Monday, September 10th, marks the world's observance of Suicide Prevention Day. To be honest, I wasn't even fully aware suicide had a day - although, it does make sense considering everything else (cancer, diabetes, child abuse, etc) has it's own day. And, it isn't a bad thing to do this. Why? Because it helps raise awareness, and awareness is incredibly important when it comes to suicide - being aware of the signs, being aware of the pain that comes from this one act, it's all necessary.
I find this topic to be a very difficult one to give a sermon on (which may be why I'm rambling right now). There are several aspects which could be spoken about - the signs someone is suicidal, the feelings those left behind go through, whether or not suicide is an unforgivable sin. But I find I am uncertain of where to start and how to answer the questions many people have regarding this topic. So, I will start with a story...
This story involves some young children... a five year old boy and four year old girl. They were neighbors, and played together all the time. They were going to get married - he'd be a farmer, she a ballerina. They even had arguments about this, because he didn't see how their career choices could meld together. He was a wonderful young child... a little on the serious side, slow to anger but when he did he didn't forget, and he had an imagination like no other. And dark brooding eyes like no other. And a sensitive, loving heart. When he was a few years older, he would spend hours reading to his sister when she was bed-ridden with a back injury.
The five year old boy had a baby brother - the youngest in the family. This newborn was often taken care of by his older sister. She would sing him to sleep, rock him, read to him. As he grew up, his personality became more evident - he was a happy child, goofy, funny, and ever so loving. Even at seven years old, he still wanted his sister to sing or read him to sleep.
The girl was a wonderful young girl. She loved playing outside with her "boyfriend", and with his siblings. Her siblings would often join them also. She had beautiful haunting eyes - the kind you can't forget.
Both families were broken. There were issues within the homes that were meant to stay within the walls of those homes. No one spoke of the nightmares - no one, except the children to each other, in hushed voices.
Fast forward several years - to when the young girl was 15 years old. She'd since been separated from the other family, living several states away. They found the young girl one day hanging from a tree, dead.
Fast forward a few more years - to when her "boyfriend" was 20 years old. He was still living with his parents, unable to escape. They found the young man Thanksgiving morning hanging from the rod in his closet.
Fast forward a few more years - to when his brother was 24 years old. He'd gotten mixed up in drugs and drinking. They found this young man one day hanging from the rod in his closet.
Three young lives intertwined - sharing childhood pain, more love than can ever be realized, and similar deaths.
The two boys were my brothers. The young lady was my brother's best friend, and someone I used to babysit when I was younger.
They say that suicide is one of the more difficult types of death to deal with for family and friends because of the questions of "Why!?" They say there is usually anger aimed at the person who took his/her own life. I think this is one reason I have a difficult time discussing this topic - I never truly experienced those questions or emotions. I never questioned why these three young kids ended their lives - I understood it completely. I never have been angry at them for their acts - how can I be angry at them for something I had wanted to do, and tried on many occasions? I wish they hadn't taken the path they did, but I understand why they did, and I love them regardless.
But where I get hung up is on the subject of suicide being the "unforgivable sin." I've heard this many times - actually had someone tell me this right after I learned of my first brother's death. While I understand the logic behind this theory, I disagree with it. Yes, it is a sin - it's murder after all. And yes, our bodies are God's temple and should not be destroyed.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 - Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
I believe the concept that it is unforgivable is due to Catholic (perhaps other religions also) belief that you must confess your sins to be forgive and gain access to heaven. Someone who commits suicide does not have the ability to confess the sin of murder, and is therefore denied forgiveness and access.
But first of all - I'm willing to bet there isn't a single person whom has died with having confessed every sin. Maybe he thought evil thoughts for a brief moment about the stupid driver of the other vehicle - just a second before the other vehicle hit his, killing him immediately. Maybe she had a heart attack and died just hours after committing adultery.
Second, and more importantly, God is a forgiving God. He is supposed to be loving and merciful. A loving, merciful God would not condemn a person who felt there was no way out of their own personal hell. These people didn't truly know God's love, despite a church upbringing. They had only grown to know a God who abandoned them (in their minds).
Perhaps it is only wishful, hopeful thinking, but I truly believe that these three young people are sitting in heaven right now, watching over their families, and taking care of each other.