The next few months went in a blur. Every week he attended church. Every week was like a removed experience. He had no clue what he was doing there, just a sense that it was better for him to be there. He could barely focus on the sermons such were the nightmares still ravaging his consciousness. He kept being told that he was saved, but he didn’t understand it, didn’t understand how it was possible. The condemnation of his own mind weighed heavily down upon him. He was a murderer. There was no taking that back and if these people knew that, then surely they would realise that he was lost forever and stop being kind to him. He didn’t want that to happen, he couldn’t bear for that to happen, so he got into a routine of playing the part all the while wishing to have the security of faith that they seemed to have.
Today was Saturday and he was in church. He wouldn’t usually be in here, but in a moment of unexplainable spontaneity, he had volunteered himself at the end of the last youth service as a designated driver for a youth trip happening that day. He got to church early, and as a result caught the tail end of the monthly Saturday Prayer and Praise Breakfast Morning. He heard the singing as soon as he entered the church and out of curiosity crept as inconspicuously as possible into the back of the main auditorium. No one saw him.
Even though he had been coming to church for a while, the manner in which the church members worshipped still fascinated him – he always felt like he was privy to something significant, but as yet could not partake-in in sincerity. Today he sat down, closed his eyes and in his usual pattern of thought, went over the course of his life.
He thought about the night of the murder and this time as he experienced the customary stab of guilt and regret, he felt something else too. He could not identify what it was. He thought about his life since that night, the desperate months of depression, self-destruction and suicidal tendencies. He thought about Henry, the man who had brought him to this church. He thought about the impact that church had had on his life. He thought about the huge extent of the support he had had from church members, in particular the youth ministry team. He felt that unidentifiable thing again. He thought about the prayers he had prayed for God to release him from his daily nightmares and he thought about how slowly but surely the frequency and violence with which they wrought their havoc had decreased in the time since he had been at church. He thought about how even though his torment had not gone away, would probably never go away, how grateful he was to God that it had become more manageable. He felt the unidentifiable feeling again. Curious, he opened his eyes in an attempt to understand the emotions his mind was going through. As he did so, the church members worshipping barged back into his focus as did their song. For the first time ever, the manifestation of their worship to God no longer seemed like a bizarre ritual he was a spectator of. Without realising, he began to lift his hands and closed his eyes as involuntary tears began to spill down his cheeks.
He had finally realised what the unidentifiable thing he had been feeling was.
It was the feeling of redemption.
He finally felt like he had been forgiven. He finally felt like God had forgiven him. He finally felt like he had forgiven himself.
Unable to stand or sing due to the overwhelming nature of his realisation, he simply mouthed the words ‘Thank You Jesus’ over and over again. He was so caught up in his personal moment, that he did not notice when te session ended a few minutes later, nor the curious but compassionate stares of the members as they passed him on their way out of the auditorium knowing that they were witnessing a transformation of a very troubled young man, pleased with this sign of progress, the answer to many of their prayers.
He was driving his car to the laser quest, the location of the youth trip. He had four of the church youth in the car. The atmosphere was one of excitement, and competitive claims were already being made in anticipation of the teams everyone would be on at the laser venue. His phone began to ring on the dashboard. The teenager at the front had at that moment decided to turn in his seat and hurl a competitive challenge at his friend in the back, gesticulating wildly with his hands, so he decided to pick his phone up himself. He saw the name on his phone and felt his heart stop.
It was an old friend.
One of the old friends he had committed the robbery with.
He did not know how this friend had got his number as he had changed it several times since then, but one thing he did know………was that he was extremely pleased. He was pleased and excited to share with him what he had just been through. He wanted to tell him about everything he had been through and his newly acquired feeling of redemption. In fact he felt that it was Providence that this man had found his number and chosen to call him that day, and this inspired him even further to make the most of what might be his only and last opportunity to tell him how he could turn his own life around.
In his excitement to answer the phone, his hand shook, and the phone slipped out of his hands, onto his lap and down towards his feet.
He looked down for a second.
Just a second.
And in just a second he lost control of his car, which mounted the pavement and struck an object with a thud.
The teenagers in the back of the car were screaming.
They were unhurt.
People outside were screaming.
There was blood all over the dashboard. Flower petals on the windscreen.
He looked at the teenager sitting in the front to the left of him. The teenager stared back at him. Eyes frozen. Mouth open. Silent.
Silent and pointing at the blood that was pouring from his own head.
He turned to look in his side mirror at his injuries. As he did so, he noticed the huge crack in his windscreen. He felt an overwhelming urge to vomit.
Shaking and trembling he opened the car door and reviewed the scene before him.
A body lay on the floor. It was a woman.
With a howl of despair and rage he ran to the woman. Her hair was over her face and she was suffering serious blood loss. Crying and trembling he flung his scarf off, wrapped it into a ball and pressed it against the gash at the side of her head.
His blood fell in thick droplets onto her shirt. In the background he vaguely heard someone calling for an ambulance. He wasn’t paying attention for he was looking at her face.
He was puzzled.
She was smiling.
He removed her hair from her face, looked into her eyes, and felt his heart stop. Horror engulfed him.
He recognised her.
She was the fiancée of the man he had murdered three years ago, and she was smiling with her last living breaths because finally, justice, her justice, after three torturous years, had come.