Tag Archives: hope

Speak of Suicide and Speak Hope #WSPD2019

“You aren’t going to do anything silly, are you?”

“Can you promise you won’t do anything stupid?”

A member of staff at my secondary school asked me these questions countless times during my sixth form years.

They weren’t talking about me bunking off lessons, getting into trouble or talking back; they were talking about suicide and self-harm.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people – it’s not silly or stupid – it’s despair.

And when those thoughts and feelings were branded stupid and silly – I heard that I myself was stupid and silly.

The language we use when we’re talking about suicide matters.

Phrases such as “committed suicide” hark back to when suicide was a criminal offence; whilst those like I was faced with fail to recognise the distress and torment that self-harm and suicidal thoughts wreak through someone’s mind and life.

It was over a decade ago, and I hope and pray that no-one struggling with thoughts of suicide and self-harm is met with such language, because the fight for life from those depths is hard enough as it is, without the stigma that can stalk it.

Every year, when the 10th September arrives I’m filled with a mixture of the heaviest grief and a flaming hope that thing can change.

Because my experiences with suicide when I was younger, even though I survived them, have marked my heart. And those marks on my heart fan the flame of hope – because I believe that light does win – that suicide is preventable.

I can speak of hope alongside speaking of suicide because I live with suicide as a part of my story and hope as my daily reality.

If there is someone in your life who is struggling, let your words spark hope rather than cause spirals of despair.

Think about the language you’re using, listen to their story before you rush in with answers and imagine with them what the future can look like and hold their hand as you point to it.

The people who made the most difference in my life during those darkest of times, were the ones who believed in a future for me that I could not conceive of. They were persistent in their belief that hope was real, that there was a life for me to live and yet they allowed me to voice the hardest of words.

It is no exaggeration to say that I would not be here without them and the hope they pointed to.

The hope they pointed to was not an abstract “things will get better”, but rooted the One who walked to His own death for our sakes.

That Jesus’ took on our despair and sin, died on the cross and walked out of the grave with His scars remaining, that’s the hope I looked to through my tears.

It’s the hope I live for today.

That we are saved by a Creator God who willingly gave Himself for us, to endure the worst of humanity so that we may experience the glorious closeness of Him.

That we can speak of hope, on a day which highlights despair, is the work of the One who marked the night’s sky with stars and the Saviour’s hands with scars.

 

 

 

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Tracing the Tears – Resurrection #OurHolyWeek

This Holy Week, I’m going to be blogging each day, tracing the tears Jesus shed for Jerusalem to the tear filled eyes who first saw the Risen Christ. Throughout I’ll be following prompts from #OurHolyWeek


“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying.”

John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection begins with tears.

The tears of Good Friday and Holy Saturday were still wet on the faces of Jesus’ friends when He returned to them.

And it was through the tears of Mary Magdalene that He chose to appear – that tells me a lot about the Jesus I follow.

It tells me that this suffering servant is acquainted with the deepest grief, but it also tells me that Jesus forever reigns over the agony, that death and agony are beaten.

Twice in the stories of Jesus’ resurrection He is obscured to the people He appears to; first here when Mary believes that someone has taken the body of Jesus she does not realise to whom she speaks until He speaks her name.

Jesus makes the first move, every time, and waits patiently for us to respond. He leaves the ninety-nine to go after the lost sheep and waits for us to invite Him in when we are found.

And secondly, in Luke we read that Jesus is not recognised until He breaks bread with the hopeless travellers on the way to Emmaus.

The Risen Jesus does things as unexpectedly in life as in resurrection (as if resurrection were not unexpected enough!)

He reveals His power over the grave through signs that others may call weak; Mary’s tears, Cleopas’ hopelessness, His own scars which prove who He is to Thomas.

Our first signs of life are our cries of a baby; and here we see that it is through tears that the risen Lord first appeared. Our tears signal the beginning of everything new; the new life Jesus offers, the new hope He embodies.

As the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, we are reminded that His mercies and our hope are new every morning.

Our hope is in the Christ who died for us, who suffered in His mercy.

Our hope is in the Christ who rose from the grave who has beaten death and evil, in His mercy still bearing the scars of crucifixion.

Our hope is in the Christ who will come again in glory and who in His mercy allows the dawn to rise slowly so that our eyes may become accustomed to the blistering light and life of who He is.

“We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II

 

Tracing the Tears – Holy Saturday #OurHolyWeek

This Holy Week, I’m going to be blogging each day, tracing the tears Jesus shed for Jerusalem to the tear filled eyes who first saw the Risen Christ. Throughout I’ll be following prompts from #OurHolyWeek


No one likes to talk about days like today.

