I have told you I am sure that a serial killer considered murdering me. (That post was from January 23rd of this year, if you missed it.) What I didn’t tell you is–a conversation I had with that man might have been the strangest moment of my life–although I didn’t know it at the time…
The flies were really bad on that warm autumn day, the worst I had ever seen. Not only were they everywhere but they were in that weird, twitchy state that they always get into in the fall, when their favorite place to land seems to be your eyelid. I am getting the willies just thinking about it. The dock doors of our shop had to be open much of the day and the flies took it as an invitation.
We were at the big industrial sink, washing our hands (and maybe our eyelids), when R.P. started complaining about how awful the flies were that day. Now I hate flies, and there is no one better with a swatter, so I kept the population in my work area livable, for me, not for them. Anyway, I told R.P. where there was an extra fly swatter and that is when he said it: With the most solemn and compassionate look, he said, “I don’t believe we have the right to kill any living creature.”
I know–you must think I am making this up–dramatizing the moment to make for a better post. I assure you, though, I am not. It couldn’t be the strangest moment of my life if it was fictional.
A serial killer who wouldn’t hurt a fly!?!
At the time, I just thought he was nuts and I am sure my facial expression made that clear. We were talking about flies! Vermin! They would go straight from a pile of dung to our upper lips! I think I uttered something conveying my confusion and disagreement, but respectfully accepted his stance concerning the sanctity of the lives of flies. Then I returned to my work area and my well-used swatter. I didn’t forget his words, though, words that became the strangest I have ever heard a few years later. That is when we found out that R.P. had murdered five women and one man over a span of a couple years, two of which were killed during the time span he worked with me.
I had looked into the eyes of a killer, someone who, on another day, considered murdering me (I am convinced). In those eyes, I didn’t see hatred and anger; I saw what seemed like compassion, not for flies exactly, but for the living, for those whose lives he was ending.
I read about an interview he did shortly after he was arrested and saw a video interview he did from prison a few years later. After seeing these interviews, I believe it was guilt I saw in his eyes that one weird day, a guilt as deep as deep gets. In the interviews, he spoke of God and forgiveness–and said matter-of-factly that there was no way God could ever forgive what he did. He was extremely open and honest and the shame and guilt and regret were clearly his constant companions. It wouldn’t have mattered if he was in prison or on a beach somewhere, his sins were overwhelming him. It seemed like he was already in hell.
Now, we might think hell is where murderers deserve to be and we would be right, they do. They deserve the exact same fate as those who stew in anger.
“Wait! What?” You ask. “You are equating those who have anger problems with murderers, serial killers?”
Well, no. Not me, exactly. Jesus did that. The one who came for the lost and broken, the one who came for the diseased rather than the healthy, He is the one who tells us that we too are lost and broken, we too are diseased. One may be in heart failure and one may have the sniffles but both are sick–and quarantined from the presence of God.
Personally, I have a hard time forgiving the horrible things “others” have done. There has to be a line, right? Some things just shouldn’t be forgiven. Someone give me a piece of chalk and I will put that line where I think it needs to be, below me somewhere. The thing is–one of you might put that line a bit higher–above me, and another still higher–above you.
But God owns the chalk, the board, and the school. The line has been drawn and it is above every one of us, both the jealous and the thieves, both the lusters and the adulterers, both the angry and the murderers. God drew the line that none of us have reached… then gave Jesus the eraser.