“Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine.” – Isaiah 5:11
As a police officer in my earlier life, I was the unfortunate witness of many bad things. Some things you can’t un-see or un-know. Most of those stories I wasn’t able to see the end result of, so all I have are the bad memories, but some I was able to see good come from them. One case in point was a man who had reached the end of his proverbial rope. It all started with a man trying to cope with stress and it almost ended with his decision to try to commit “suicide by cop.”
I was called to a catholic church there in town about a man who told the priest that he was going to kill himself and he ”was going to make the police do it.” I and another officer from our relatively small department arrived to find the man sitting on the front steps looking distraught, but somehow calm at the same time. He had his right hand by his side, out of view. As I approached the man, I made the tactical decision for me and the other officer to stay a certain distance from him so we could talk. All the time my hand was clutching the Colt on my hip. I announced who we were and started a conversation with the man. My main objective was to keep him talking until more help arrived.
The man gave his name and not much else, until I started speaking to his reasons why he went to tell a priest he was going to kill himself. He said he wanted the priest to pray for him because this was his last day. He wouldn’t say much else until I started talking about his religious reasons for asking for prayers on his last day. Once I opened that emotional and spiritual door, out came the flood from his heart, but in a good way. He started talking about his family, wife, kids, a potential divorce, and a recently lost job. He said that the “stresses of life” got to him and that’s when he started abusing alcohol. Then, the drink wasn’t enough, so he started in with crack and various other drugs. Eventually, he lost it all. Everything that meant anything in his life vanished into truly a cloud of smoke. By all accounts, that man had hit “rock bottom.”
He said, “I keep trying and I can’t do this anymore! It’s like there’s no way and nobody on this earth who is going to help me.” I told him he was right, there was nobody on earth who could help. The problem was too big for the people and the places he was going to and that he needed the help of one man who could truly help. As if prompted by the Holy Spirit, I felt the overwhelming urge to tell him about God’s great love for him and that what this man sees of his life is not what Christ had in mind when our Lord died on the cross. The man started crying and said, “He is my last hope and that’s why I needed the prayers to help me on my way today.” I said that those prayers weren’t to help you die, but to live.”
With that comment, the man slumped over, wailing and almost unable to breathe. He was incessantly crying out, “I’m so sorry!” with a sheer groaning as if those words were coming from the very depths of his being. I then started to approach him carefully. Within a few yards, I saw what the man had been hiding in his right hand. It was a red handled knife. I stopped and called out the man’s name a couple of times until he answered. My hand went back to my sidearm. I asked him to slide the knife carefully away from both of us and put his hands out in front of him on the ground. He did so without a problem. I reached him and handcuffed him without further incident. I told him that we would make sure to get him the help he needed and that help started with a quick prayer that very moment.
As the ambulance arrived to take the man to the hospital for psych evaluation, he told me that his intention was to get me close enough to stab me in my neck, so the other officer would have to shoot him. He said, “There’s another bad choice that went wrong, huh?” and kind of laughed as he said it. I told him he was right about one thing. Today was surely the last day of that old life of his. He looked me in the eyes and told me, “Thank you.”
It was one of the most meaningful “thank you’s” I’ve ever gotten and one of the most powerful situations that I’ve ever faced.
The funny part is that about two years later I ended up stopping a vehicle for not having its lights on just after it turned dark. I approached the vehicle and it was that man again, looking like a brand new person. His face was shaved and he was decently dressed. It was like two old best friends seeing each other. He had a smile ear to ear when he told me that he and his wife reconciled and that their next child was on the way. He had gotten a new and better paying job than before after getting his life back on track. Most importantly, after his hospitalization, he was free from the drugs and alcohol and was only “high on Jesus.” He had rededicated his life to our Lord and was spending much of his extra time in small groups, as he put it, “now helping others to cope with this crazy world.” We had a few smiles and laughs. He was genuinely OK and it was a moment that would not have been possible without Jesus saving the lost.
This was one of the few bad stories that had a wonderful ending to it. Too many times, these stories of drug and alcohol abuse take people into the ground too soon. When your life crashes, there’s only a few rocks you can choose to land on. Either you can find the rock at the bottom of a crack pipe, which can only lead you to further into hell, or you can be lifted up by the Rock which is Jesus Christ. One way leads to death and the other leads to life eternal in the heavens. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
God’s blessings to you.