feared is almost always much worse than the thing itself. Again, I think of all the things people, Christian or not, go through every day. I think about how difficult life can be. I begin to fall apart inside due to what others have to suffer. However, I am realizing more and more the resilience people have to go through hard things and actually make it. I believe we are to suffer with people’s pains and trials, be there for them, and do whatever we can to help bear their burdens. But when concern for another turns into despair about life, this is when we have failed to trust in the One who has all things in his hands, who causes the rain to fall (in a good sense) on the righteous and unrighteous alike. He has created people with the ability to make it. While the situation with my mother seemed unbearable, I am bearing it. While the fear of having a gun waved in my face was severe, when the time came, right or wrong, I was composed. It is only when we are controlled by the prospect of something that we are defeated.