Dawn broke. The glimmer of light on the horizon was the sun starting to show its rays in the east. Relieved that light would soon dispel the darkness, I walked forward, toward the light. Soon I came to what seemed to be a hilltop. It was, I could dimly see, a clearing. I could not see any other person, but I could see an object in the distance. I walked toward it. As I came close to it, I realized that it was a ladder. A ladder? To what? What was it connected to? It was still dark enough that I could see little else, could not see where the ladder reached to, could not see any other structure, any other person. I was alone. Before a ladder. I decided to scale it. It was an old wooden ladder. I gingerly put my foot on the first rung, put my weight on it. It held. I decided to take a stab in the dark. I began climbing. Rung after rung, I reached out, pulled myself up. For perhaps five minutes I did so, to where I could not see the ground below me. Then I spied an object above me. I climbed up to it. It was a huge piece of wood, shaped almost like a railroad tie, long and horizontal, stretching in both directions into the dim fog. I examined it. Atop it, there was a hammer and nails. Just lying there. Why? I inspected further. I saw small pieces of something nailed to the board. The something looked like notes, but with a fleshy color. A few dripped red. I examined one then another and realized that I could actually read what was written upon them. I read the first one.
Lord, I have done so many terrible things. The memories of mistakes and sins real and imagined wash over me all of the time, so that I never find peace. The memories include the many times that I have sought temporary fixes for fear and anxiety: alcohol, drugs, sex. I spent too much of my time in pubs and taverns when I should have been home with my family, teaching my children how to be good people. Instead, I spent time drinking and whoring. I watched dancing girls and took them to rooms for sex. Beer wasn’t enough, and soon I had to get loaded on gin and whiskey, and soon this wasn’t enough, and I had to use meth and cocaine. I cared only to get high and get laid. My family I literally thought could go to hell. Just yesterday I was at a pub getting drunk. . . . But now, looking upon Your face, I realize that I am a true and unrepentant sinner. I feel embarrassed and humiliated. All I can do is empty myself, nail myself to this wood. Please forgive me, Jesus!
I saw another piece of paper—or something—nailed to the wood. I read:
God, I always thought I was a good mother—until today. I gave my kids food and clothing and medicine and hugs. But when I look upon you I think of all of the times I wasn’t there for them: I was getting my hair or my nails done, or getting a new dress, and having cocktails, or going out with the girls, or so many other things besides spending time with my kids. I used to almost escape to get away from them. I spent so much time in front of the mirror. I was so vain. All I could think about was how I looked. Now who cares how I look. Now all I can think of are the lost times, the missed opportunities. Oh, I’m so sorry!
Another note on the wood appeared to my eyes:
I remember so many such times when all I could think of was lust and selling my body to men for sex. I loved the way they looked at me. I lived for pleasure. I lived for sex. I lived for men watching me undress. My God! What was I thinking? Why does eroticism conquer people’s souls, such as mine! I am so lonely now. I am older, and no longer have my thin waist and beautiful lips. No one looks at me—except you, with such love! Oh, thank you!
There were so many more that I saw and read. They had the same message, of people infatuated with eroticism, liquor, drugs, pornography. Some wrote of the drunkenness they experienced on a nightly basis. Others could not keep from looking at naked men or women. Some were so disgusted with themselves that they had to take drugs. God was insufficient. So many people told lies—to friends, spouses, children, God. One poignant confession read:
Oh God, so many things I have done! So many days all I could think of was getting high. So many times I became so terribly intoxicated that after spinning about in bed I had to rush to the toilet to empty my insides in regret. So many were the times that I told blatant lies about the most minor things. So many times I was like a Judas to my friends and family. I still remember the time I purposely hurt my best friend. Another time after a night of drinking I brought the drunk girl who kissed me so passionately home, and after she had passed out I stared at her, wanting to take her then and there, and she would have never known, and though I didn’t, I still wanted to. How many were the promises I made to you, God, never to do something again, then I did it again, and again; I constantly deceived, and then deceived again, and again; I doubted you, God, again and again. So many times I have been afraid, and have tried everything I could think of to rid myself of the fears, but they remained, and worsened. I cannot forget the times that I committed adultery in my heart; and the times that I asked for forgiveness, then straightaway sinned again; and the times that I failed to turn the other cheek; and the times that I failed to accept all that had been given me; and the times . . . . There are so many more, Lord. I can remember them all, and they haunt me. I hope that by nailing them to this wood, I will be rid of them. I give them to you.