There is no drama, no battle, no victory.

The grave is full and the grief is raw.

It feels like death has won.

Below is a reflection on Holy Saturday adapted from my book “Learning to Breathe“.


Holy Saturday is a day to lament.

Holy Saturday is the valley of grief and uncertainty, for us and for Jesus’ disciples.’

It’s the place where we spiritually live so often, when the worst has happened and we don’t know if or how we can go on – yet in the midst of darkness we trust that dawn will break. It’s often like this in the rest of life, I think. We often remember the most dramatic days, the happiest, but how often do we remember the days of silence, when everything is wrong but nothing can be done? I don’t know if it’s a good thing that we forget days like these in our own lives, but I think it would be good if we spent a little more time remembering Holy Saturday.

It goes beyond the agony of the cross, even. The day when it was finished – when Jesus was dead – because of our sins. It is a day of silence, it seems.

God doesn’t always speak. Sometimes the silence of God says it all. As I write, I’m reminded of Job. Job who lost everything and everyone who mattered to him. Job whose friends were worse than useless. Job to whom God remained silent, waiting to speak. It strikes me that the silence of God is more often than not followed by a presence of God that is so awesome, so mighty, that we can do nothing but bow in praise and awe.

A season like this Holy Saturday can seem endless. It’s the state in which we sometimes live our lives. It’s an open wound. Shelly Rambo writes:

‘The reality is that death has not ended; instead it persists. The experience of survival is one in which life, as it once was, cannot be retrieved. However the promise of life ahead cannot be envisioned.’

There is no happy ending on Holy Saturday. Jesus is in the grave and the shadows of His death keep this day dark without a hope for the resurrection dawn. It’s a mistake to rush beyond today, because it is reflected so often in life.

Holy Saturday continues the tradition of lament set out in the Old Testament, throughout the Psalms and, of course, Lamentations. It tells us that even when God is silent, he is still to be trusted.

It’s important not to rush past the silent days of lament.

We have to be able to deal with the times when God does seem to be on mute, to be absent.

Silence does not mean that God does not exist; scripture shows us that God’s work of life begins in the dark silence and reminds us that even on these; there is hope because Jesus has been in the dark of the tomb and it was the beginning of our greatest hope.

He blesses every love that weeps and grieves

And makes our grief the pangs of a new birth.

The love that’s poured in silence at old graves

Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth,

Is never lost. In him all love is found

And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground.

Malcolm Guite

Reflections

I’ve just listened to Rick and Kay Warren being interviewed at the HTB leadership conference.

I was hesitant to listen to it. I knew it would hurt. I knew it would poke me in the parts of myself that are still raw and still painful.

I was right.

It is full of the most profound reflections on pain and mental illness, on suicide, on grief; that I have ever heard. If you haven’t listened to it, I really recommend you do.

There are wonderful nuggets of wisdom – but what is most astounding to me, is that through the agony of their words and the beautiful grace of God – that which is the most painful and destructive in life will be the greatest foundation of the greatest works of God.

His words echoed through my memories to one of the hardest seasons of my life when I wanted out. When I wanted an ending more than I wanted restoration, when I wanted oblivion more than I wanted to make a difference – the chaplain of my school told me that these darkest days would be the beginning of my life’s ministry.

I didn’t believe it.

I believed, even in those days, that I had been called into some kind of christian pastoral ministry, but I didn’t believe I would ever be able to live out that calling. I didn’t believe that the agony of those days could ever come to any good.

I was wrong.

I do not claim that this calling is easy, nor do I claim that I want it 100% of the time. Sometimes, I would love to do a job which didn’t involve me opening my heart to those things that have most bruised it. What I do claim, is what an enormous privilege it is to be able to see, in this lifetime, a restoration of some of my darkness.

I quote the book of Joel a lot on this blog – but it’s the promise that I cling to and the promise that I see every day when I go to work.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten – the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm – my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will be people be shamed.” 2:25-26

I so often felt that the years when my depression had its tightest grip had been lost to me. Not only metaphorically, but because even now I can barely remember those days through the haze of mental illness. These verses from Joel were my promise and are my reminder of why I do what I do.

And when I get weary, I turn to them and to John 10:10 which says “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Mental illness has been a thief in my life, it has stolen years and killed parts of my, left its own legacy in my heart and my mind and on my body.

