“I’M GOING TO KILL MY HUSBAND. AND IF I DON’T, I’M GOING TO KILL MYSELF!”
Her fury filled my ear.
This was my first call as a volunteer at the emergency helpline, and I suddenly felt like I was being held over shark-infested water – and by some unknown person whose grip was not activated by any desperate passion for me to survive!
But this was about my caller’s survival or her husband’s – not mine.
My mind was racing. How was I to cope with this? How could I prevent a tragedy – especially when I had no experience or any understanding of what had provoked the crisis that had suddenly engulfed me?
“Make like a duck!” I recalled our tutor’s advice. “That is, keep your tone calm and reassuring - even if you are paddling like a threshing machine under the surface.”
How could I secretly gain this caller’s confidence? Did my training manual mention any police or paramedic trace facility to get her address so I could arrange for an expert to somehow arrive at the other end of this call?
That would make me an unsung hero, but it would get our helpline some great publicity. But I first had to try to defuse the tension…
“Ma’am, we can’t use our real names. Can I call you Josephine? And you can call me Duncan. Is that okay?”
“Uh, if you insist...”
Maybe if I tried the reflective method; to turn the statement back as a question: “You say you want to kill your husband?”
“I didn’t say I wanted to; but there’s no way out!” Aah, now we were touching on her real wishes, not just on her temper…
“Has he attacked you or threatened you Josephine?”
“No; he wants nothing to do with me or our family! It’s like we don’t exist anymore!”
“Was there a time when you were happy together?”
“Oh yes; we used to be so happy doing everything together.” This was sounding hopeful…
“Josephine, what do you think has brought about the change?”
“He’s turned religious; and he only wants to be with all those other religious nuts!”
“Well Josephine, anyone who becomes a Christian becomes a brand new creature; as the bible says. And all the people whom your husband enjoys being with are also enjoying that newness. And they aren’t going to do anything dangerous or antisocial.”
“Maybe not, but do they have to do all that training and study – all the time? And do it away from everyone else? Doesn’t charity begin at home?”
“Well yes, but as Christians we have new values which are based on eternal values that we must embrace, or we will never reach our potential. And it’s important for Christians to learn together about how to be sensitive to issues we would not confront in the limitations of our own personal circles. Our church has set up this helpline to help unsaved people to discover important new values for life.” I could feel a growing sense of freedom here... surely we were getting somewhere!
“But Duncan, aren’t we important now?”
“I’m sure your husband cares about you and your family Josephine, but he probably sees so many bigger needs in the world that he and his Christian friends want to see healed. Isn’t that a worthy goal?”
“It sounds wonderful. But things need to be done at home as well. We used to go to dances, to the country club, and he was always so attentive to repairs at home. But now he takes no interest, and he keeps forgetting all those special things we used to celebrate. Just last week he said he was going to become a counsellor! Tonight is our wedding anniversary. And I’m home all by myself!”
My throat suddenly became thick and dry…
“Is that you, Margaret?”
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