Sixteen Minutes to Live

I felt there was a very fine line between sin and obedience, and I was walking a very dangerous tightrope. As I Closed my Eyes, the Image I had seen reappeared as if it were burned into my eyelids. I apologized to God for allowing myself to do what I promised I would not do. I decided that this was not how I wanted to spend my last 16 minutes.

Sixteen Minutes to Live

            I awoke to discover that I had fallen asleep on the sofa with the TV turned on to American Movie Classics (AMC). The movie that was now playing was not the movie that I had been watching earlier, nor was it a classic, nor was it even the type of movie that I would have cared to admit to ever having watched. I must confess that I recognized some of the characters as those who had “starred in” three movies of the same series. I must further confess that I did watch each of these all or in part some time before my recommitment to Christ seven months ago.

          My first reaction was to reach for the remote control and change channels. That is what I had promised God that I would do, and that is what I had faithfully done, since opening my heart to Him, every other time when I had come in contact with such unwise viewing choices. But, the remote was not easily found. I later discovered that it had fallen on the floor. But, being half asleep, I put no real effort into finding it. I rationalized that the scene that was unveiling itself to me was comedic, although brainless, but otherwise harmless. Through a normal bad edit for this type of show it abruptly jumped to the next scene which was somewhat predictable. I won’t completely reveal the details, but an attractive young lady had quickly removed her outer garments down to her lingerie. I Instantly looked away, and resumed my search for the remote. I finally located it and found the off button. But I did not press it. Curiosity and Temptation got the best of me and I turned my head for a 2nd glance which to my defense (if I have one), only lasted about 1/3 of a second. I must confess that what I saw was pleasing to the eye and, although her “assets were covered”, I caught myself saying “I Wonder…….”?

          WHAM, it was as if I had been Hit in the head with a Crowbar. I was overcome by a feeling of guilt that I had not felt for more than half a year. I turned the TV off Instantly, saying loudly “this is Stupid! I am going to bed!”, but I felt as if I had been extremely disobedient to God. I had Sinned in my heart, or at least I was on the verge of it. Sometimes I felt there was a very fine line between sin and obedience, and I was walking a very dangerous tightrope.  I ran off to my bedroom praying all the way. I was begging God for forgiveness and I was crying.  I lay on my bed praying and continuing to ask God for forgiveness and guidance. As I Closed my Eyes, the Image I had seen On TV reappeared as if it were burned into my eyelids. “NO”!, I shouted as my eyes Sprang back open. Wide eyed I apologized to God for allowing myself to do what I promised I would not do so that I would not be led to sin Again.  I closed my eyes. This time a different image popped into my minds eye. It was one that was MUCH more offensive than what I had seen on AMC.

          NO! I Shouted, in a voice loud enough to echo throughout my empty house. “I Understand, God! Make it Stop! I am Sorry. Please forgive me!”. Normally I do not recommend Yelling at God. But I felt that he was yelling at me for my disobedience in a voice that was not so still or so small, so it seemed appropriate at the time. Exhausted, I closed my eyes one more time in an attempt to go to sleep, this time with success.

          I awoke a couple hours later alone in a small room that I did not recognize. I was a bit bewildered. I didn’t know how I got there, nor why I was there, and I did not even know where “there” was. I looked around the dimly lit room and saw that there were 2 rows of 6 chairs on a slightly raised platform which looked down toward a window that had its curtains closed. I was seated in the first one of those 12 chairs. I did not notice the lone door until it opened and a line of people with solemn faces paraded in. They were obviously making their way to the chairs, so I politely stood up to allow them in. The curtain opened and I was horrified to see that the window allowed viewing into the next room where sat an empty electric chair.

It quickly became apparent to me that I had been selected to witness an execution, along with these other twelve men and women. “Why” ,I thought, “am I here”? “I don’t remember being a victim, nor had anyone in my family”.  I was not a member of the press, and I did not remember being selected. I thought maybe if I sank down into my chair, I could look away and not have to watch. But, as I attempted to sit back down, I was surprised to find someone was already sitting in it. I felt relieved that I would not have to witness the carnage after all. It is important to note that I had always been a staunch supporter of swift capital punishment for ALL capital crimes for most of my life, as long as I did not have to participate in the process.

          I quickly headed toward the door with the anticipation of escaping this unpleasantness. My forward progress was stopped by a large and bulky uniformed officer who stood in front of the door. I tried to explain that I wanted to leave and he seemed to oblige by pushing a button on the wall. The door opened and as I walked through it I was accosted by three other large silent guards who treated much more roughly than I had ever been treated before. I only felt pain when I resisted. AND, resist I did when I discovered that they were directing me through the door into the next room where the electric chair was.

          I was in Shock, if you will pardon the pun, when it became obvious to me that I was the one who was to executed at first light. I must say that I had a last minute conversion. My position on capital punishment had suddenly and miraculously reversed itself. I was now the loudest human rights supporter of the movement to abolish something that was so cruel and unusual. There was a clock on the wall with a red line drawn at the 43 minute mark, and the Big Hand was racing toward it. I calculated that had Sixteen minutes to live. I always knew that my BS degree in Mathematics would come in handy for Something before I died, but computing the number of seconds remaining before my own electrocution was not my expected application for all of those seemingly wasted years of study.  I fought!  I fought as if my life depended on it, and as I did I shouted “what have I done to deserve death? You must have me confused with someone else. Call the Governor. I want to speak to the Warden”. But after wasting 180 seconds of my remaining life struggling against the burley arms of those steadfastly determined men, I decided that this was not how I wanted to spend my last 13 minutes.

