What would Jesus and others think?
by Kathy Collard Miller
As the train rumbled past the East Coast countryside, taking my daughter and me to New York City for a vacation, my thoughts were as piercing as the train’s screeching wheels. Why did Greg take his own life? Greg was a distant relative I rarely saw, yet the news that he had committed suicide made tears spring into my eyes and a deep sadness fill my heart. Oh, to be that hopeless and helpless. How horrible.
Yet I remembered such hopelessness from my past. As I glanced over at my twenty-eight-year-old daughter napping next to me, I realized that had I taken my life, I would not enjoy the fabulous relationship I now had with her.
Twenty-seven years ago, the hopelessness and helplessness had been building for months. Larry and I had celebrated our seventh anniversary, but it wasn’t a happy occasion. Unwisely, I’d asked again, “Larry, why can’t you help me at home more? Having a two-year-old and a newborn is such hard work. Please don’t work so much.”
His sour mood gushed a self-protective “Kathy, I’ve tried to help you see I’m working all these hours to secure our financial future.” Silence again surrounded us like a dense fog. Kathy, you never do anything right! I told myself. He must really hate you! Then in my own defense, I mentally screamed, I hate him too!
The next day, the tension from the night before bothered me. Will we get a divorce? Why can’t we talk? We used to be so in love. And just as quickly, I prayed, “Lord, we’re Christians; we’re not supposed to be acting like this. What’s wrong?”
That was a prayer I prayed many times, both about my marriage and about my reactions to our two-year-old daughter, Darcy. My anger toward her seemed to explode more often when I felt rejected by Larry. Her strong-willed nature resisted my toilet training plan and resulted in constant temper tantrums. It made me so angry that at times, I spanked her, then kicked and pushed her onto the floor.
I hated myself. No matter how much I prayed, “Oh God, help me! Take away my anger problem right now!” my rages increased.
When God didn’t answer my prayer, I concluded He had given up on me and didn’t love me anymore. Combined with His perceived rejection and Larry’s, I feared I might kill Darcy in one of my rages.
The day after our disastrous anniversary dinner, I caught Darcy playing in the fireplace ashes for the third time that day.
I exploded. “Darcy! How many times must I tell you! Don’t play with the ashes in the fireplace!” I ran over to her and, before I knew it, my hands surrounded her little throat, choking her.
Then within seconds, I was back in my right mind and jerked my hands away from Darcy’s throat. She gasped for air and began screaming. I twirled around and ran away down the hall, trying to escape the horrible scene. And I had done it! “Oh, God! I’m so horrible! I don’t deserve to live!”
I ran into my bedroom and slammed the door behind me, terrified of Darcy’s screams. I’m no kind of mother! I can’t believe I did that!
Then I suddenly remembered Larry’s off-duty service revolver in the top dresser drawer. The gun! That’s the answer!! A tiny voice in my head sinisterly whispered, Take your life. If you don’t take your own life, you’re going to kill Darcy!
My thoughts raced. Why fight it? It’s hopeless. Nothing has changed for months, even though I’ve prayed over and over. It’s only gotten worse. God doesn’t care; otherwise, He would instantaneously deliver me from my anger and heal our marriage. Larry hates me. I hate him and my life. There’s nothing to live for.
With trembling hands, I opened the top dresser drawer and almost gasped. The gleam from the shiny barrel of the gun glinted at me so invitingly. Darcy’s crying from the other room wrenched my heart. I’ll never be a good mother. She’s better off without having a mother like me. I’ve ruined her for life. Someone else will do a better job.
I stared at the gun. Seconds ticked by, and I reached into the drawer. But then a new thought popped into my mind. What will people think of Jesus if they hear that Kathy Miller has taken her life?
My hand stopped. The faces of the women in the neighborhood Bible study I led flitted before me. My family members who didn’t know Christ came to mind. I thought of my unsaved neighbors I had witnessed to.
Oh, Lord, I don’t care about my reputation, but I do care about Yours! I call myself a Christian, and so many people know it. What will they think of You if I use this gun?
The concern of Jesus’ reputation saved my life that day, and I knew His Spirit had prompted it. I didn’t have any hope at that point, but in the following months, God proved Himself faithful by revealing the underlying causes of my anger. He gave me patience to be a loving mom and then healed my relationship with Larry.
Suddenly, my reverie stopped, and I snapped back to the present. As the train began slowing for the next stop, I looked over at my daughter. She had awakened and was gazing out the window. I smiled as I thought of her wonderful wedding we’d all enjoyed just four years earlier. I wouldn’t have been there had I committed suicide.
I also recalled the wonderful events in our family I would have missed had I taken my life: our son’s graduation from college, despite his learning disabilities; the opportunities I’ve had to speak in the States and in foreign countries; and the books I’ve authored.
I thought of Larry, my best friend, and our glorious love affair in recently celebrating our thirty-fourth anniversary.
The list went on. If I’d used the gun that day, I wouldn’t have been at those family events; but Larry’s second wife would have been. And I knew my daughter and son would have grieved over a missing mother who seemed to be more absorbed about her own pain than about them.
Promise of hope
Yes, I understood how Greg could have so little hope — in fact, no hope at all — that he took his life. But I wish I could have shared with him that there always is hope and that God is faithful if we hold onto Him and His promises. I’m so grateful I did.
My daughter turned to me. “Mom, I’m so excited we’re going to New York City together!” I knew she was, too.
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