I am writing this blog with a heavy heart. And I also write with a bit of disbelief, because, if a year ago, I posted a blog that had to do with bullying related suicide with a heavy heart. Today, and again, I simply cannot be silent about this issue. God keeps calling me to be outspoken about this and let me tell you, I would rather not confront it.
I am the Mentor Coordinator for the youTheology program, and it is a rewarding ministry where I get to help adults who care about youth. At the same time, I am serving a congregation in Fulton, Missouri. Fulton is a small town of about 12, 000 so if you do not live here, then you probably have not heard about the hurt and confusion that the town is facing right now. Last Friday, I received a call from one of the two youth pastors who is on the staff of the congregation I serve. She was distraught and all I could really understand was that a young person had taken her own life and that it would affect our youth group.
As I drove to the home where everyone was gathering, I prayed. I prayed that God would give me the words. I prayed that I would be the presence of Christ that these people would need so very much. What I found was a young man who had discovered the grim scene of his girlfriend who had taken her own life and a family that was heartbroken. The girl’s family was so shocked, they could not speak. This last week of ministry has been somewhat of a haze. Listening to my youth and the adults of my congregation has been heart wrenching.
Suicide affects everyone, whether or not we want to admit it or not. But, to be honest, I do not always like to admit that. The messages that I received from my own family and community, my own CHURCH about suicide when I was a little girl were all negative. They said suicide is shameful; the person who takes his/her own life commits the one sin that separates them from God forever; we should pray for their soul; we should not talk about it anymore; we should hide it, lie about it.
My pastoral response this week has been hard. This suicide represents the exact thing I wanted to run from! It has been hard to talk about it, to preach about it … just to confront it honestly. To hear and ask the hard questions right along with my congregation has been my response. The hardest part of this whole thing for everyone has been that the young girl showed no one any “signs” that she would do this one day. She told no one that she was considering it. She had the brightest smile that you have ever seen. And yet, she made this decision. What went wrong? What did all of us miss? Honestly, I am not sure. But I do know that there is so much shame and blame, embarrassment and harassment that go along with what our young people are experiencing these days. Maybe this young girl was afraid to even tell anyone, because her reasons had already been shot down as “sinful,” “a phase,” or “just plain stupid.”
I am not sure what happened. And none of us will ever know. But what I do know is that God cares for our young people. We are called to care for them as well. Let us not dismiss their honest questions and deep yearnings. Let us see them as Christ does. Amen.
by Emily Carroll
youTheology Mentor Coordinator
Loving God, Loving Neighbor