Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Choosing Life

Most of you have heard about Abraham Biggs, the young man who recently killed himself and did so online for his friends to see. Did you know he left a note? I want to share it with you because I think his mindset is not all that atypical. Maybe you have never contemplated suicide, but you have probably experienced despair at some point in your life.

“To whom it may concern. I'm going to leave this for whoever comes across my bookmarks later on. I hate myself and I hate living. I think if someone knows me reads this, they will know who I am. So I'll leave this unsigned. I'm an asshole. I've let everyone down and I feel as though I'll never change or I'll never improve.”

Have you ever felt this way? I have. You probably have, too. Maybe not to the point of wanting to commit suicide, but we all have let someone down. For some of us it is many, many “someone’s.” We go through a day where we keep making foolish choices, one right after another. And then the next day we say to ourselves, “Today will be different. Today I will make wiser choices.” But we don’t. And then … well, the days get strung together until it is weeks or months, and now there is this wall of regret that you can’t seem to get around, over or through. And then you are overwhelmed with feeling that you and your life will never change for the better. A lie for sure, but not to the one who is stuck in this state of mind.

"I'm in love with a girl and I know I'm not good enough for her." (Not good enough? Can you spell L-I-E?)

"I've come to believe that my life has all been meaningless." (Possibly. Yet this is only because of the choices that he made. He didn’t see that he could begin making other choices.)

"I keep trying and I keep failing. I've thought about and attempted suicide many times in the past. I used to think of my failure in some mystical way of telling me that I really was meant for something meaningful." (Hello??? YOU ARE!)

"The only thing I dread besides the pain is the way my family will suffer." (This is what kept me breathing. This and the fact that I didn’t want to appear before God having killed myself.)

"I never really had any plans of leaving a note. I thought that I would not be able to describe why I wanted to do this, and I'm right. There's no way to tell you or anyone else why I dread every day." (Man, do I remember feeling this way. “Please God just take me now. There is no way to unscramble this egg. It is hopeless.”)

"There's no way to tell you or anyone else I dreaded every new day. My father had such high expectations for me and tried to give me every opportunity to improve upon myself, and I let him down. I think that I'm a major disappointment to him." (For me, disappointing those I loved was the greatest of burdens, the source of the most intense agony. Wanting to please those whom we love is a good thing. However, when we choose to only feel alive and happy when we are pleasing others is to jump into bottomless pit of despair.)

"I have a job but I'm always broke and I'm in college, but I barely show up to class and that's about it. I want my life to end. I'm tired of screwing up everything. I'm tired of people always telling me that they don't like me. I'm tired of trying to be decent. I hope someone finds this post and I hope that my parents know that I screwed up and not them. It's my fault that I screwed up my own life. The hate rages within me, rages not for those I love so dearly or those who have crossed my path. This hate rages with full force towards me and only me." (If his hatred had been turned toward others it probably would have led to another Columbine incident. I don’t know what he means by “decent.” I do know that if we begin from a standpoint that we have to live a life of angelic purity so as to earn God’s favor or to feel good about ourselves, we are lost from the get-go. Get over yourself. You are a screw-up. We are all screw-ups. This does not shock God.)

"You have touched my life in one way or another, especially those whom I call family. I cannot tell you how sorry I am for ending my life the way I did. I hope that you can find it in my heart to see it as a way for me not to suffer anymore and that I am finally at rest with myself, for being at rest with the guilt that constantly ate at me for so long." (The Guilt. Not living up to or experiencing the Ideal. Not being angelic. Not being or having what I so desperately wanted, and then the anguish over not being able to Let Go of all this. A maddening cycle.)

God has so ordered creation so that we reap what we sow. You can’t plant apples and expect oranges to appear. If you want apples you have to plant apple seeds. But in our culture we seem to think that everyone should be protected from the consequences of foolish choices. (See Fannie and Freddie) I should be able to have risk free investments. Or, I should be able to make stupid decisions, see that I have done so, say “Sorry about that,” and then reap no consequences. Life doesn’t work that way.

If you want rewards rather than consequences you have to begin making wiser decisions … while accepting the fact that, for a while anyway, you will be reaping the consequences of past foolish choices. The key here is to choose not to allow these consequences to define you, only to educate you and to motivate you toward ever increasing wisdom. But if we keep people from suffering consequences, where is the education? If “Sorry about that” is seen as a Get Out of Jail Free Card then how will wisdom ever come?

"Please forgive me for taking my life so early. I tried so hard to fight against this strong battle. I've reached out for help so many times and yet I believe I was turned away because of the things that I did. That is the punishment I'm willing to take, for I know who I am and I have only brought myself and others pain."

Whatever punishment he felt he was suffering was not from God. Or so I believe. The message of Advent is that Christ came into the world to show us what God is like: “When you have seen me you have seen the Father … I and the Father are one.” Christ showed us that God is love and light, full of grace and mercy. God is not in the condemning-business but in the forgiving business. “I did not come to condemn the world …” (John 3) If our lives are based on the faulty premise that we have to be angelic before God accepts us; if we think God’s love for us is based on anything other than grace, we will most certainly live lives filled with performance anxiety, if not downright despair.

“I love you all and will forever live within the memories we created.
Forgive me.
Love always and forever,
As for my signature I will leave you with a quote so that if anyone reads this they will know it's me, ‘Can’t feel pain if your dead? Just Saying.’”

As long as we are breathing, we can make wiser choices.

As long as we are above ground, we can turn away from those choices that will only lead to reaping painful consequences and begin making choices where we will reap the rewards of peace, joy and a life of meaningfulness.

As long as we are alive, we have the opportunity to yield our lives to the one who created us and demonstrated his great love for us by sending Christ, not to condemn us, but to forgive us, heal us, and make us whole.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2008