A Desperate Act

Eric Green lay in a pool of his own blood on the bathroom floor. He watched the red stream spurt from his slashed wrists and trickle along the masonry grooves that separated the little squares of tile. Powerless to stop it, he saw the blood crawl steadily onward and spill into more grooves.

He had started this flow. It was something he had wanted to do—to end his life. But now the horror of his choice overwhelmed him. What a mistake he had made!

“O God I don’t want to die!” he cried feebly. He knew chances were small that he would survive. An hour might pass before his wife returned—and she would be too late to save him.

He marshaled his wits to give himself an order. Get up and look through the medicine chest for adhesive tape. He tried to bring his legs up under him, but could not. He was too weak. He could only clasp his wrists with opposite hands and press his fingers across the gashes in an attempt to hold back the blood. But the blood was not to be contained. He saw it flow from beneath his weakening fingers.

“I’m a fool. My whole life I’ve been a fool!” he gasped. Then his mind began to fog, and the brightness of the blood seemed to fade. Eric Green slipped into unconsciousness; he lay there alone somewhere in the twilight between life and death …

The day had begun when Eric woke up to the smell of bacon frying. He liked bacon the way Ann, his wife, fixed it. But this morning he had no appetite for any food. He had no “stomach” either for the job that faced him that day as office manager in a large industrial firm.

“I just can’t go to work today,” he said to his wife as he plodded out to the kitchen.

“Have some coffee, and you’ll feel better,” Ann said, holding a steaming cup toward him.

There was little breakfast conversation until Ann reminded Eric he’d be late for work.

Wouldn’t she ever take him at his word? “Ann, I tell you, I’m not going,” he said sharply. “I hate those people. They make me nervous. I can’t face them today.”

“That’s last week’s song, and you played it the week before that,” she said with sarcasm. “Try something else for a change.”

That brought Eric’s temper to a boil. “When we were first married, you understood the difficulties I faced at the plant. At least you said you did,” he shouted. “Maybe you were just as cold-hearted then as you are now—only I couldn’t see through you.”

An hour went by while the quarrel raged on. Eric pushed back his dishes and laid his head in his hands on the table.

“Don’t expect any sympathy from me for the mistakes you make consistently at the office or at church or wherever you go,” she said over the excessive clattering of her dishwashing. “You act like a kid enough without my babying you …”

“What do you mean by that?” he demanded, rising up.

“What do I mean?” she replied. “‘Why, everybody knows if Eric Green doesn’t get his own way he blows his top—and woe to anyone around when the fallout comes.”

Eric pushed back his chair. “Where are those sleeping pills the doctor gave me?”

“In the medicine chest. Why?”

“I need one,” Eric said. “I need a whole bottleful.”

Ann said nothing.

“Did you hear me, Ann? I said I am going to swallow all 20 pills at once.”

Ann turned. Lines of disbelief appeared around her mouth. “I thought you were too sick to make jokes to get my sympathy. But as long as you’re at it, there’s a new package of razor blades next to the sleeping pills in the cabinet. I’m going next door.”

Eric Green had been a sociable fellow, a back-slapper, a joiner. Flattery, manipulation, taking advantage of the situation for his own good—these had been his methods. They had gotten him through college and quite a way up the ladder of success. Who was the best darn fellow in the luncheon club? Eric Green, of course. Who made the biggest impression at church? Eric Green, everyone’s friend.

Inside, however, Eric realized he didn’t have much—except for an image. And lately that image was beginning to tarnish.

His lack of depth had started to show up at the office. And more than one person had recently questioned his sincerity in Christian work. As Ann said, his violent temper was his trademark. But he had always been able to laugh off his angry outbursts, and people seemed to forget. Over the past few months, however, people had stopped laughing with him.

The old techniques of getting by were no longer working, and that bothered him. But he’d find another way. Adjustment was his middle name.

If Eric ever felt guilty, he transferred that guilt to his father; his dad had always been too busy for the family. Or, he blamed his well-meaning, but inept, mother. She had tried to rear her children by high Christian standards, but somehow when Eric or his brother protested such standards, the boys always won out—first by tears and tantrums, later by threats and defiance. His mother’s practice of Christianity never seemed equal to the demands of two wild boys.

Not until he married did anyone really know what Eric was like. In the two years Ann and Eric had been together, she had frequently confronted him. She had made him unsure of himself. Maybe that was why he had been having so much difficulty with the people in his life lately, why failure was piling upon failure. He had to show her …

In the seconds just before Eric lost consciousness, he admitted it wasn’t Ann or his mother or his father who had caused his trouble. It was no one but himself.

Eric woke up in the hospital. He found Ann by his side. She had hardly stirred in the cream and sugar at the neighbor’s when she became convicted about the mean things she had said to her husband. She went back home, called for Eric in a tone of conciliation, and found him when she saw a tiny stream of blood trickle under the bathroom door.

Eric, his old image laid aside, asked his wife for forgiveness. They had a tender reunion, and after his recovery, Eric made an appointment for counseling help.

“Dr. Brandt,” he said, “I’m a Christian, but I haven’t much lived like one.”

There was little of the Christian life I could tell him except to review what he already knew—and had known since the days when his mother had tried to teach him in her inadequate way. We spoke of hate and anger and insincere relations with others as the works of the flesh.

We discussed the spiritual walk of the Christian as outlined in Galatians 5 and Colossians 3, and what Jesus has to say in Matthew 15:8 about mere lip service.

Eric had been deliberately rejecting God’s demands on his life. The severe indictment of Romans 1 against those who do not want to retain God in their knowledge was beginning to apply to him. Seeing this, he earnestly repented and asked God to change him.

Eric came around so fast that people doubted the genuineness of the change. This was another blow to him. But gradually he realized that this was a part of the test he had to go through in order to prove that the Eric Green who came back from near-death was thoroughly renewed by Jesus Christ.

 

The names and certain details in this true case history have been changed to protect each person’s identity and privacy.