Monday, March 03, 2008

Light in the Darkness

I am asking my readers for their prayers, for my Director and his family. His brother-in-law committed suicide last Friday. The man for whom I have worked these past ten years is a level-headed fellow, and the experience of working for him has been a rewarding one. This will no doubt be a trial for him, as his own faith is tested, even as he must be strong for the sake of his wife and family.

There were several years of my life, in the late 1990s, that I refer to as "the long loneliness." I was working for someone else at the time, someone far less reasonable than the man for whom I work now. The office environment was dysfunctional, if not downright hostile. I survived by ignoring most of what was going on around me. And while this is a manageable technique, it does take its toll on a man. I would occasionally have to speak to someone with whom I was working, or for whom I was doing work. I would occasionally have to speak with my superior. (If we never have to speak to one another, it was a good day.) Then I would go home to a little basement studio apartment, fix dinner, watch a little television, do some reading, and go to bed. Aside from business contacts, I could go for days without speaking to anyone at all. This was life in the heart of a major city. Amidst crowds of people -- indeed, millions of them -- I was alone in the universe.

I have known the dark pall that is cast over one's life, the one that leads a man to wonder if life is worth living at all. Thanks be to God, and His infinite grace, that I was led out of that darkness. I found that life, for all its suffering, is still worth living. Why was I so fortunate, and others are not? I do not know. We all ask ourselves when someone is lost to their own despair, why could we not have been there for them? Why didn't he tell us he was hurting? Why couldn't we have stopped him?

The truth is, sometimes we as mere mortals cannot stop another from exercising his free will, no matter who we are, or how close we are to them. No man can fully carry another man's burden. We enter the world alone, and we are just as alone when we leave it. Even if we wanted to rescue that loved one, we are creatures who, by our very nature, are given to self-preservation. In our efforts to save them, we might just as easily be dragged down with them.

My son survived two suicide attempts while still a teenager. They were very lame attempts, mind you, but they were attempts just the same. To take one's own life, is to apply a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That is what our gift of reason tells us. Still, the drowning man will grab even the point of a sword, such is his desperation.

C S Lewis reminds that "pain is God megaphone to rouse a deaf world," that suffering is meant to remind us of our humanity, and that of those around us. We are here to be salt and light to others, to love and to be loved. But to do so, we must be aware of others. To be aware of others, is to be aware of the occasional discomfort that comes with living in this world. And yet, such a world is only what he called "the shadowlands." Life as it really is, has yet to begin.

Something to remember as we approach Calvary in the coming weeks.

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