Two weeks ago, on July 10, my young friend Ryan decided to end his life.
It has been a painful, confusing and often guilt-ridden ride since then and I’m just now taking the time to sit and and write down how this tragedy has affected me. While Ryan showed none of the warning signs someone usually shows when contemplating suicide, I still can’t help thinking, Where were you Chistine? How could you not see this coming? You’re a pastor and didn’t see someone hurting right in front of you!
It’s natural. Guilt is one of the stages of grief and naturally, I am neck deep, bobbing up and down in it’s waters.
But guilt is not from God and I need to remember that fact.
Guilt is from the enemy. Guilt and shame are the shadows over us in times like these and they keep us from moving on with our lives. It’s not that I want to just gloss over this tragedy and move on flippantly, I want to remember Ryan and I want to learn from his life and yes, even his death.
I want to remember this…
We had come by his house one Sunday afternoon for dinner with him and his parents, Ryan greeted us and was so excited to show my husband his new motorcycle. He was talking so fast and just kept beckoning someone, ANYONE to follow him and see. When my husband followed Ryan out back and around the house. There, propped up against the house was a motorcycle frame next to a box parts. “What do you think?” he asked my husband. In reply, my husband could only smile and sigh. That was Ryan. He always saw the finished product. In his mind, he could see himself riding this bike and all the fun and that’s what he bought. He didn’t buy a box of parts he bought a dream for the future. Ryan’s optimism was so strong it extended not just to motorcycles but to troubling situations and even people.
This is the part of Ryan I want to have in my own life and in this, I hope to keep a piece of him with me and keep his wonderful, optimistic spirit alive. I can choose to not see people as broken as so many of us do. We have a tendency to see the used and broken parts on people and then cast them off as rejects and no good. But I want to see them as whole, fixed, new, clean and shiny (ooh Shiny!) That’s how Jesus see us. He looks past the broken parts and sees the finished product. Lord, help me to do that too.
Unfortunately, when it came to his own life, Ryan could only see the box of parts. The guilt and shame of past mistakes were too much for him to move past. He took a shortcut and chose to go right to the end. I want to learn from this too. With every box of parts there is work to be done. There are parts to clean, fix, and maybe throw out and buy new. It’s a process and a journey, but there will be a whole product at the end. This must extend to myself as well, I can’t let the my own broken parts keep me from moving on. I need to do the work of moving past the guilt I feel over Ryan’s death and I have to be patient in the grief. Remembering that GUILT IS NOT FROM GOD on a daily basis will help me to stay out of it’s oppressive shadow and keep me enthusiastically moving to the end, eager to see the final product.
For more on Ryan, here’s a great piece written the day he died by his first friend. I thought it was beautiful and was honored to read it at his funeral.