I marked Monday, February 29, 1988 in my journal as a most unusual day.
The day started with a man calling the church office. Since I was the only pastor in the office, I took the call, and found myself talking with a very drunk man who let me know that he was planning to kill himself. He refused to identify himself, or tell me where he was. He continued to drink and indicated that he was taking some pain pills at the same time. He wanted to go to sleep and not wake up, but he wanted someone to talk to when he fell asleep. Feeling pretty helpless, I signaled my administrative assistant to dial 911. Sadly, we didn’t have caller ID and there was little they could do except pass along advice “that we should try to get him to talk”. [We heard much later that the police followed up on the phone number obtained through the phone company, but we never heard anything more]. My unknown caller hung up shortly and that was the end of that – except for my emotions being on edge, and an overwhelming feeling of being helpless and incapable.
That was followed by a walk-in counseling appointment with a stylish woman who said she was a new attender to the church. She began by telling me that she knew I couldn’t help her, but that she just needed to talk to someone. After fits and starts, she told me about her “godly, Christian” husband (who was an elder in another church) who regularly hit her “for her own good” and humiliated her verbally and physically. The bruises behind her sunglasses, along her arms, and darkening her lower legs, certainly backed up her story. Domestic abuse was not yet in my pastoral vocabulary and the church had no resource or agency referral on file. I offered to contact the police, I offered to talk to her husband, I offered to help her find a safe place to stay. She declined each offer, silently crying and whispering “I know I deserve it.” She asked for some water, and slipped out while I went to get it for her. [I never saw her again. I have no idea of what happened to her.] And that was the end of that – except for my emotions, and an overwhelming feeling of being helpless and incapable.
Truly an unusual day. Two tragic lives bumped into mine. God provided no miracle … and I have no cool story about coming God “coming through” in response to my diligent prayer. It was what I now call a “messy day”, and I’m sure that I hoped never to have a day like that again. I wish that I could say I never did. But my journals remind me that God is still there in all the messy days. Amen!