Another note nailed to the wood read:
I have lived my life in fear. Sometime I cannot even leave my house. Often all I think about are the spiders that must be crawling around me. I fear winter in summer, and summer in winter. I fear to have friends over, then fear to be so lonely; I fear I will die alone. I cannot sleep at night for fear of a burglar. My fears are countless: but of course you know them all! I give them to you God. I nail them to this Cross.
I realized now that these confessions to God were being nailed upon that which held . . . I couldn’t quite conceive it, couldn’t quite believe what I was thinking. I looked at another note, which appeared almost flesh-like. It read:
I seek forgiveness for the many times I killed during the war. I didn’t want to kill, but I had to, to save my own life. I was overwhelmed with fear during the war, and could not see a way out except to kill as many of the enemy as I could find. On the battlefield, reality exploded all around me and whatever faith and confidence I had disappeared, surrounded as I was by a collage of the sounds of explosions, thuds of shrapnel meeting flesh, screams of the wounded, the boom of my heartbeat; the sights of masses of machines, earth, and flesh rearranged and contorted into horrific designs of evil; feelings of unsurpassed hopelessness, loneliness, desperation, and fear; thoughts of doom and judgment, the end of time. I longed for home and family, for past times of peace, for the simple miracles of which life is made--for birds flying, snowfall, crawling bugs, the crying infant, a warm bed, smiles, holding hands. But I killed, and killed again. Forgive me.
I read another:
I realize now that children are taught the power, not the love, of you, God, from the beginning of life. Any creature below a human is subjected, on a whim, to pain, torture, or death. Flies are swatted, mosquitoes slapped, bees and wasps sprayed with poison, spiders crushed, worms stepped on. Besides the disregard for life in the insect world, children are taught as well that the lives of other vermin are unworthy—mice, rats, moles, rabbits, squirrels, frogs, toads, fish, birds, coyotes, foxes, skunks, opossums: it is a mighty list of the animals that are discarded and put to death without a second thought. Hunters build their egos by seeking trophies of various sorts: deer, panthers, wolves, moose, bear, and more. Only a few animals deemed near extinction receive any kind of consideration, usually from government and not individuals. It is just one more step, in this disregard for life, for a child to learn that human life itself is subject to individual whims to terminate or discard. Humans have reached a point of moral depravity wherein we must decide if an unborn human in the womb is more or less important than the mother’s ease, freedom, and life. The arrogance of humans has, in fact, advanced even farther than ever before. We have tests to determine the health and viability of the fetus, which if it appears to have defects, is terminated. Life is so prolific that it has become cheap.
I confess that I believed these ideas for many years. I was a lifelong proponent of the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade. Girls and women were taught that if a pregnancy is inconvenient, it can be terminated—i. e., the fetus, a life, is killed. Because of improvements in medical technology, some prospective parents can terminate pregnancy because the fetus has been determined to be “deformed”--hence kill and try again.
I also supported ideas of altering the environment for human use. I used poisons over and over again against innocent creatures. I know I contributed to untold numbers of deaths. Please forgive me.
