Five Minute Friday: Same

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

It’s Thursday night. The hubby is at man camp.

Bring on the Chinese food and the sweatpants and the Twitter party.

Kate. The tribe of comedy fangirls. We are: same.

Go.

My first encounter with suicide came at age eighteen. A friend had landed in jail. I don’t remember why. He called me one night, from that gray enclosure. Wanted to talk. I was rushing out the door. For work? To meet my boyfriend? I don’t remember that, either. In extreme naivety, I asked if he could call me another time.

He was dead the next day.

Just after New Year’s.

I left work early to attend his funeral. Clad in black from head to foot. I distinctly remember sensing that this was a very grown-up thing. Something I wasn’t prepared for. Long rows of chairs in the sanctuary. Surrounded by familiar faces. Everyone was quiet. Respectful. Dressed nicer than we had for our high school graduation.

They told stories. His parents, his brother. Other people I didn’t know. Awfully bizarre to speak kind words and laugh about precious memories when he wasn’t there to hear, to participate.

Later, afterwards, I sat in a diner with two of my guy-pals. The smell of stale cigarette smoke and bitter black coffee. They pulled their ties loose. We didn’t say much.

I still don’t say much. Not about this.

Logically, I know that I didn’t make him commit suicide. I know that the choice was his.

Still.

I wonder. Could I have said something? Could I have alerted someone? Was there some cue or clue I missed in the months before? Maybe. Maybe not. When someone gets it in his mind, really dwells on ending his life, he doesn’t talk about it. He doesn’t ask for help.

It just happens.

I know that now. I’ve walked that road.

For those left behind, suicide is a glaringly selfish act. How on earth are we to come to terms with it? How can we escape the sense of guilt? The anger? The questions?

For those who take up the weapons of destruction, suicide is the end of a long, weary road. A road that twists and turns and doesn’t make sense. A road that leaves right thinking and acting by the wayside. Selfishness doesn’t even enter the equation.

We are all suicide survivors. We’ve all been touched – a family member, a friend, a coworker, ourselves. Some of us bear mental scars. The wondering. Some of us bear the razor marks.

It is the vile work of the Devil.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” – John 10:10a (NKJV)

Beloved reader, hear me now: Whatever side of this you are on, whatever you have experienced, there is more to the story. It doesn’t have to be this way. History doesn’t have to repeat itself. We don’t have to read the same ending over and over and over again.

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10b (NKJV)

Loved one left behind, let yourself off the hook tonight. It’s not your fault. It’s not.

You who are in agony – cry out. With the last ounce of strength and courage that you have, cry out. God will hear and He will move. I guarantee it. He did so for me. He preserved my life. He foiled my plans. It will not happen in a way you expect. It will be something you would never think of in a million years. But He will – HE WILL – cast light into your darkness. Blinding, brilliant, life-saving light.

You must speak. You must tell someone. Even if all you do is collapse in their arms and weep. Even if it is the most broken and bitter-tasting moment you have ever experienced.

You are here, in this place, at this time, for a reason. You are not just a random collection of atoms. You are God-designed. God-planned. Fitted with gifts and talents. Made with passion and purpose. You have not plunged to such a depth that the arm of the Lord is not longer and stronger. You have not out-sinned His grace or worn out His patience.

Little child, your Father is here.

He is faithful and mighty and gracious and ever the same.

The Lord upholds all who fall,
And raises up all who are bowed down.” – Psalm 145:14 (NKJV)

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

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The Life and Death Brigade

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Gentle Reader,

Many thanks to the secretive Ivy League club and “Gilmore Girls” for the title.

I’m going to get heat for writing this. I know it as I type.

Brittany Maynard was wrong to end her life.

Cue explosions and much hand-wringing.

I am NOT saying that Maynard is in Hell. I have absolutely no idea about that. I am NOT saying that she was an evil person. I never met her. It hardcore sucks that she was dealt such a blow so early in life. What her family has had to deal with since the diagnosis is terrible. I am acutely aware that there are real people who are hurting and grieving. I don’t at all wish to throw mud at anyone.

What I want to talk about here today has nothing to do with this specific person or this specific family, but rather the more nebulous realm of the topic itself. I’m talking about suicide. Dress it up with the phrase “death with dignity” if you want, but the result is the same. Death.

It’s wrong.

I can say that. I can say that because I took steps along that path. I decided that I no longer wanted to live. My pain was too great. I thought that it would be better for those around me if I were gone.

I can also say that because an hour ago I was told that I have a tumor in my liver. Benign, praise God, but a tumor nonetheless. I’ll have to have major surgery. I don’t know what that is going to be like. I don’t know how difficult or long recovery will be. This will impact the rest of my life.

I hear the objections, things about apples and oranges and how dare I judge. But here’s the thing, and I believe it’s a thing that all Christians must address in the debate over “death with dignity”: Who is in control? Who is in charge? It leaves me staggering that the answer of many who claim Christ as Lord is so ill-defined.

It is my firm conviction that a follower of Christ must trust Him in all things. Of course, that’s a process. We’ve all always got room to grow. It is also my firm conviction that a follower of Christ does not, in any way, have the right to end the life of another human being. I stand resolutely in the pacifist camp, opposing all forms of violent action from abortion to war.

