SGLY: But God does
“I had my gun in my lap. Loaded. Safety off,” she said as she began telling me of the afternoon years ago which she almost ended her life. “I drove mindlessly to a large parking lot off the highway — near a tree and a Target shopping cart. I put my palm around the base of the gun and lifted it. I remember thinking the gun felt heavy. Very heavy.”
I knew I was not doing a good job hiding my shock. Even though we were not the closest of friends, I had known her for well over 10 years. We made a point of keeping in touch, even if only once every several months through a quick text or phone call. Though we lived near one another, we had a distant relationship. We ran in different circles. What originally brought us together was an introduction from a mutual friend. What keeps us together is mutual affection despite being very different from one another.
When I think of my friend several words come to mind: vivacious, feisty, passionate. The image of this woman responding to a defeated feeling with an action that has permanent consequences baffled me.
“I’m so sorry. I had no idea you went through something like this. I wish I knew. I would have tried to help,” I said.
The smile she gave me seemed odd — untimely considering the gravity of the conversation. “You did.”
“I did what?” I asked.
“Help me. You didn’t know it at the time, but you did.”
My brow furrowed in doubt. “Me? How?”
“Like I said, the gun felt heavy. I rested it upon my chest. Funny to think of now, having my gun rest upon my heart — the very thing that was going to stop it. Stop the sleepless nights. Stop the pain. Stop the memories of all I’ve done wrong. My mind was made up. I was in a daze: a focused daze. I was ready. In truth, I had been ready for a long time.”
Without realizing it, I let out a soft groan. Something guttural ached for her — something which had no words, just deep pain for her suffering. Perhaps the rawness of her suffering tapped into parts of my undigested pain. I believe everyone carries some measure of sorrow, even if we never label it or share it. My eyes and stomach burned as she continued.
“My kids were in school and my husband was out of town. I knew no one would be looking for me anytime soon. I left a note for my family in the kitchen. I told them I was sorry, but I was tired of being a burden — of not measuring up to who I thought I should be.”
I pictured my friend sitting behind the steering wheel in her car — holding the gun. I could tell by the way her breathing slowed and her voice cooled when she retold the story how close she really was to killing herself.
“What happened?” I asked.
“My phone rang. The sound of it shocked me. I thought I had turned off my phone. To this day I remember turning the damn thing off.” She sounded frustrated. “Not sure how it rang.”
“Did you get it?”
“Yes. Yes, I got it more out of habit than desire. I rotely said ‘hello’ and guess who was on the other end of the line?” That odd smirky smile returned to her face. Before I could answer she said, “You,” and pointed at me.
“Me? What did I want?”
“You didn’t want a thing. You told me that you were just thinking about me and felt like checking on me. I had not heard your voice in months. Months. I have to tell you, I was upset with you for calling. You interrupted my dying,” she said with a half-chuckle and a half-cry. “I was mad at you until I finally realized that God put you up to calling me… even if you didn’t know it. I kept replaying something you said to me before you hung up. You said, ‘You have been on my heart today, and I just wanted to call and remind you that I love you.’ Then you asked where I was. I told you I was at Target, and you told me to get home safely.”
I don’t remember making that call. I don’t remember saying those words… but she does. And I believe she is correct: God uses people with or without our knowledge to help put His plan into action and thwart the destructor.
“I almost sped getting home so I could rip up the note I had left on the island in the kitchen,” she said. “I was so stupid — I wanted to quit life so badly that I forgot what living felt like. In speeding home, it was the first time I had felt alive in a long time. I had to get home.”
“Sweet Jesus, thank You,” I said more as a prayer than a response. I returned my attention to my friend. “Why are you telling me this now after so many years?”
“Because now I’m in a group that helps other people who are feeling like I felt and I have retold that story dozens of times, but it dawned on me that I never told you. I never thanked you.”
“Thanked me? I’m a horrible friend who hardly keeps in touch.” I felt guilty for speaking these words because I knew there was a little too much truth in them.
“Doesn’t matter.” She shook her head. “That day you decided to keep in touch was life-changing.”
I left her after we gave one another a farewell hug. I don’t know when I will see her again, but her words will remain with me as much as mine did with her years ago. We never know how God is using us. May we listen to the tugs that God puts upon our hearts. What may seem like a reluctant phone call to a relative or a friend might be the voice that turns their day around… their life around.
Reach out to someone. Let them know you are thinking about them. We never know the weight of another’s thoughts. And we never know the possible impact of a timely word of encouragement — but God does.
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.