Driving down I-94 that night on the east side of metro Detroit, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the impulse to veer into the cement embankment of the Allard overpass to silence the screaming emptiness in my spirit.
There had been an agonizingly vacant cavern in my soul for thirty-five years, but I didn’t have a clue how to make the pain go away. It sure wasn’t for lack of trying. Achievement was my drug of choice for almost four decades…
But none of the performances, sermons, articles, or counseling sessions were enough to fill the inner emptiness for more than a moment.
I’d love to say I heard a voice, saw a vision, or had some kind of supernatural impression of God’s great plans for me to be healed and save the world.
But I’m still not entirely sure why I didn’t jerk the wheel of my car toward the concrete barrier that promised to stop the weeping in my tortured, empty spiritual heart.
All I remember is the grace of God pressing the faces of my three little girls—Andrea, Leigh Anne, and Caroline—into my suicidal consciousness.
I saw them looking at me, depending on me, loving me—often despite myself. And I couldn’t bear the thought of those three precious lives dealing with the legacy of a dad who wouldn’t face his pain and chose to pass it on to them instead.
So, shocked and confused, I limped to the next exit and found my way home to my family. But that night, like the prodigal son in Luke 15, I hit bottom.
After a long, long journey in my particular version of the “far country”—through one terrifying “I don’t want to live anymore” moment of grace—I finally came to my senses. Don’t get me wrong.
There was no immediate epiphany of deep theological truth or insight. But that night, I came face-to-face with a reality that had taken me years to confront: my own inner emptiness and my absolute inability to fill it.
I couldn’t live with that emptiness any longer. If I didn’t find a way to be whole, to be secure, to be at peace, I was already dead.
After that night on the freeway, in those few days of posttrauma clarity, I asked God to show me the way, to show me what to do or what not to do to fill up the emptiness inside.
My spirit simply longed to hear my heavenly Father say, “I love you, son. I truly, freely, unconditionally, and forever just . . . love . . . you.”
So I tried something novel. I asked the God who said that he loved me to show me what was going on. And then I asked him, “Please, I beg you, show me the way.”
That’s how my journey began—a journey to wholeness, fullness, and freedom, to knowing the love of Christ that fills us with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Listen, my story isn’t unique. It’s the human story. We’re all born with a deadly emptiness in our spirits that cries out to be filled with the Father’s love.
I’m praying…you will let [the stories in Choose and Choose Again] give you courage to bravely choose—and choose again—to allow his love to bring you home.
J. Kevin Butcher is the lead pastor of Hope Community Church of Detroit, a messy fellowship of human beings from every kind of racial, economic, and educational background imaginable—with one thing in common: They own their emptiness and pursue healing through the love of God in Jesus Christ. Butcher has written numerous articles and shared the message of the Father’s love in twelve different countries. He has been married to his best friend Carla for thirty-eight years, and they love their three grown daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren.