“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love).” (I Corinthians 13:13)
As was our custom, our Christian fellowship group met in the chapel on the 2nd deck of the USS Okinawa LPH3. We sang praises to God, worshipped The Lord, prayed for one another, and testified as to what God was doing in our lives.
On one particular day, a new “brother” stood to his feet and said that he would like to share his story of a life-changing encounter.
He began, “My heart was very heavy last night and I decided to end my life. I climbed the ladder that led to the flight deck, opened the hatch and walked out onto the flight deck. I was surprised by the cool night air rushing in, but it did little to deter me from my purpose.”
“Brothers, my heart was broken and I had resolved to take my life.”
“I looked briefly around to make sure no one was in the area. My heart was beating so hard that I thought it could be heard on the quarterdeck. I deliberately breathed in the darkness of the night sky knowing that they were my last. I also noticed a brighter than usual glow from the lights that outlined the superstructure of our ship. I thought to myself that the vast galaxies of stars would be the only visible witnesses of the events that were about to transpire.”
He continued, “This small floating city of 2,000 sailors and Marines has been my home away from home for the last four months. I've enjoyed my first deployment, and I especially enjoyed our ports of call. I really liked Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.”
We all nodded in agreement.
He then became very quiet and said, just barely above a murmur, “Yeah, it’s been great, except for that one ugly night when I gave in to my loneliness.”
We all became very quiet. Somehow we knew what was coming.
“I was in turmoil and pain. I failed. I had betrayed my children, my wife, and myself. There was no excuse for what I had done, and last night I could not see beyond the thick veil of my sin.”
“And so, not seeing any way out and unable to cope, I thought it best to end my life by diving off of the flight deck. This way it would appear to be an accident and my wife and children would be free to get on with their life. Somehow I reasoned that my plunge into the Pacific would wash and absolve me of my ugliness.”
“But, you know what, I didn’t do it,” he joked.
We all smiled.
“As I was approaching the safety netting of the ship, memories of my family poured over me. I recalled the faces of my family, but I countered these precious reflections by saying that it was best this way. How could I be a part of their lives? How could I look in their eyes? Oh, God! I am truly sorry! I am a failure! Forgive me, I cried out in the darkness.”
Then he stopped abruptly during his account of what had taken place. His face changed from a look of anguish to sheer joy and radiance. He continued by saying, “I didn't follow through because I heard a whisper, a voice deep within my heart. A voice so tender, soft and loving.”
He explained. “When I cried out in desperation to God for forgiveness, He in turn whispered to my heart.” “And,” he continued, “Those words whispered were not words of condemnation, judgment, anger, or of rebuke. To have heard those words would have just verified what I was already feeling and what I knew to be true.”
“Instead, God whispered words that pierced my heart like a spent arrow into the darkness of my lost soul.”
“God spoke words. They were powerful words of acceptance and release.” “He told me,” said the sailor, in a hardly audible voice, “That He loved me.”
Tearing up, he said, “When God said that to me it was like a huge and refreshing wave swept over me and cleansed my heart. Suddenly my pain and torment were gone. Washed away. God spoke and my past was past.”
“Guys, I left the flight deck, but I was no longer burdened. I was free, I was flying, I was alive, but I also had clarity and I knew there was something else I needed to do.”
“I walked down the gangplank towards the enlisted men’s club and I pulled out my telephone calling card. Entering the club, I searched for an open phone booth at the phone bank, entered in and dialed the number. The operator answered and asked how she could assist. I asked to place a call, gave the phone number to call and provided my telephone calling number.”
“Thanking the operator the phone rang and rang and rang. Finally, a sleepy voice at the end of the line said, ‘Hello?’ I had forgotten the time difference.”
“I took in a deep long breathe and said, Hi. Sorry, I forgot about the time change, but I needed to talk to you. There was silence.”
“With a quick prayer, I began to share the ugliness of my decision and action that had violated my sacred vow with her, my wife. I vaguely talked about that fateful night, my infidelity, the betrayal, the remorse, the pain I caused, the plan to end my life, my encounter with the forgiveness of God and a request from her for forgiveness although I knew that, from her, I was undeserving.”
“I could hear her sobs and I longed to reach through the wires to hold her and wipe away the tears.”
At this point, all the guys in the fellowship group were crying as he continued his witness.
He finished his powerful testimony by relating that following his confession, and a request for forgiveness, there was a very long pause. “Eventually,” he said, “My wife spoke.”
“She did not scream, yell or threaten. That would have been a normal and justifiable response.”
“Instead, she stated that she had suspected what had happened and prayed for this moment. Despite the pain she had experienced, God reassured her that good would come out of it.”
And then our brother in the Lord related what his wife had said, that will never leave me.
He told us that before they hung up, and before they had expressed their love and recommitment to the marriage, each other, and God. She had said that the Lord whispered to her heart, that just as His love and forgiveness was demonstrated on that cross, so too, her love for her husband would be made stronger. God had shared with her, that her tears of pain and anguish would wash away the heartache of her husband’s actions.
To this day, I am thrilled by this moving story of the power of love to forgive and restore.
“And the greatest of these is love.”
Born in Toronto, Canada, Brian Aird emigrated with his parents to Chicago, Illinois and eventually enjoyed the small town life of Wausau, Wisconsin.
Upon graduation from high school and one year of study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a 10-year commitment of service in the United States Navy was afforded which included many opportunities of education, life experience and travel.
After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, he attended The Salvation Army School for Officer’s Training and was commissioned as an officer in The Salvation Army where he served in various communities throughout the western United States for a period of 12 years.
Following this life changing experience, the American Red Cross became a new arena of service for 10 years. Currently, his vocation is once again with The Salvation Army where he serves in Northern California as the business coordinator. Four lovely children and eight darling grandchildren decorate the lives of he and his wife.
He is an avid Green Bay Packers fan, enjoys the game of hockey and loves to write.
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