Nor do we have the right to end our own lives. I oppose suicide. I don’t care if it’s physician-assisted (which opens up a whole can of worms when one considers the Hippocratic Oath) or not. I believe that God has a good, unique plan for every single person – and that He alone is the determiner of life’s span. I believe that He is ready and willing to give us grace and strength for every situation, for every pain, for every sorrow, for every valley. Far sturdier than any umbrella, He will provide shelter in every storm.

This should be the witness of every Christian. Trust me, I know what a difficult witness it is. I know how easily and how quickly tortuous doubt descends. I know how overwhelming sudden loss, unexpected diagnosis and change of finances can be. Yet God has not failed me once. Not once. Things have not always turned out as I hoped or expected, sure. But He has always been there, always truthful, always faithful, always more and better than I could hope for or imagine.

I don’t know what you’re dealing with today. I don’t know how you’re being tried or tempted. Please, dear one, turn to the Lord. Seek His wisdom, His peace, His comfort. That is the way of life.

My journey to faith. (15)

Speaking with Compassion

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Gentle Reader,

Along with unnumbered scores of others, I was saddened by yesterday’s news of Robin Williams suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy, but this particular death has people talking. It is shocking to think that someone who brought us so much laughter experienced the kind of despair that leads to such a decision. Such a thing drives home the point that mental illness does not discriminate. Men, women, children, old, young, rich, poor. Anyone can find themselves in the midst of deep pain and confusion.

In this Internet age, anyone can post any opinion with the brush of a few keys, and I think that’s perfectly fine. Every one of us has the right to our own thoughts. I believe in free speech. But I also believe in compassion. Too many articles touching on this subject lack it, whether from the ignorance of “he’s free now,” something that belittles the entire topic of suicide and all those who have been impacted by it, to those who hone in only on the personal responsibility of Mr. Williams, to still others who speak of “just choos[ing] joy.” Mental illness is far too complex an issue to be reduced in such a way.

Honestly, I wish that the discussion of these things could be limited to those who have walked through the shadows and those who are trained to walk with them. But, again, anyone can say anything. So let me simply request this of you: Speak with compassion. Try to imagine the deep, tortuous pain and agonizing sorrow that would move someone to take his own life. Try to understand that this is not “just” a spiritual issue, nor is it “just” a physical issue. Mental illness takes over the totality of a person. The vision is clouded over – the vision of the eyes and the vision of the soul.

You would not speak to a cancer patient and tell her to “just get over it.” You would not tell an man with a broken leg to walk normally. No. You would come alongside and do what you could to help. This is exactly what the mentally ill need. We need your encouragement, your prayers, your friendship and your attempt at understanding. We need your grace and your hugs.

We do not need your condemnation, your attempts at neat classification or your ill-informed and lofty opinions spouted as fact.

Think about Jesus. Think about how He would speak to someone in despair.

Go and do likewise.

My journey to faith. (15)

Happy Anniversary!

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Gentle Reader,

I had an anniversary with God yesterday, though we’re celebrating today. Two years ago, on September 19, at around 6 o’clock in the evening, He stopped me from committing suicide.

I’ve heard that it comes off a bit morbid to celebrate a day like that, but I can’t help it. September 19 will always be important to me. I think it’s important to God, too. That day marks a change in our relationship. I’m not any less of a sinner than I was two years ago. I’m not in possession of some secret to living a great life. I still miss the mark, sometimes intentionally. I still struggle with those dirty words, “obligated” and “perfect.” I still experience conflict, anxiety and dark moments of sadness.

But that day…I came to the end of myself. Staring into the pit of evil, I saw with striking clarity just how much I didn’t know, how much I didn’t understand. I knew that I couldn’t pull myself up. I had to start talking – to God and to people. I had to start being honest about how clouded everything was. Most importantly, I had to learn how to punch the Devil in the mouth. I had to learn to stop buying into his garbage, his lies, and start standing on the truth of what God says. It’s a process. Some days are better than others. But I move forward. And that’s what counts.

September 19 also reminds me of the way the Lord has preserved my life throughout the years. I could have died in utero. I could have had a negative reaction to the anesthesia used during my first surgery and never woken up again. I could have died in a school bus accident. But I’m still here. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

This is a happy day. This is a joyous day.

Dear reader, whoever you are, I want you to know that there is hope. If you feel beyond the reach of light today, please know that you are not! I know that it hurts. I know you are tired. I know that you don’t know where to turn and you feel every emotion so intensely that you’re actually numb, and that confuses you. I know that you just want it to stop. From your place of hiding, where you lay curled up in so much pain, cry out to God, even if it comes out as a whisper. He WILL hear you. He WILL respond.

I don’t know what the path will look like for you. Each person’s story is different. But you are alive for a REASON. Have you been prescribed medication? TAKE IT. Are you seeing therapist? KEEP THE APPOINTMENTS. If you don’t have medication or a therapist, GET BOTH. Journal, sing, go for walks, sit in silence. Sleep. Eat. Most of all, listen to the Spirit. Listen to the Voice of the One who made you, who knows you intimately. He WILL be faithful to guide you to a place of healing. He WILL take all this sorrow and fear and use it for something good; your story will touch and influence others.

If you don’t have anyone you feel comfortable talking to, call this number: 1-800-273-8255. There is someone on the other end 24/7. Please, my friend, don’t let the inky waves take you down. I know you have no strength – God does, and He will pour into you exactly how much you need for that day, even that second. Despair is NOT the end!

My journey to faith. (15)