I guess all I’m saying is that the church can do a lot of damage to children who are suicidal, I texted one of my pastors almost a year ago. I had just been cleared to return to work after spending two weeks in a partial-hospitalization program. I mean, we grow up hearing that heaven is this wonderful place where there is no more pain, and we’ll be with Jesus, and all the hurt will just disappear.
I remember being five-years-old and wishing that heaven would come real soon. It sounded so much better than being alive. Alive was bus rides after school filled with sexual abuse; alive was crying yourself to sleep at night because if God did exist, why would this be happening to you? Even now, alive means hurt, lots and lots of hurt.
Who wouldn’t want to be in a place where there is no more hurt?
We’re so focused on what comes after life that we forget to teach people how to live. We’re so focused on teaching that Jesus is the answer to death that we don’t teach people how to live a christ-like life.
I was so sure suicide was the way I was going to go out that I didn’t even bother trying to make a life worth living.
Life is more than what comes after. And it’s the “after” that I’m not so sure I believe in right now. Not in the traditional sense, anyway.
Sylvia Plath wrote in her journal once, I talk to God but the sky is empty.
How many times have I thought that? How many times have I laid awake at night crying out to God, wondering if He hears my screams, wondering if He feels my pain? We prayed to God in Sunday School, before every meal, before we went to bed at night, but I wondered — at five years old — what the point was. It didn’t feel like He was real, like He was watching out for me. Sometimes, I still feel that way. Like my life isn’t important until the “after.”
Sometimes I’m so busy trying to get to the after that I forget to focus on the here and now. I forget how to live.
Sometimes I’m so busy being suicidal, trying to get to the after, I forget how to be a Christian. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to reconcile the two together: how can I be a Christian and also be suicidal?
How can I believe in a God who loved me so much, He died for me, but also want to die?
How can I believe in eternal life, but also have days where I struggle to stay alive?
If you’re the lady who stopped me on my way into church one day, I can’t be both. For people like her, I can’t have a strong faith if I want to die because people who love God with their whole heart, who trust God completely to take care of them, “shall want for nothing.”
Yet. We want heaven.
I’m not saying that wanting heaven is bad. The whole “Your Kingdom Come” stuff is really important. I’m saying, that sometimes, it’s dangerous.
We should preach life as much as we preach death.
And I don’t know where I’m going with this, except here:
There are two parts to who I am. There’s the traumatized, suicidal part, and then there’s the I’m-trying-to-do-life part. And every day, these parts are at war, trying to one-up each other, trying to talk over each other, trying to be heard more clearly over the noise.
Imagine a room full of Italians.
That’s what it’s like inside my brain. “Christians aren’t suicidal. Christians value life. Depression is a lack of faith.”
The hardest part about living is life. The death part is easy. Death is a moment. Life is a series of moments.
And like death, suicide is a moment. A moment where there’s action or inaction, and you’re not sure which is worse. You’re on autopilot and nothing can switch it off.
A moment: the pain I’m feeling right now is greater than the hope I have left. If suicide is the moment when the pain you’re feeling is greater than the hope you have left, can Christians — the ones who have the greatest hope — be suicidal? Or are they inauthentic? Are they suicidal because of a lack of faith?
Growing up suicidal hasn’t been easy. Growing up suicidal and a Christian has been even harder.
I don’t know how to reconcile the promise of what comes after death with the very real threat of suicide. It’s something I’ve been trying to work through.
But I do know this:
I can be suicidal and a Christian.
Because, yes, faith can move mountains. Faith can make the lame walk, the blind see. Faith can heal leprosy and stop bleeding that’s lasted 12 years.
Bur, faith can also get me out of bed in the morning. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. Faith can help you walk on water (or the floor). And faith can help you stay alive just a little longer.
Sometimes we treat faith as this magic fix. “Oh, just have faith.” As if it’s like some sort of Anti-depressant that makes everything better. Faith is not an anti-depressant.
Faith alone hasn’t saved my life. Because I have faith that when I die, I will go to heaven, wherever that may be. And sometimes, that’s a very very tempting thought.
Faith, Prozac, my whole cocktail of other drugs, and a whole lot of therapy have saved my life. And that has to be ok.
It has to be ok. Because being a suicidal Christian is hard enough, but being. Being when you’re suicidal is a freakin’ miracle. And God is found in the miracles.