"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" (Hebrews 9:27)
"A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!" (Proverbs 15:23)
My friend David C. Milley has often been concerned about some of the things I've written. His concern is that I can "put stuff out there" in an emotional state that I will later regret, and which, to use a line from a popular television show, "can and will be used against you".
Thus, I am taking a deep breath and trying to be very careful in what I write here.
A short time ago, I received word that the cousin of a woman I know fatally shot himself yesterday. The cousin was more like a brother, so of course, this is a devastating time for her family. In that case, the guy had a major psychotic episode. It is likely that there's nothing anyone could have said or done to change it. This does not make anything any less painful for that family. In fact, I'm sure they're experiencing a level of grief few of us could imagine. So, if you're a praying person, please pray for Sherry and her family today. They need it.
Ironically, it was also in the news this week that a young man committed suicide by jumping off the Bourne Bridge. At least two decades ago, huge anti-suicide fences were installed on the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. (For you non-New Englanders, these are the two very high bridges over the Cape Cod canal which are managed by the Army Corps. of Engineers.) I was surprised the young man "pulled it off"; because it's GOT to be a very difficult feat with that fence in place.
Suicide is a very, very complicated topic: I think there are many, many reasons why people become suicidal and why they act on their feelings and actually kill themselves.
I'm reflecting on this today because at times I've struggled with very deep and dark depression as did my mother before me. Mom was never officially diagnosed with depression, but she spent at least half of her adult life depressed. Despite a strong faith in the Bible, in the God of the Bible, and in miracles, and despite the fact that I've experienced God doing a number of very positive things in my life, I've pretty much experienced what my Mom did. I have had some medical treatment for it. No, I never actually attempted suicide, nor have I ever been hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital or anything like that, but I have tremendous compassion for those who HAVE been. I feel like in many respects ..."I sat where they sat"... as it says in Ezekiel 3:15.
A number of people would probably find it strange that I've struggled SO much in this area because I can be SO humorous and silly. I'm frequently laughing and seeing the funny side of life. Sometimes my laughter is hard to control. I'm one of those people who has laughed during funerals, for instance. (NO, I never laughed during a funeral service that I CONDUCTED, thank God, but I HAVE been known to laugh during funerals!)
I honestly believe I have a biological predisposition to "seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full", however. For some reason, there's a very fine line between tragedy and comedy. The famous female Christian comedian Chonda Pierce can hold an audience CAPTIVE with her schtick. She's FUNNY! She does that whole southern Christian housewife thing and her enthusiastic audience just brings out the BEST in her comedy and entertainment. Yet, Chonda Pierce has been hospitalized...yes, in a psychiatric facility for deep depression. About a year ago, I watched a DVD of hers in which she discussed this. I know some Christians would probably have made very nasty remarks to and about her for what she said. Not me. I totally got it. Totally. She said that when she was hospitalized, she honestly believed her family would be better off without her and that she was genuinely suicidal.
I'm glad she publicly said what she did. When I heard it, it helped me. No, I've never ended up in the hospital nor "attempted" but I have also felt those feelings. In my own case, all my life I've been "different". I don't think the way OTHER people think. I just DON'T! My likes and dislikes and the way I perceive things are VERY different from most people! Things I consider appropriate or inappropriate are often at odds with most people. But, like Chonda, I also can hold an audience CAPTIVE! When I speak in public, I have an audience laughing and crying and in many cases, they'll NEVER forget what they've heard! Chonda and I have THAT same GIFT.
Now, in pastoring, my "gift" proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Most people really liked my public speaking, teaching, and persona, but often it just wasn't what was desired in a CHURCH LEADER...and ultimately that came back to bite me.
I remember that at the time the church I pastored closed, one guy said to me, "You must feel SO relieved that this is ALL over and than now you can move on!"
I know the person who said that meant well, but that was one of the worst things anybody could have said to me. You know, THAT statement brought me to some of my darkest moments of despair over the next year that I would walk through. It would be like saying to someone whose severely handicapped child just died, "Boy, I'll bet you're glad THAT'S over!"
No. Whatever "that" was, it was a major focus (or THE) major focus of your life for a long time, and its absence produces unimaginable grief.
The adage that sometimes it's better to NOT say anything is true.
An old Vacation Bible School song says, "I'm in-right, outright, upright, downright happy all the time!"
Nice, but it ain't true! It's not real.
Honestly, this has been kind of a difficult week for me. And it's NOT just due to my own problems and challenges. I've seen some nice people that I care about suffer some difficulties and pain this week. Yes, I've had my own set of problems, but then seeing and feeling the pain of others has just made it difficult for me to be "...in-right, outright, upright, downright happy all the time!" And, so, I guess in a sense, sadness can be good IF it produces an empathy that brings something helpful and positive.
Despite some of my low moments, I know I have been used in life as an encourager and a motivator. People tell me all the time of the POSITIVE difference I have made in their lives! And, ironically, my mother had more people at her funeral than did my father; and SO many talked about what a help and encouragement she was to them. THAT would have greatly surprised her!
So, on a kind of a sad morning for me, I wanted to share this.
I wrote the title, "TIMING, THOUGHT, AND THINGS" before I wrote the piece.
Perhaps it's a bit rambling, but I hope SOMEHOW it causes helpful reflection and action.
I was just about to try to change it, but you know what, I don't think I will! As Pilate said, "What I have written, I have written."
When Did We?
1 day ago