He recalled the empty desperation and drunken rage that compelled him to place the cold hard barrel of the automatic to his head as he sat sobbing in the park. Who was he? What had become of his perfect life? Had he been able to see himself in the spiritual realm, he would have been horrified by the number of demons surrounding him. Dark spirits of despair and doubt, gleeful spirits of self loathing and violent spirits of self destruction. He was literally being smothered, for in their diabolical intelligence, these ancient demons sensed that he was destined to be one of the special few who walked the earth in unceasing combat with their kind. They understood, much better than he, that in rejecting God, Rieper had stripped himself of the armor that protected him throughout his life.
The demons had been enraged when Nick, as an infant, was consecrated to the Lord by his father. Throughout his young life, they attacked him to no avail. They began to break him when the loss of his family weakened his defenses. Surely, it was not Satan who had taken his wife and child. Yet just as surely, the tragedy presented a devastating opportunity to destroy the young man.
The energy of evil is ceaseless and cruel, roaming the earth in search of weakened prey. Its ravenous hunger is never sated. Nick Rieper was indeed, trophy prey. And at the moment he appeared to be hopelessly wounded as the spiritual hyenas moved in for the kill. It was in this state of utter desperation that he finally, for the first time in months, acknowledged his Maker, as he raised his face to Heaven and cried out in bitter anguish, "WHY?"
He could never have known that at that very instant, several of the tormenting demons were severed in two by the flash of a burning white sword. The rest fled in panic.
Nick had always chosen to believe that it was the prayers of his guardian angel. It may have been those of his dead wife, father or infant son, but he knew that somewhere, someone must have been praying very hard for him. For, in the midst of his despair he was suddenly granted a miracle.
The sound came from behind and above him. He recognized the flapping wings of a hovering bird, and he instinctively snapped around and raised the automatic toward the threat. Strangely, he saw a white dove fly off into the night. Moments later, he heard labored breathing, which soon grew into a tight-lipped groan. The sound came from everywhere and nowhere; it was a sickening sound, a sound that he had heard before only in combat. One could never forget the death rattle of a strong man fighting mortal pain. After a moment the muffled groan gave way to an expulsion of air, which ended in an involuntary sigh. He heard the man gasp for another shallow breath. It was then that he heard a horse, tortured cry out that first familiar word in Hebrew.
"ELI!" And then again, slower, weaker... sobbing. "Eli?"
It was the beginning of a sentence, an anguished timeless sentence. It was the crying plea of a dying, broken man as he summoned the last drop of his strength. The voice was filled with a depth of despair that bespoke the collective grief of all mankind.
"ELIIII... ELI... LAMA... SABACHTANI?"
"MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?"
He immediately recognized them as the words of the Cross. He had read them a hundred times, but never had he dreamed of the utter desolation, the profound sadness and simple broken humanity of that voice, that haunting voice. The effect on him was profound; the impact instantaneous. These were the very words cried out to Almight God by His own Son. It was the cry of God Himself, in the person of Jesus. The cry of a wounded child, His frail humanity racked in unceasing agony, and much worse, His Spirit in torment. Why, Father? Why have you abandoned me?
All at once, the commando understood.
It was as if all that he had ever learned or believed had led him to this one moment, this grand epiphany. If Christ Himself, had cried out in unanswered agony and desperation, what right had he, a mere man, to demand an explanation from God? He had asked the eternal question. Why? There was no answer. That was gift and the lesson. The only answer was surrender. Surrender and trust in the will of the Father.