Genesis 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and take care of it.
It’s early Saturday evening. Thomas DuLaney sits up on his couch and looks straight ahead. This is it.
With a drunken stumble he walks over to the kitchen where there is a bag filled with sleeping pills. He pours out the plastic bottles on to the counter top. He opens each one and spills the contents. Some 200 little pills are quickly and noisily scattered about with many falling to the ground. Thomas takes a bottle of Jack from the cupboard, sets it down and begins to open it. Tears start to well up in his eyes and then flow down past his reddening nose.
There is no time to think. Thinking will cause trouble. So he simply does. He grabs a handful of the pills and opens his mouth. Some make it in, and some do not. He takes Jack by the neck, puts it to his mouth and pours it the same way he would pour something into a drain. Gulp after loud gulp force the pills down into his empty stomach.
With just a few pills remaining, he puts down the bottle and looks at the mess on his counter and thinks about the mess of his own life. He puts his elbows on the counter and his head in his hands and sobs violently. It’s finished. The end will come soon.
He makes his way to the couch to lie down and let the ending begin. It has been 20 years since he took his first drink as a popular, athletic senior in high school from a loving home. Because of the way his body and mind reacted to the drink, it was the day he realized that everything had just changed; he was now a slave.
Of course the alcohol-laced numbness wasn’t satisfied with what little of the 18-year-old Thomas it owned that first night. It wanted more until it had him heart and soul. Drink after drink, the alcohol claimed more of Thomas and, to add insult to injury, told him that anyone who allowed himself to get this addicted must be an sick, unlovable loser.
The years began to pass and Thomas noticed how far he had travelled, from fun loving kid, to gloomy, depressed man. Events and people that used to excite him no longer had that ability. He tried to take stalk of his emotions and realized he rarely had any anymore, save for the gnawing disgust he had for himself for allowing his life to become so pathetic. Getting up each day was a monumental feat because his soul was constantly under six feet of self-imposed earth.
His paranoia convinced him the cops were after him, so one day he closed his curtains and never opened them again. Besides, a dark heart calls for a dark apartment.
Now, 20 years later he had nothing to do, nowhere to go and nothing to look forward to. Somewhere in the mist of a low-lying storm cloud that was his and his alone, he hatched his escape plan. He started by visiting local pharmacies.
He hatched his escape plan. He started by visiting local pharmacies.
***Time passed while on the couch—who knows how much? Thomas can’t tell if his eyes have just opened or if he has been staring for hours. He feels dizzy, perhaps the dizziest he’s ever felt. He sits up and his eyes dart around the room. “I’m not dying,” he says aloud.
He tries to move is hands but they seem to work independently of his thoughts. He stands with the help of the couch arm and slowly makes his way back to the kitchen. He places his wrist on top of a cutting board. With his right arm he reaches into a drawer for a butcher knife. Thomas used to be a butcher. He knows his way around a knife.
He looks again at his wrist that is going in and out of focus. His balance teeters and the knife handle feels unusually thick in his hand, but it does not stop him.
Strike after strike against his flesh seems to result in blood and mess, but not much else. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot find the right angle or depth. He changes the knife to his left hand. He does even worse. He flings the knife against the wall. “Come on!” he says with rage.
Thomas stands alone in the kitchen.
Then he gets an idea. He walks along the walls to his room where he puts on a long sleeve shirt. He makes his way out of his apartment and down to the street. Steadying himself as the sky shows signs of dawn, he walks slowly toward the A&P two blocks away.
Once inside, he goes up and down the isles trying to find any product that has a skull and crossbones on the label. Among his findings are a fuel additive and windshield cleaner. He drops them in a pile on the cashier’s counter, blood dripping from his red stained sleeves. The cashier looks at the bloody, hollowed out, glassy-eyed individual standing before him, rings him up and sends him on his way without saying a word.
Once inside, he goes up and down the isles trying to find any product that has a skull and crossbones on the label.
Back in his apartment he fills an oversized glass with the toxic liquids, puts his head back and chugs the intensely foul-tasting drink that should quickly begin to shut down his organs one by one.
Thomas doesn’t make it to the couch. He falls on the carpet and passes out.
Hours later there is a knock on the door. Feeling disoriented, but only disoriented, Thomas pulls himself off the ground and goes to the door and opens it.
“Hello, sir, how are you?” the police officer says who has been called by a concerned coworker that hasn’t seen Thomas for four days. “Would you mind stepping outside with us, sir?”
The ride to the hospital in the back of the ambulance and under the watchful eye of the EMT is one of the oddest of all the episodes of his life. The guy who couldn’t manage to kill himself sits there as the EMT holds a bin ready to catch the vomit that will surely come any moment. “I’m not going to need that,” Thomas says with his arms strapped down.
“Oh, yes you will,” the seen-it-all EMT replies with confidence. “You just downed enough pills, alcohol and poison to kill a horse. You’re going to throw up, alright.”
Thomas never even gets close. What is going on here? He thinks to himself.
The hospital staff takes Thomas to a room where the doctors begin to work their magic. At one point the doctors, nurses and technicians all exit the room at the same time, leaving Thomas alone strapped to a gurney and staring straight at the ceiling.
Suddenly the room, fully lit, begins to get brighter, and brighter still. It gets so bright Thomas expects that it will hurt his eyes soon, but it never does. He is bathed in a brilliant ray. Where am I? What is happening to me? I’m supposed to be dead by now. Why am I not dead? The intensity of the light increases and the room is so bright nothing in the room remains visible—everything is washed away by the majestic light. And like a realization that isn’t just something you know, but it’s the only thing you know, Thomas knows deep in his soul that God has kept him alive, and that God has a reason. He can’t tell if it’s a voice in the room or a voice in his head but the message is loud and clear. “Thomas, I’ve kept you alive because I have something very specific for you to do.”
Thomas’ hands tug against the restraints. He wants to raise them into the light.
“You mean I have a purpose?” Thomas asks excitedly. “I have a purpose!” he declares. Thomas is filled with joy. He thinks back to when he was a baby and realizes that when he came into the world, God had imprinted him with something specific to achieve. God saved his life because Thomas hadn’t achieved it yet. There was a path to follow. There was a destination at which Thomas needed to arrive. There was a reason to live.
In the weeks to come, the now sunny Thomas lives life on the edge of his seat. He knows that any day now, he is going to find out what it is he is supposed to do. Two people at work invite him to the Rock where he hears that Jesus loved him so much that He died for his sins. He had heard that message before as a boy and even received it, but he had never heard it quite like this. At least it never felt like this. And in that moment, a path appears before him. The truth about Jesus was his to give away to anyone who would listen.
Thomas goes home and sits on his couch, breathes deep and smiles broadly. And the curtains haven’t been closed since.
Thomas currently serves on the Rock’s Pastoral Support Team and is in seminary to become a pastor.