Oh God, I am tortured by what I have thought. It has been many years and I still see images in my thoughts and dreams. I am never alone from the horror of my thoughts. I confess what I have never confessed to anyone: I have so many times imagined the most horrible things. I have imagined people dying the most horrible deaths. I have imagined that I am the cause of their deaths. Sometimes a thought has come into my mind that I am a killer, a murderer, and I imagine killing and murdering. But I’ve never done it—I don’t think I have. I just imagine it. But why? Why have I imagined such horrible things? Why has my mind been dominated by horrible thoughts? Am I so evil? Am I really a killer? I cannot relieve my mind of these thoughts. I have suffered for years and years. I can rarely feel happy because I know these horrible thoughts are there, just outside of me, waiting to jump in, to control my mind, to terrify me. Oh! please take these images from my mind! Please forgive me for having these thoughts! Please purify me from this filth! Allow me to nail these thoughts upon this wood.
Another told of fear:
I pray for help Jesus, and You respond. My thoughts, my obsessive thoughts and compulsive feelings, occur, You say, because the fear is unreal, it is false, it derives in response to the absurdity of my life, my existence, the contradictions I live in, the artificial existence I have manufactured. Real threats have rarely scared me. False illusional threats rivet me in fear. Reality is not terrifying. The imaginary unreality that I create in my life terrifies me. My strength has forsaken me, and I have given into the fears and fantasies of the creation of my imagination, so that I rarely know what life is, real life. I know now that You are Life. I cannot live alone. You will vanquish my fears. Thank you!
Another told of Redemption:
I have always believed, in my heart, in your redemption, Lord. I have always believed that my sins will be forgiven, and that I would be cleansed. I have always believed it, though I haven’t always acted on these beliefs. You know I am a small man, Lord, and I have often been a coward when confronted with other men bigger and stronger than me. Whenever they have said things that I disagreed with, that I thought contradicted your power and glory, I wanted ever so much to oppose them, to argue for your ways, for the ways of Christ—but I never would argue, I would look at their stature and muscles and shrink back. I was afraid they might attack me, or laugh at me. People always have laughed at me. They see me as insignificant because I am so small in stature. But I have a big heart, God. I believe in You. I love my fellow human. I try to always Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Sometimes I have failed. And I have never been strong enough to fight for You. Please forgive me.
Another was the confessions of a Skeptic:
I have always been an academic, a thinker, one who uses reason and logic to ask questions and seek answers. I could conceive of the divine as something such as the Mind of the ancient Greeks, or the One of the Neoplatonists, but I had my doubts, and chose to reserve judgment—until now. Now I see. I see your hand pierced with the huge iron nail upon this wooden cross, and now I know. The astonishment overwhelms me. The realization washes over me. My embarrassment and humiliation are such that I can barely write, or say, or think, these words that are foaming up from the disorder of my mind. How can it be true? Certainly philosophy cannot explain You. Logic is unable to grasp You. Science founders in the wake of Your presence. How can the words of the Bible, the contradictions contained therein, the inconsistences, the absurdities, be true? And yet they are. I have spent my life in opposing this Truth. I have spent my life spinning my mind, spinning my wheels, thinking that I know, thinking that others don’t—and here I am and I find that I am the ignorant one. My great thoughts have deluded me. The world of Academe and professors and books have made me stray from the truth, You. I resign myself to your presence. Forgive me.
Reading this note etched with the markings of blood and tears, reading the words hand on the cross, I thought of the other notes, and how they were nailed to wood, nailed, some said, to a Cross. Simultaneously confused and astonished, I looked along the great wooden beam upon which the ladder leaned. The fog had lessened somewhat and I had not noticed what I now could see. A man’s arm extending along the wooden beam, and at the end of the arm a hand, bleeding, with a huge iron nail piercing it, holding it to the wood. I followed the arm the opposite direction and saw it attached to the shoulder of a man, a man with a crown of thorns on his head, a man who had been nailed to the wooden cross. Confusion, wonder, astonishment, fear, joy, awareness, acknowledgement, vanishing doubt, humility, guilt, and the need to confess simultaneously overwhelmed my mind and body, my thoughts and senses. I knew. And I felt an awful obligation, a necessity, to talk, to write, to think, to confess--to the Christ.