There was a hole in the middle of the garage where his wife’s things used to be. He sat there with a gun in one hand and a bullet in the other. The only thing he could hear were the thoughts of failure and loss screaming in his mind. He breathed in, he breathed out. He pressed the bullet into the clip and loaded it into the gun. The way out was now in the chamber, an answer… Everything was quiet, only the sound of his breath. He breathed in, he breathed out. He was ready to leave.
SIX HOURS EARLIER – SATURDAY MORNING
The morning sun came through the window, the sounds of children starting their weekend routine, Greg found himself sitting in bed without rest, he hadn’t slept. The empty closet and the open dresser drawers produced a string of thoughts, confusion, and questions. What happened to the perfect life? It was going so well. One moment he would feel pain, from pain to complete quiet, the numbness took over. He laid down and closed his eyes, He remembered back 23 years looking for some kind of answer.
23 YEARS EARLIER
The bank was noisy and Greg loved the atmosphere of financial transactions and the pace of successful people in California. There was comfort in the hustle, the journey towards the American dream. He had walked away from his past; the catholic practices and religious obscurity that he was raised with. The countless hours memorizing catechism and spiritual texts. Being an altar boy. The military. The mundane redundancy of the Hawaiian culture where he grew up. Control, he wanted control.
The bank was a place of new beginnings, financial strength, a promising career, and where he would meet the girl of his dreams. One electric date turned into engagement and marriage produced their first kid two years later. Greg closed the final door on God when his in-laws gave him a bible for his wedding. He snickered at the inscription inside, “you are now the spiritual leader of this family.” This book had no place in his plans and found itself in storage. There was a different code he lived by, a set of principles his father left with him; a man takes care of his family, provides food, shelter, and stability. Greg nodded to these standards, there was nothing he couldn’t do.
23 years later…
Greg found his wife in the garage. In one conversation Greg became deeply aware that he had failed as a husband, that his marriage was suffering, and that it had come to an end…
Everything came crashing down, his world spun out of control. He stepped into the fog, numb and in shock. He realized in that moment why the inscription in the bible was so important. Maybe it was his failure of not being the spiritual leader of the family that led to this place. The guilt overcame him.
There are times you hear your own voice in your head, but sometimes you hear something else.
“you’ve made a mess of your life, your kids life”
“your parents will be ashamed of you!”
“how could you turn a great life into waste”
“You did this, you did all of this”
“Now you have nothing and you don’t deserve any better”
“If she feels this way, maybe all your other relationships are a joke”
“Maybe no one would miss you if you went away”
No amount of obsessive cleaning, self inflicted pain, or alcohol abuse would silence this noise.
TWO WEEKS LATER
The garage was warm from the August sun. The light beams came through the cracks and the unsettled dust falling like golden sparks resting in the empty space where several boxes used to be. The safe clicked open. He began to regain some consciousness when he found the gun loaded and in his hand. The burden felt lighter already as he pushed the barrel against his face and the voices faded to the quiet he longed for. He closed his eyes as he began pressing against the trigger. Goodbye pain.
The laughter of his daughter caused him to open his eyes and lower the gun. The adrenaline, the sound of breathing again awakened by a voice “I’m not done with you.” Is this the legacy you want to leave, do you really want your daughter to move from innocence and joy to finding you like this, even worse, dead?” He found himself responding to the voice on his knees and he did something he’d never done before. “God, where are you? If you are real, show yourself to me!”
Greg’s in-laws invited him to church the next day. When you’ve tried everything else, church somehow seems like an appropriate last effort.
“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
The parking lot at Eastside Christian Church was full and busy, the anxiety was building and Greg wondered why he was here and if he’d even go in. People were happy, laughing and shaking hands, he wondered if he’d fit in this place. No one was dressed up, the pastor was in jeans, there were no pews, no kneeling, and the music was totally different. The pastor, Gene Appel, told a story of how he experienced betrayal in his life that resulted in divorce. Perhaps God did bring him to this place, a place where people could bring their mess, and maybe there was hope.
Greg and his ex-wife have been able to mend their relationship and are friends today. They are able to enjoy holidays together with their kids. Healing is possible.
Greg told us that he shouldn’t be here today and that God gave him a gift, an ability to see something in the faces of others; the moment happens in slow motion and he can see their pain or happiness. Today, he’s moved beyond concern to compassion as he takes risks to provide a place where people can find healing and freedom. He’s the leader of the Care and Recovery Ministry, a place where those who are in a difficult season of life can find help, hope, and healing. For more information visit eastside.com/careandrecovery.
Perhaps risk is putting your faith in God regardless of how dark your situation might be. There is hope.