But in this I have hope – God is bigger than the thief. And more than that, he restores what was lost and gives us more than we could imagine. Truth be told, this side of heaven, it is often not what we would imagine (we prefer to imagine a much easier ride, I think) but what he gives us is greater than an easy ride (however much an easy ride might tempt us). God gives Himself. On a cross. The God of Heaven and Earth, for us, as a broken and scarred young man who understands pain and understands struggle and remains with us through it all. 

It isn’t easy.

But God is in it all.

So it is more than worth it.

Trap or Treasure?

Ever since I can remember, I have felt “called” into a specifically “christian” ministry. I toyed with the idea of being a singer and actress for a while, quickly dismissed the idea of teaching primary school children, rejected the idea of nurse because it involved science etc etc.

All the ideas I considered were never really more than that. Just ideas. Because from the age of five – I’ve known that I have a job to do. I had no idea, of course, of shape and name at that age. But I wanted to be a missionary, a preacher, wanted to work for the Church which I loved so much.

Indeed, the calling got me through my GCSEs and A-Levels. When I wanted so badly to throw in the towel, the knowledge that I needed qualifications to get into LST meant that I carried on.

It has been a massive encouragement and blessing to me, to have an inkling of where I’m headed. God has been incredibly gracious in prodding and calling me on in the right direction, in promising me a future when I was lost in the past. I have treasured my calling.

And yet.

Recently it has begun to feel like a trap.

Because this is hard. This life, is hard.

It takes so much energy, to be the person I feel called to be, to lay my story out for people to poke, prod and question.

And sometimes, I wish for a different life. I wonder if a different life would be less painful. Less all-consuming. Less of a sacrifice?

Because what if I walked an easier road? A comfortable job that didn’t involve the questions?

What if I could feel, for once, like a twenty-two year old instead of a forty-two old?

Perhaps these feelings are some kind of long forgotten and neglected rebellion?

Perhaps, it’s just been a long week.

But the difficulties of this life, this one where I’m called to bare my soul and speak of my vulnerability, this one which uses the pain instead of burying it – it is, after all, the path I chose.

For all my sense of calling, I chose to say ‘yes’. I chose to write and speak about those things which most scarred my soul.

I choose the light instead of giving into the lure of the darkness.

It is a choice I would make again. And again.

And so I guess, this is the price I pay. It is not, in perspective, a very high price. I gave up my “right” to give up on life. I gave up my “right” to give up on God.

I have been through too much to give up now.

I need reminding of that, today of all days. I can see it as a burden, a trap.

Or I can be reminded of the grace it took to get me to today.

 

So I choose to be reminded of grace – to see the gift, instead of the trap.

 

It isn’t easy.

 

I trust that it is worth it.

 

I want to change the world

There. I’ve said it.

I want to change the world.

I want to every child born to have enough love, clean water and food to live and thrive.

I want to see governments that use their resources wisely.

I want a justice system that truly rehabilitates drug users instead of letting them get sucked back into addiction and the underworld.

I want people to be open about mental illness.

I don’t want words like hate, or stigma or prejudice to ever need to be used because they don’t happen.

Some would call me an idealist, and they would probably be right. Some would say its because I’m young, and they would probably be right, too. But, I am all too aware of my limitations and I know that some of what I hope for probably won’t be seen on earth until Jesus comes again.

And it has struck me recently, that I spend a lot of time limiting my dreams.

I tell myself I am too young, too female, too broken to make a difference. Sometimes, I am too cynical.

But if I trust in a God who is bigger than my dreams – surely I must trust that he can make some of them come true?

If we all spend the energy persuading ourselves and others that we can’t make a difference, on actually going out there and making a difference – what would the world look like?

I get so scared that I’m not good enough to make a difference, that I make too much of a mess in my own life to help others, that I end up dithering around and not doing anything!

So my challenge to myself, is to dream big dreams, to allow myself to want to change the world and do all that I can to affect that change.

Join me?

 

Weird

Life is weird. Growing up is weird.

I have had a number of conversations recently with friends and it seems to be a common feeling amongst us. We’re early twenties, newly graduated and life is hurtling into the next ‘stage’.

I am well aware that twenty-two is not old. In fact, it is young. And yet sometimes I feel far older than my years and at other times I don’t feel old enough to be living the life I live.

I rent a flat, I drive a car, I try and keep ThinkTwice pottering along, I write things that people read.

It’s all very weird.

I clearly remember chatting to my best friend at school, about what we’d be like when we were in our twenties! It was an amusing picture which involved having a great deal more money than we actually have!

I still surprise myself sometimes with the realisation that I am living life. I’m not just going through the motions of life, allowing it to pass me by and despite the weirdness of this growing up lark. I like it.

Life is weird.

But I’m beginning to think I quite like life.