I Want to Kill Him!

I Want to Kill Him!

This has been a difficult story to write well, because I’ve had to use generalities and refrain from mentioning anything tangible that might make certain characters recognizable. You’ll understand why as you read further.


It was early in my years as a plant breeder. The previous day had found me on two airline flights, traveling to the headquarters of my new employer. Beginning very early the following morning, I had ridden all day—750 miles—in a pickup truck with a field technician and with my boss, to some of his experimental plots that needed to be harvested. Much of the conversation during the drive consisted of my boss’s ridiculing me and saying snide things about me to his technician. The disparaging speech had begun as soon as I was hired; I wondered why in the world he had even hired me—he clearly had no respect for me! (At the company’s headquarters, which was also his research station, he insisted that everyone call him Dr. J. But I was Brian—which ordinarily was fine with me, because I’ve never wanted people to address me as Dr. Mustain, but the disparity in this case was somewhat discourteous.) J was a sort of hybrid between straight aggression and passive-aggression.

After a physically and emotionally exhausting drive, we checked into our motel, ate a quick dinner in the motel restaurant—accompanied by more belittling speech—and turned in. J told me that we should meet in the dining room at 7:00 sharp for breakfast.

Mornings have always been difficult for me, so I didn’t get up until about ten minutes before 7:00. Then the phone on my bedside table rang a few minutes before 7:00. “Where have you been? Lots to do today! Meet us out in the parking lot in five minutes.” I couldn’t know whether J had intentionally lied about breakfast time (I knew I hadn’t misunderstood him), or had accidentally mentioned the wrong time—but I strongly suspected the former.

So I trudged out to the parking lot and climbed into the pickup, without breakfast and, even worse, without coffee.

Because I was learning about a new crop, my primary task was to follow J around in order to observe how he did things. From time to time I joined a work crew, but mostly it was just trailing behind J. I learned nothing. He volunteered nothing. One interaction should serve to illustrate his imperious technique: For much of the late afternoon he was selecting individual plants; and since the crop was new to me, I had no idea what to look for when selecting plants.

Early on I asked him, “Why did you choose that plant?”

His response: “Because I like it.” And he went back to selecting plants, while ignoring me. I didn’t ask again.

Almost without exception, every interaction I had with J that day included some kind of put-down.

From early morning to near quitting time, my fury intensified. I felt my hatred rising.

This was all new to me. Since coming to know Jesus many years before, I had been through many levels of the Holy Spirit’s cleansing and healing. It had recently become my conscious experience that, so far as I knew my heart, I loved—or at the very least had gracious feelings toward—everyone I met, even disagreeable people. That certainly hadn’t been the case when I was younger, but at this time in my spiritual life (at least until I had started my new job!) I could honestly say that I had no ill feelings toward a living soul.

But on this miserable Saturday, I discovered feelings of hatred and violence that I could not recognize as my own. They must have been buried very deep within my heart. The passive-aggressive behavior, the subtle digs, the snide comments, the insults, continued throughout the day, and the blackness within my soul increased accordingly.

Just before quitting time at 6:00 p.m., I found myself in a relatively isolated section of the research plots (why, I don’t recall). I couldn’t bear the idea that I would have to be with J on the ride back to the motel and during dinner. I am in no way exaggerating when I say that I felt like strangling him with my bare hands. That’s how bad it was. He was so evil! But my response was even more evil—for as a child of the King, I had no excuse!

Just as I heard people calling out that it was time to go in for dinner, I dropped to my knees there in the field, where the tall plants shielded me. I cried out to God. I said that I knew the basic problem was sin in my heart, not J’s actions, since I was commanded to love all God’s creatures, even my enemies. But I admitted that I had zero control over my heart. I was sobbing. I cried out loud, “Lord, forgive me! Lord, help me! I am totally helpless! I want to kill him! Help me!”

But I had to go. So I stood up, wiped my tears, and jogged over to where the others were waiting. I have no memory of that evening. I assume I ate with J and his technician. I’m guessing I excused myself as soon as it was seemly to do so, in order to get to bed early. I just don’t remember.

I remember only that I fell into my bed, totally exhausted not from the physical effort of the day, but from the emotional storms that had been surging through me.


Next morning the ringing of my bedside phone woke me. I picked up the handset and upon hearing J’s voice (again, I am not exaggerating), my heart leapt within me—for joy! I was happy to hear his voice! A few minutes later I saw him and his technician in the restaurant (this day I was going to get some breakfast!), and I felt deep affection for my boss.

God had answered my prayer. In spades! I genuinely loved J! I enjoyed being with him. I was gobsmacked. And it was permanent. For the rest of the time we were working those research plots, my boss was as much of a cruel jerk as ever. Ditto for the 750-mile drive back to the company’s headquarters. But it didn’t get under my skin—I loved him!

After that I flew back to my home, and was busy setting up my own breeding program. J visited a few times, and was as insufferable as ever. Even after I left that job and was working elsewhere, I ran across him at scientific meetings, and saw that he remained a sadistic jerk (in the meantime, I had learned that he was also a thief). But I loved him. I even had lunch with him once, and had a pleasant conversation.

The rest of the story

Back to that fateful evening and morning. I learned what happened when M, a dear Christian friend from graduate school who also worked in genetics, called me at my home a couple of days after I returned from that grueling trip.

After a few pleasantries, she asked, “What were you doing around six last Saturday evening?”

I was speechless for a long time. It had been an unforgettable few minutes: At 6:00 p.m. I had been on my knees in an experimental field, weeping, crying out to God for help and forgiveness because I was unable to control my hatred. I told M my story.

“Hmm, that’s interesting,” she said. “I spent Saturday afternoon at my lab, and around five o’clock I was getting ready to go home for dinner. But God spoke to me and said, ‘Don’t go home. Brian is in trouble. You need to stay here and pray for him. Right now.’”

“So I prayed for you for about an hour, until I felt God say, ‘OK, it’s all taken care of. You can go home now.’”


Praise God! I was on my knees in an agricultural field, overcome with hatred and murder, knowing that it was evil but confessing that I was helpless to oppose such feelings. And I was crying out to my Lord for help. Then he tapped the shoulder of another one of his kids, a thousand miles away, and had her stand in the gap for me until the victory was won.

I don’t think there’s much more to say. God is faithful. God is gracious. (And, of course, my friend M was faithful and gracious*.)


*See the essay, Why Intercessory Prayer “Works.”  See also Hearing God’s Voice and the other two essays beginning with that phrase, since none of this could have happened had M not been “tuned in” to the Holy Spirit.