|Sit with me, and we will talk light into a dark night...
I had a talk with my eight-year old this week. It wasn't something I had ever really thought about having a conversation about. With him. At eight. It wasn't a conversation I really wanted to be having with anyone, but when he sees you crying in the middle of Target, he's a pretty perceptive little guy and I was faced with the stark realization that there never would really be a "good" time to have this kind of chat. But not having it all could be much worse.
You see, when you are a parent, you prepare yourself for questions about "the birds and the bees" and uncomfortable topics like gender, and homosexuality, and even for the weird ones like, "why is the sky blue?". And maybe you are a better parent, so you have already talked to your children about this, but I'll be honest, it isn't something I wanted to talk to my kids about, because it is just so darn complicated, and awkward, and just awful.
But that was what made me realize that I actually *had* to talk about it. I won't beat around the bush any more. What I had to talk to my precious little boy about was suicide. We have a person we love dearly, and that person faced this situation down this week. And it broke my heart, but strengthened my resolve: this is serious and we have to talk about it. Collective "we" and personal.
That person's story isn't mine to share, so I won't. But this is something that is on-going, and the people involved have done everything "right". And we are walking a path that is unknown to us, but praise Jesus, nothing has been done yet that can't be undone. But the shame of the whole matter is that there is just so much shame in the whole matter. Why don't we talk about suicide? Are we afraid that if we speak it we will give it power? That is a lie, straight from the pit. Talking about it *robs* suicide of it's power, because the fact of that matter is, shame is the leading cause of taking one's own life, in my opinion.
The shame and guilt involved in crying out for help is a tragedy of the greatest proportions. It is directly un-Biblical and we need to stop with the whole "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" and "real men (or women) don't..." Sometimes, you not only don't have bootstraps, you don't even have boots! That is why the Lord gave us one another. Because my job is to hear you when you cry, and love you. Paul says it better (Doesn't he always?)
Is there any more saddening sin than that of denying one's worth in Christ? Is there anything more tragic than someone who is blinded to the value of life-their own included? But where does it say, "Make that the un-talked about forbidden sin." No where! It says we are to restore them *gently*. With compassion. Full of love. Like Jesus.
You can go no further? I will carry you. Carry you straight to the throne. Because there is the only One who can make your life worth living. And it is so worth living. YOU ARE LOVED. And I shouldn't wait until you are hysterically crying out to say so. Maybe if you knew how much I loved you, you would feel safe to tell me how you really feel.
And that is what I told my sweet son. I said, "If you ever feel like you don't want to be here anymore, like you would be better off if you were dead, I want you to know that I will hear that. That I won't be mad, or punish you. That I will love you, and we will get help."
And I realized something. Talking about suicide has to start long before someone is depressed, and desperate. It has to start with really truly knowing and loving one another. I have been dealing with some things in my own life lately, and I owe so much to those who have come alongside me, got down in my mud, and said, "We won't leave you here. We're in this for the long haul." And that is what we need to be. These people know me, they saw that something was wrong, and they are lovingly working with me to help me be restored.
Help isn't a few well-placed cliches. It is months and years of love, of grace-giving, of forgiveness. Of developing a thick skin to insults but a tender heart of compassion, and ears sensitive to hear what isn't being said, of eyes intuitive enough to see beneath the surface. Of becoming more like Jesus. And knowing that medicines, and therapists and prayer are all different components of what is probably a complicated solution. This didn't happen overnight, and it won't be healed that way.
But it starts by saying, "I hear you. I see you. I won't condemn you for your burden. That if you trust me enough to tell me that you want to take your own life, or cease existing anymore, that I won't shame you. I will love you, and I will carry that burden with you, for as long as it takes."
Sometimes that means supporting the person directly, both spiritually and physically (Hello-therapy and medication aren't free!). That means keeping your phone on, and your radar up. Sometimes it means supporting the family, because they are suffering on this journey. Sometimes it means sharing your own story. We can be a light in the darkness that is suicide. We just have to speak up.
So, I started here...