A close friend of mine committed suicide a few days ago.
I'm still grieving her absence, and especially the circumstances that led to her exit. For the past few days I have been wrestling with questions and anger and now, profound sadness. She left behind three small children, and a million mysteries...
Confusing incidents, frantic phone messages, and an open investigation have led to the assumption that her self-inflicted fatality was incited by unspeakable hurt (guilt?shame?fear?) Perhaps she felt that she had nobody to lean into for support, and that she would have been abandoned by those around her when it all came out in the wash.
Suicide has a way of making everyone feel guilty: I wish I would have could have should have been a better friend, son, sister, mother...
and from this regret, I write these thoughts -
I am convicted and inspired to lead a life of perpetual communication to my loved ones, that there is nothing that can be done to make me turn my back on them. I am determined to be the kind of friend that will kick down the door and loudly declare that unconditional love crashes into the despairing heart! Our God meets us in the hour of suicidal thoughts and greets us with a gentle whisper. His Divine Embrace catches the salty tears as they spill out in confession, and His nail-scarred hands wipe away those heavy thoughts of self-harm.
"What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Nothing. Nope. Not that. Or that either. Not even. No. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. What part of Nothing don't you understand?" (Romans 8:38, JLD translation).
We've been worshiping as a family together at nice church here in Asheville. It has been refreshing to just be able to sit as a family, to hold Jamie's hand and to watch her worship. I can just sit in the chair and absorb the grace that has brought so much healing to my heart.
Every Sunday before the services begin, I walk Mariah down the sidewalk to the adjacent building where the children's ministries gather. She holds my hand as walk together, and I seize that precious moment to shower her with my promise.
When we turn up the sidewalk, there is a beautiful tree that greets us. It is a geographical reminder to say the following words:
"Mariah, we're near the tree now, and it's time for me to remind you that I love you. And that there is nothing that you could ever do that would make me love you any less than I do right now."
She usually rolls her eyes and shrugs it off, "I know dad. You tell me that *every* time we come to this tree..."
and I have to be aggressive in the telling, lest she might neglect the agape covenant. "Do you understand what I am telling you? There is nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I will never turn away from you. Even if you do something really bad, and it hurts my feelings. Or maybe it breaks my heart, I will always let you in. You are always welcome in my arms."
I want her understanding of heavenly mercy to be shaped by the annoying insistence that her Father says what he means, and he means what he says...
and the Tree is a witness.