Because of technology, I am plugged into several networks for Christians who are gay. One prevailing theme throughout all of them is that many in our community suffer from depression and a profound sense of hopelessness. This isn’t just true for gay Christians, I think it is true for many people, but as homosexuals we have been told most of our lives that we are an abomination to God and we should be dead.
Many of us want to die. We want someone somewhere to give us permission to just let go. I’ve talked to people and I’ve been there myself. It’s the place where we just wish we could die, but we know we can’t kill ourselves because we know that is not what God wants. Something or someone is holding us to this life, but sometimes that is not enough.
As Christians we have a responsibility to ourselves to survive. I could quote you all kinds of scripture here, and I will throughout this series. But if you are reading this and you are at the point in your life where you have to search your brain for a reason to even get out of bed in the mornings, me quoting a bunch of scripture to you is not going to help. Telling you that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem is going to just make you want to punch me.
Where do you go and what do you do when you have reached that dark place? You know the place where you are hanging over the edge of a chasm so deep and so dark that you can’t think of anything but how long are you gonna have to fall before you hit bottom and how much it’s gonna hurt. You think about how many pills you can take, or how much of a blood splatter your brains are going to make on the wall.
It doesn’t even really matter that you are a Christian. God never promised that we wouldn’t have those times. He did however promise us a way to get through them. I Corinthians 10: 12-13 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
So you think gee, I hope God knows my limit because I’m pretty sure that I’ve reached it. It always irritates the heck out of me when people say to me ‘when a door closes, God always opens a window.’ Because I want God to put a big sign out front and tell me exactly where I am supposed to go and what I’m supposed to do. Sometimes when you are in what author Douglas Adams called, ‘The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul’ you are fumbling around looking for a light switch. You aren’t always going to be able to see the door, much less find an open window.
Right now I’m going to tell you the most important thing to survive. STAY ALIVE! Do whatever it takes to get you through the night, the day, the next hour, even the next five minutes. Whatever thread you need to hang onto, no matter how minuscule, or threadbare, do like the poster says and tie a knot and hang on.
A long time ago when I was in that place and I didn’t see any other way out of it. Sure I was a Christian, and I read my Bible and I prayed, but God just seemed so very far away and things didn’t seem to be getting any better. So I went out with a bunch of friends and drank tequila until I was too drunk to even breathe. Then I went home and I got out my dad’s old shotgun and loaded it. I sat there with it trying to imagine what it would feel like and figuring out how I was going to work up the nerve to pull the trigger. I even put the barrel of it in my mouth. It was cold and tasted like old dirt. It smelled a little bit like rust because the gun was very old, and I briefly wondered if it would even work.
An electrifying sensation shot through me, and in just that instant, I knew I could do it. I could pull the trigger and it would be all over with. The pain, the uncertainty, the overwhelming sense that I had failed each and every person in my life. All of that would be gone in just a few seconds. All I had to do was squeeze my thumb and index finger together. It would have been so easy.
Unbidden, the thought popped into my mind that I had to call my daughter and make sure that she knew this wasn’t her fault. Never mind that this was not a rational thought and she would blame herself no matter what I said. And forget the fact that it was four in the morning and she might be asleep. She was a 16 year old girl with problems and concerns no 16 year old should have, and I was about to call her at her friends house and tell her, “don’t worry sweetie, Mommy’s going to blow her brains out but it’s not your fault.” My liquor-addled brain expected her to just accept that and say something like, “okay Mom. I love you and I’ll clean up your mess when I get home tomorrow.”
Fortunately, I never reached my daughter that night. A young man who was a friend of hers answered the phone and told me she had already gone to her girlfriend’s house and gone to sleep. Sensing that something was seriously wrong, he drove over to my house and sat with me and talked to me for hours until I sobered up enough to make some semi-rational decisions about the lives of my kids and myself.
I don’t know if that young man realizes what a great thing he did that night, but to this day, I thank God for him. And I still have the shotgun shell. Even though the gun itself is long gone, I keep that shell to remind me that there is no thread too thin to hang onto for just a few minutes more. God sent that young man over to my house. Probably because He knew that I would not hear anything else through my pain. God, who knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb, Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;” How could he know not know what would get through to me in my time of need?
With me, it’s my kids. There were times in my past when I used to wish that my daughter would just let me go so I could go on and blow my brains out, or swallow a handful of pills. Then my daughter and I had a terrible awful fight and I thought that must be my signal to go ahead. Then I realized that was just Satan trying to convince me of that and I held on. Although my daughter never knew it, I wrapped imaginary arms around her and held onto her as tightly as I could. And I loved her with every fiber of my being.
A few years after all of this happened an acquaintance of mine had a terrible love/hate relationship with her mother. Even though she professed a certain amount of rage at her mother and swore nothing the woman did affected her anymore, when the mother did commit suicide, the daughter was devastated. Her mother’s death threw her into her own spiral of depression that she has yet to come out of. The death along with the loss of her church family, (we’ll go more into that later) has caused the daughter to sink to new lows in her own life.
That’s another important thing to remember. Whatever you do is going to affect the life or lives of those you love. For a brief time between real jobs, I took a part time job at Sea World so I could make my car payment and have a little bit of spending money. I worked in the gift shop where they sold these big white towels with pictures of Shamu on them.
The towel proudly proclaimed that the person carrying it was a “Splash Victim.”
I bought one of those towels and every time I look at it I am reminded that whatever I do is going to splash onto my children, my partner, my co-workers, my friends and other people who know me. Some of them sitting further away will only get a little bit of water tossed onto them, but the ones who sit on the front row of my life, mainly my partner and my children, will get drenched. That’s why, again in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “it’s always a good idea to know where your towel is.”
Right about now you are probably saying to yourself and to me, “yeah aren’t we supposed to be grabbing our Bible and reading it? Aren’t we supposed to be praying? What’s all of this talk about towels?”
Yes! That is what you are supposed to do. You are supposed to rely on God for every need, every want, every desire and every second. But come on. God is nothing if not a realist. He knows exactly how many hairs there are on your head, don ‘t you think He’s gonna know whatever it takes to keep you alive is what you need to be doing. God loves you so much that He sacrificed everything He had for you. And don’t you dare ever think that you are not the person He did it for. I don’t care what anybody says to you. God did it for YOU! God loves YOU! God wants you to do whatever it takes to get you back to the place where He can talk to you.
And God can’t talk to you when you are in that place. No one can talk to you, what makes you think you’re going to listen to God. And what makes you think that God talking to you isn’t Him sending you a towel to hang onto, or a young man on a motorcycle. God KNEW that’s what you would listen to, or hang onto. Another very important truth, Prayer and answers to prayers do not always come in the form you believe they should!
So you stay alive. Whatever it takes to do that, you do it. The very first thing you absolutely positively have to do is, GET UP! Make yourself get out of bed and tell yourself, “I’m awake.” Get up off the couch and turn off the TV. Take a walk. Buy a pet. If you can’t handle a cat or a dog, buy a hamster or a goldfish. Tell yourself, this life form is counting on my to keep it alive. If you want unconditional love then you definitely need a dog. Go for a bike ride. Go to a park and swing on the swings until you puke. Go to a store and buy you a towel and tell yourself that you can’t leave this planet because you are an integral part of the life force holding gravity in place. Whatever it takes to hang onto the next minute. Then the next one and the one after that. That’s what you do. Then you work on getting back to where you can work on the other stuff. You know, the stuff that God needs you to do.