Thursday, December 15, 2005

Memorial Stone #11 pt. 2 - One bullet...

My Systems Design class at school was also one in which we worked in teams. I was on a team with two Vietnamese girls who were best friends. One of them, Britney, was extremely shy. I am quite the extrovert (perhaps too much at times) and took it upon myself to "pull her out of her shell." I slowly made progress and could see her confidence grow. I began to see her as a younger sister that I never had. The end of the semester was nearing and we all were frantically working on our presentation. We had even made plans to go out for coffee after it was over to celebrate the end of the class and the completion of our degrees. I was particularly excited about going out because I wanted to use the opportunity to share Jesus with my teammates.

The weekend before the presentation we all were corresponding and sharing the individual pieces that we had been doing. Nobody had heard from Britney, not even Gloria. The presentation was to be on Tuesday, December 18th, 2001. Monday evening I was in the school computer lab with my wife and got an email from Gloria with a subject of "Mourning Britney!" I smiled a little at first because I thought she was being sarcastic and meant to say "Morning Britney (thanks for waking up and joining us)." She didn't misspell it. Here is what the email said:

Britney has been shot! She is dead!!!! I am shocked.

I was shocked. Stunned. Mortified. My world came crashing to a halt and everything became numb and surreal. I never expected something like that to happen. Certainly not ONE DAY before I was going to witness to her! To make it even worse, she had been murdered. She was shot between the eyes by an ex-boyfriend who then took his own life. I called our teacher and he told us we could forego the presentation for a couple of days and present to him only if we preferred. The group wanted to get it over with. I cried all night and did not sleep a wink. We completed the presentation and went to the funeral a couple nights later. I had never been to a Buddhist funeral before and it was very different. I also did not expect it to be open casket.

Everything I had ever gone through in my life was something that happened to ME. I felt like I had not only failed her, but that my failure had doomed her for eternity. I can honestly say that I never felt a leading to witness to her and disobeyed, but the nagging question in my mind was, "What if I just wasn't truly listening? Had God been trying to direct me to say something to her and I was just too bent on getting along with people and getting good grades?" Not only did I feel like I had let Britney down in the worst way possible, but I let God down. How could He love me after what I did??? I felt absolutely awful, like the scum of the earth, and was physically exhausted from sleep deprivation. I knew I had to get help. I called our church and left a message about needing to schedule a time for counseling, but apparently (I found this out a couple of years later) the associate pastor thought his secretary was going to call and she thought he was. So nobody did. How could God ever forgive me? How could He love someone who failed so miserably? I felt myself slipping downward into a despair and hopelessness that I had never felt before. In addition to the pain and heartache I felt, the job situation looked bleak. I had to go back to substitute teaching, so after spending thousands in tuition to get my technology degree I felt like I was going backwards. I felt the claws of depression grip me and choke me. How could I go to God for help? I had failed. I guess I expected God to either have a hammer of judgment ready to fall or a cold shoulder, so I didn't approach. The conditional love from my dad that I had experienced growing up hindered me from even trying.

I got a programming job three months later and poured myself into my work. I also started running and working out more. Anything to distract myself. Now and then I would feel the Holy Spirit nudging me and would get into reading my Bible, but I still felt like the Holy of Holies was a place where I didn't belong anymore. I felt like I was forever disqualified. After about a year and a half I decided to take a drive. One of my favorite "get alone with God" places is out in the country at night, where you can see most of the same stars that Abraham gazed at when God spoke to him. I had been there many times before, but it had been a while. I knew there was no way out of the mire I was in besides His forgiveness and His love. He was waiting with open arms. My God is so faithful!!! His love is everlasting and His mercy endures forever! We cannot begin to fathom the depths of His love. I am His child. I will make mistakes. His love is unconditional. He wants me - failures and all.


At 12/15/2005, Blogger wilsonian said...

I trust you've come to the conclusion by now that the salvation of others is not your personal responsibility. God chooses to use us in His plans, but I don't believe he'd leave the eternal life of one of his children in the hands of another.

And I'm sure you were witnessing constantly. Your life illustrated Jesus. Your caring for her, taking the time to draw her out... she did meet Jesus in you.

At 12/16/2005, Blogger Kitty Cheng said...

I felt really guilty when my beloved dad died of cancer, because I didn't witness to him. I had a sense of failures and shame for a long time, until God made it very clear to me I was forgiven, and that experience caused me to witness constantly with love.

Nice to meet you =)

At 12/16/2005, Blogger Mark D said...

I appreciate both of your comments. I was a good example of Christ the whole semester and I do hope that she saw a difference in me. I just emailed her friend Gloria to say hello (the 16th is the date it happened). I believe God will open a door with her soon. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

At 12/16/2005, Blogger Kitty Cheng said...

you're so welcome Mark. will keep you in prayers.

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