          I Shouted loudly “HELP ME” I called out to God saying “Help me Oh Lord, Save Me”. I then questioned God saying “Lord, is this in keeping with our covenant? I thought we had a deal!  I am not supposed to have to Die. Jesus, you are to be my Savior, the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. I was Baptized. With those words, I had reminded myself of the commitment that I had made to God 7 months ago, to Love him, to be obedient to him, to be faithful to him, to learn about him through His Word the Bible, to let him fully control my life and to do His Will.  

          With this in my mind, my body went limp and I collapsed at the feet of this ruggedly hewn Wooden electric chair.  The guards seemingly knowing that I had finally surrendered and resigned myself to my fate released their Grip and backed away. I tried to struggle to my feet and was in the process of starting to crawl into the seat to accept my punishment when another door opened. I was heartened when a thought entered my mind that perhaps someone had called a person in charge to tell them of the mistake and to Stop this Insanity. I could see through the open door what looked like what I had seen in other Movies on TV as death row. I had not walked that path. I had not walked through that door. I was confused more than ever and I stopped my accent up the legs of this throne of death.

          As I did I noticed a parade of men walking through that door, including more guards, a priest apparently giving last rights, the warden himself, and a man in shackles. They led this condemned man in and sat him in the seat before me. He had obviously become resigned to his fate long ago because he did not struggle at all. He was acting much more dignified than I when I thought I was being led to my death. I felt very much humbled at this time. With hand signals and gestures I finally understood the truth. I was not the one to be executed today. For some unexplainable reason, It had fallen on me to have the job of securing this man to the chair. I was embarrassed. I had made a fool of myself in front of all of those witnesses and in front of the guards, and yes, before God himself. How could I have doubted God even for One second that He would keep His Word.

          I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I made no eye contact with anyone in the room. I went straight to my work, now that I understood what I was to do.   I took the large leather and copper strap and tightened it securely around the condemned man’s Right leg pinning it against the wooden leg of this monstrosity. I must have tightened the strap a bit too hard because as I did, the man tensed up and let out an audible grunt of pain. This sound sobered me a bit and made me realize exactly what I was doing. It was not going to be so easy for me anymore. I was helping to kill another human being. Thoughts raced through my mind as I was securing his left leg. I was distracted by these images of doubt and was having a hard time putting the strap through the hasp. I kept wondering: Who is this man? What has he done to deserve death? Is it possible that He was being executed by mistake as I had thought I was about to be? I in fact, stopped what I was doing and looked up at one of the guards and asked him the same three questions. The guard looked annoyed as if to say “don’t try to confuse me with the facts, I have a Job to do, and you have yours, now get back to work”. He pointed back to the chair leg and I understood what he had said without him moving his lips.

          I focused now squarely on my work. All I would see was the ankle, the chair leg, and my hands which were working like a robot to just get the job done. I would cut off in my mind the image of my arms from the wrists up so that I did not have to think about the fact that I was doing this deed. I was a bit more careful this time when I fastened the strap on his left leg. I do not know nor can I explain Why I cared whether I hurt him or not, but the purpose was served and at least I did not feel so guilty.  Next I moved to the Big Wide strap that was to secure his midsection to the chair just above his waste. I think it was designed to improve his posture or prevent his freedom of movement, or perhaps it was just for show. Emotionally, I could not afford to let my mind wander like this because I was already spent. Again, I focused on the task at hand.

          In fact, I moved to strapping the condemned mans RIGHT Hand securely down to the top of wide wooden chair arm. This was easier for me because I no longer had to be on my knees to work on it. I now could use leverage to get the straps tight and I was getting better with practice.  Even though I was now standing, I made it appoint not to look at the man or let him see my eyes because I already knew he must be a better man than I in one respect because of the dignity in which he had accepted and gone to meet his fate. I switched to his left Hand now. I was moving faster because I was getting nearer the end of my task and just wanted this whole episode to be over with so I could go back to bed. BUT, in my new found fervor came new strength and I again tightened the strap much too tightly causing him to cry out. Again, my mood was sobered as I realized exactly what I was doing.

          Next I moved to the chin strap which worked almost like the muzzle on a dog. This restraint was designed to keep the electrocuted man from biting his tongue off or shouting obscenities.  It was hard to not look at his eyes, but I was successful in keeping my very narrow focus. I was sure that I would be allowed to leave after the next and final step was completed, So I reached up for the small shallow metal bowl with all the electrodes mounted to it. It was to fit on the top of the condemned man’s head like a devout Jew would use a Yakima to cover his. This should have been the easiest part, but of course, I was having great difficulty. I tried as hard as I could to install this cap onto the crown of his head, but I was having very little success. I tried one more time, but I failed miserably. My view widened as if a camera was pulling back to reveal more and more of the scene, so that I could troubleshoot the problem.

          I was horrified by what I saw. The obstacle that had prevented my success was very plain now for me to see. A crown of thorns was atop this mans head and it was in the way. I must have jumped straight back 5 feet and I was staring the man square in the face. There sat JESUS strapped into his throne of death. I shouted out in a cry of anguish, agony, and fear that could have brought walls down “I am re-crucifying Jesus”.

After the echo died, I helplessly looked back at HIM. The condemned Son of Man mouthed the words “I forgive you”.  I fainted dead away.

          I awoke again this time back in my own bed. I was shaking and sobbing and staring at the ceiling. A new Image had been burned into my eyelids and into my heart and into my soul. After a few seconds I regained my composure and silently whispered. “God, I hear you loud and clear; Thank-you for answering my prayers. To you I will always be faithful. Amen!”

          I reached next to my bed and opened my Bible to read for a while. I started here:

Hebrews 6:4-6 (New International Version)

 4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because[a]to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

          I again Prayed a short little prayer to God for his very plain warning and went back to sleep.

Original Dream September 4, 2009

Recorded to paper September 14, 2009

The End

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