This morning in the news, on every major news network, was the story of the suicide of Matthew Warren, age 27. You probably have heard this news story by now but I wanted to touch base about it. Matthew was the son of Rick and Kay Warren. Rick is the pastor of a major mega-church and author of one of the all time bestselling Christian books, A purpose Driven Life. Now I have not read the book, though I am sure I have read parts of it and heard other parts from it. The news media is treating this as a major story and there are reports that a lot of people are really bashing the Warren’s, Saddleback Church, Matthew and Christianity in general. To those people I briefly say grow up and shut up. It does not matter what happened or why, The Warren’s have lost their youngest son, a church has lost one of its own and the world is one person sadder. Feel for them, pray for them, show compassion and mercy and grace to them. As Christians we are called to love them. My heart feels for them because death is so permanent, so final. Death hurts. When my wife Deborah died in 2009 I hurt. I never knew so much pain could exist, but it did. Why did she die when she did, and how she did, does not matter. She hurt until the end and then I carried on the hurt.
What this post is about specifically is suicide, depression and that wonderful modern word that everyone likes to use, “mental illness.” So what are my qualification to talk about these heady topics. Okay, I am glad you asked. I am a born again Christian dating back to 1972. That is the foundational point of view I will be coming from. I carry a 70% disability from the VA for PTSD related to my service in the Army in Vietnam. I have killed and I have seen the dead, up close and personal. Along with that comes depression and all other kinds of goodies. I have a diagnosis for bipolar disorder on my chart that I am working to have removed because it is a crock of s*#t. Add it in the middle, I am using the words that fit. At the present time the director of the Central Texas VA, has not responded to my correspondence (since last September) showing where the diagnosis is a crock, combined with the current VA and overall psychiatric trend to add diagnosis and medication rather than seeking to find out what is actually going on. Okay, that was a side track, now back to qualifications. My first college major was psychology, I have studied PTSD specifically a whole lot, and have interacted with a lot of both people with problems and professionals. All that and $4.75 might get me a small cup of coffee at Starbucks.
The news is reporting that “in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he (Matthew) took his life.” I think that is a very good description of suicide and how it works for a lot of people. How do I know? It happens to me and on a regular basis, and it hurts, and there is no sense to it or reasoning with it. Just like the word above that starts with a s, ends with a t and has it in the middle, it happens. It is a flood of emotions and wrong thinking that washes over you. Suicide tries to get to you before you can reason, this despair will consume you if it has a chance.
Another side track here, so please pardon me. Did Matthew Warren go to heaven because he committed suicide or is he damned to hell for all eternity? Well I again say to all the judges out there sitting on their thrones “shut up.” Matthew’s relationship with God, as well as mine and yours, is between each person and God Himself. I will let you all in on a little secret, God is big enough to take care of matters. I think God grieved and is grieving with the Warren family and that God cares about the pain the all feel right now and will feel in the days to come. The thing that matters right now is that Matthew is gone, it is a loss, and people grieve and hurt because of it.
So how do we, and by we I mean you and me, help people who carry these wonderful modern labels that say they are less than real, or normal, people. I hate the way that even sounds so let me try again. How do we help people who hurt, who despair, who think that ending it will solve their problems? Again, I am glad you asked. The funny thing is that most of what I will share is how we should live anyway as Christians and as real people (if we choose to be a real person).
1. Accept people where they are for who they are. Everyone is someone and everyone is important. For example, in the workplace the concept is that the president or head of the company is the most important person. I suggest that the janitor or maintenance person ranks right up there. If no one cleans the toilets, empties the trash or fixes things when they break, then pretty soon the boss would be, again add our favorite s**t word, out of luck.
2. Where can you be a friend? There are people I don’t like and don’t want anything to do with, but God loves them and calls me to love them. Ouch!
3. Listen, listen, love love! Okay, that phrase came from the Kairos Prison Ministry (wonderful ministry that makes a difference because it starts with loving like Jesus loved).
4. Hold one another accountable. There are people in my life to whom I am accountable. That means they know me, the good and the bad, accept me, and want the best for me. But it means that with that kind of love they expect me to rise up to the best I can be. When I get down and “in despair” I not only can call them but I have told them I would and they believe what I say. When I call them they listen. They don’t try and solve things, don’t have answers, they listen. That is love. Only after that has occurred if they have any wisdom (not knowledge) then they share it. After Deborah died I was sharing with one of my support group, and I dumped for about 20 minutes. I went on and on, tears streaming down my face, really losing it. He listened the whole time. When he felt it was time (like I said about 20 minutes) all he said was “God’s not finished with you yet.”
We are not called to be judges, we are not called to fix the woes of this world. We are called to be followers of Jesus Christ, Christ bearers. We are called to walk alongside one another, to lift each other up, to pray one for another. If you know Jesus as your savior and Lord then I need the Jesus in you. I don’t need the answers, He has them, I need your love. Right now love the Warren family. Right now please love me. Love our veterans who have put it all on the line for you and me. Let Jesus be Jesus to all those around you. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He guides you to those in need of the Christ. To those Matthew’s.