From Chicken Soup for the Country Soul

Too Broken to Be Fixed

The people in my family believed if something went wrong, it was always someone else’s fault. I readily picked up this attitude and ran with it. Actually, when you think about it, it’s not a bad plan. I was not responsible for any of my failures; they were always someone else’s fault. Holding on to this thought, I was able to feel anger toward the “responsible parties,” rather than feeling inadequate myself.

Of course, one of the side effects of this attitude is simple: You never get very far in life. You never learn from your mistakes because, after all, they weren’t your mistakes. Or perhaps the “responsible parties” hurt you on purpose, so the anger builds over the years to the point where the smoldering rage is, at best, kept just under the surface.

Finally you ask yourself the question, Why are so many people out to get me? and the only logical answer is that even God hates you. So if you were like me, you return the favor and hate God right back. My belief that God hated me grew as the years passed, and I perceived each setback as further evidence that my belief was correct. I had heard it said that God works through people. Seeing the number of people out to get me, I knew this was true.

Even as a child, I learned to fight back, so it is not surprising that as an adult, I gradually fell deeper and deeper into a violent lifestyle. I became very good at hurting people, yet strangely, I always hated myself for it afterward, especially if I hurt someone I cared about. Gradually I learned to stay away from anyone that I cared about, and I became a loner. I knew that all I could do with any consistency was hurt people, so I tried to keep it down to hurting only strangers.

My life continued along these lines for nearly forty years, and as my inner rage grew, so did the incidences of people going out of their way to cause me grief. I was thirty-nine, working in a wood shop building custom furniture, and I was very good at it. One weekend day while driving down a street in Kansas City, I noticed a man carrying an antique Queen Anne chair to a Dumpster in an apartment complex. I could see that the chair had a broken rung, a problem I could easily fix. That chair was worth money—something I desperately needed—so I quickly turned into the complex and stopped my car beside the Dumpster. As the man approached I asked, “If you’re going to throw that away, may I have it?”

No,” he replied as he smashed it over the side of the Dumpster. I watched in disbelief as the old wood shattered on impact. Too stunned to even reply, I drove off.

What a complete and total low life, I thought to myself, he did n’t want it, but he would rather destroy it than give it to someone who could fix it and use it. Once again, I had more evidence that God was out to get me by working through other people.

Finally, about a year later, I had suffered all I could stand. There was no fight left in me; I couldn’t go on. I was tired, tired of struggling to get up only to be knocked back down again, tired of failing, tired of fighting against the world, tired of living.

Although I still had a strong fear of death, that fear was overpowered by my fear of life. That was my situation on the cold winter day that was supposed to be the last day of my life. I drove my car down along the Missouri River just outside Kansas City, parked and walked downstream. My plan was simple; I wore a heavy winter coat that would aid the frigid, rushing water in pulling me under. Knowing that I was a coward, and that once I hit the water I would probably chicken out, I walked far from my car so I would stand a better chance of freezing to death before I could make it back. I was serious, deadly serious. I found a place where I could easily climb down to the water’s edge; I stood for a moment looking at the ice chunks floating past. There was no hesitation, merely a moment to take one last look around before letting myself fall into the river. My life was nearly over, and I felt a sense of relief.

Then suddenly, unbidden, the memory of that man with the chair at the Dumpster flooded through my mind. I was looking at the rushing river which was about to relieve me of the burden of life, yet what I was seeing was the chair smashing into a thousand splinters. Then a voice came from my own imagination, or from right beside me; I can not swear which. It said, “If you’re going to throw that away, may I have it?” and I knew that it was the voice of God. In a millisecond my mind flooded with thoughts of the man I had been all my life, the people I had hurt, the destruction that lay behind me. Yet at that moment, I knew beyond all doubt that God loved me, not because of what I had done, but in spite of what I had done. Not because of who I am, but because of who God is . . . unconditional love.

I fell to my knees and cried tears of shame, pain and joy. At that moment I knew that I wanted to give my life to God. At the time I had no idea how I would do it, but I knew that if God could fix me and use me, I would not be like the man with the chair at the Dumpster.

On that cold wintry day on the bank of the Missouri River, circumstances caused me to become willing. As it turned out, all I had to do to give my life to God was become willing. Willing to listen to inner guidance, willing to do whatever God puts in front of me, willing to trust that God will not give me a task beyond my abilities, willing to accept that God is more concerned about my welfare than I am, willing to recognize that everything I thought I knew could be wrong, willing to see the truth . . . even when it hurts. Willing to try to let go of my hate, so my hands are free to grasp love. And even when I fall short on all other counts, I need to be willing to become willing, and to understand, from the depths of my being, that there is nothing I can do to keep the love of God from man.

Victor Fried

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