I remember very little about being strapped in a straightjacket. The lights were bright, I was swallowing lots of my own blood, and every time I screamed for one of my parents to rescue me, I swallowed more. At one point, one of the doctors with a needle told me that he couldn’t help me. Dad was on business and Mom wasn’t allowed to unstrap me to hold me because I was thrashing too much for them to sew up my busted lip. The doctors assured me that if only I could calm down this would all be over soon enough.
As I mentioned, I don’t remember much more than those moments of struggle against the confinement and the trauma of the blood pouring both from my mouth and down my throat. Worse than the unstoppable blood was the realization that not even my parents could save me. I fell asleep and the only other thing I recall about that early trip to the emergency room comes from sitting on the kitchen linoleum days later with my mother. I’d discovered the black stitches inside my lip and began to play with them until Mom told me to quit or I’d rip it open and we’d have to return to the hospital, which was enough warning for me to heed, even as a four year old.
I had good parents who generally took time to teach me about life, and I never lived a life of extraordinary squalor, abuse, or tragedy. For the majority of my life, I was a middle-class white American girl who was told that I needed to love Jesus, work hard at everything, and look pretty—or at least, presentable. That’s how I interpreted it, anyway.
Still, the idea of God didn’t seem to bring much comfort during times when I was convinced that I was alone. I believed every one of those stories I was read about Jesus walking on water and Elijah and the oil that didn’t run out. That magic seemed so much easier to believe than thinking that I might ever be rescued from something.
Two decades later, I was sitting in a car garage lobby, broke and stranded when a woman reminded me that I had someone “looking out” for me, and all my years of Sunday school tried to convince me that she was right, but I had come to believe that whoever that might be concerned about my well-being was away on business, or, if He could do something, that He wasn’t going to interfere. He didn’t care if I was bleeding, kicking and screaming.
Around that time, my prayers contained a lot of four-letter words and although I’d mostly given up the notion of killing myself, I told God that if this was it, I wasn’t interested. One afternoon, I was sitting in a chair outside a Starbucks, wishing I’d never given up smoking and thinking about how I wish I could deny God’s existence because I’d rather be nothing more than highly structured organic material than to be utterly grieved in the knowledge of my brokenness.
God, I thought, this life just doesn’t really do it for me, and I’m sick of trying to figure it out.
The grackles squawked, and after I wrote something profanely honest in my journal, I worried that I’d done something horrible by telling God that I was profoundly disappointed in the life He’d given me. I wondered if the parking lot pavement would just crack open and swallow me. In a way, I kind of wished that would happen, because at least then, I’d feel like I’d gotten what I deserved for my insolence.
Cracks in the sidewalk stayed the same. They never widened to give me that George Lucas ending that I thought I might get. In the terrifying quiet that followed in those minutes, I knew that God had touched my hip. He showed me, through my own words, that I—a self-proclaimed Christian—at last, wanted to be saved.