Monday, September 24, 2012

Turning Wheels

The results are in:  More Americans now die from suicide than from car crashes.  

Before you respond by saying, "Well aren't you just a ray of sunshine?," let me say this:  I'm not trying to be a major downer.  Yesterday, when Jerry informed me of this news -- something he had read earlier in the day -- we looked at each other aghast.  We were speechless.  We nearly cried.  I just feel compelled to address this issue, even though the nature of the topic is nothing short of horrifyingly tragic.  This will not be an uplifting blog entry.

It takes a lot of desperation for someone to actually take his or her own life.   By nature, we want to live.  So to get to the point of willfully causing your very own life to cease, one must be more than just merely depressed.  One must be to the point of absolute desperation and despondency.  

To be candid, I know how this feels.  A little more than twelve years ago -- in the weeks preceding my conversion to Christ -- I was at this point myself.  If you haven't been there, take my word for it:  You don't want to be.  There is something sinister and terrifying when the mind begins to invent ways of doing oneself in.  It is an alien place, and a dark one.  Although I never attempted to take my life, the wheels in my mind were turning:  Maybe I could just swallow a bottle of pills.  Maybe I could just slit my wrists.  Maybe I could....

Perhaps some other day I will share the details that some people know, but many don't -- the reasons why I had gotten to the point of such desperation.  But for now, I will just say that I had no hope.  I hated life, and I hated myself.  I hated pretty much everything, and so I wanted to die.  More than that, I often wished I had never been born.  In my mind at the time, to have never been born would have been much, much better.  And so perhaps you can see why the frightening wheels were turning.

Thankfully, God intervened at the point when I was ready to trust Him.  And although it was a long road with battles along the way, He eventually got me to a place of wholeness and healing.  No longer did I want to die, no longer did I wish for nihilo.  

But back to the tragic reality:  More Americans now take their own lives than die in car wrecks.  The number is something like 37,000 dying in this horrible manner.  Hundreds of people every single day.  Taking.  Their.  Own.  Lives.  

We hear numbers like that, and our first question is, "Why?"  I don't want to sound trite, but I do believe the answer is a fairly simple one:  They have no hope.  Man can live without a lot of things, but he cannot live without hope, without significance.  This is how he differs from the animal kingdom.  The imago Dei needs reclaiming, and therein is true hope and significance.  Therein is life.

As our culture drifts further and further away from truth, is it any wonder that more people murder themselves?  Is it not the logical outflow of our cultural mindset?  We reject any notion of absolute truth, so there is no compass.  We believe that we come from nothing, so there is nowhere to go and no one to help.  We crown ourselves as king even as we reject any notion of significance, so there is only madness without hope.  With a worldview like this, why not kill ourselves?  Really, there is no reason not to do so.  

But oh, what a tragedy.  And how my heart breaks over it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Haunting Memory

I remember Monday, September 10, 2001 very clearly.  I was working as a substitute teacher in the Beaverton School District outside of Portland, Oregon, and I worked as an aide's sub for a middle school special education class that day.  I remember the attractive concrete courtyard leading to the building's double doors.  I remember the office with its plethora of walkways zig-zagging between large desks and cubicles.  I remember accompanying my wheelchair-bound charge that day, a young boy, to his language arts class, and I remember the short conversation I had with the attractive male teacher of that class about the ups and downs of the teaching profession.

I don't remember many other sub days from that Fall with quite so much clarity, but I do remember that day.  I guess I remember it because it was the day that preceded 9/11, and like most everybody else in America, my world was rocked on Tuesday.  Somehow my mind filed September 10 away somewhere.  Maybe it is filed under the heading, "What Normal Days Were Like Before That Tuesday."

I was probably one of the last people in America to hear about the events of September 11, 2001.  I'm not exaggerating -- I was probably one of the very last people to hear about it.  The reason is multi-faceted:  I didn't have to work that day, neither at Starbucks nor as a substitute teacher, so I slept in a bit.  I also lived alone, and I didn't live in the same town as any family members.  I had a television, but I rarely watched the thing, and I didn't turn it on that morning.  I didn't have a computer then, and I don't think I even knew how to navigate the internet, anyway.  Finally, I didn't go anywhere that morning.  If memory serves, I think I just did some laundry, took a shower, ate, and read.

My phone rung at about one o'clock Pacific Time -- seven full hours after the first attack -- and my mom asked me if I had heard "what had happened."  She then proceeded to unfold the horrific news, and I remember the first thing I said:  "I hate Satan."

I understand if that sounds like superstitious nonsense to someone without a biblical worldview.  It probably would have sounded weird to me at one time, too.  But I vividly remember thinking, as my mother shared the details of the terrorist attacks, that everything about it was evil personified.  The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  I still think that today.

Of course I know that there is a completely tangible element to those attacks, too.  There's the politics, the economics, the bare bones religious reasons.  But there is more to it than that, make no mistake about it.  Evil is real, and we saw its face that day. 

Once Jerry and I were talking about 9/11.  He commented on how the attacks weren't intended to be merely physical and political -- they were intended to be psychological, too.  He's right.  Thousands of people died that day, and there are others who survived the ordeal.  But what of the rest of us?  We watched in horror, and as we watched we seemed to know that our very minds and hearts were being violently invaded.  We still see images of clear blue skies polluted with smoke, of precious souls willingly jumping hundreds of feet to certain death, of commercial airliners turned into screaming missiles.  That day was intended to haunt our minds.  And it worked.

I was driving with my Peanut this morning, and as we passed the nearby bank I noticed the flag at half-staff.  It occurred to me how Lilia will never remember, like I do, what a normal day was like before September 11, 2001.  She will always be in a post 9/11 world.  Sure, we still have "normal days," and our country's collective soul heals and moves on.  But I think that every one of us who remember that day will carry it around somehow, deep inside of us, like a haunting memory.

Monday, September 3, 2012

When the "Bugs" Bite

There are lots of things that bug me.  Reality television, for example, drives me nuts.  I would prefer to be tied to the scooping end of a bulldozer digging up cow manure than to view most of the reality entertainment on television any given weekday evening.  Hominy is something else that I find repulsive.  I was forced to eat these sad, swampy, mustard-colored chunks as a child, and I only succeeded by remembering that the brussel sprouts the night before were exponentially worse.  It would also be no stretch to say that I am greatly annoyed by drivers who are texting.  Aside from the obvious fact that they are in the process of endangering my life, I just find that I have no patience for a subculture that cannot get off of social media for three minutes at a stretch.

But if there's anything that really, really grates me, it is this:  Women who claim to speak on behalf of the entire feminine population.  I often wonder why they didn't bother to consult me before sharing my apparent opinion with the entire civilized world.  

And so, in light of this admission, all I can say is this:  Thank you, featured women speakers at the Republican National Convention, for making me unashamed to be a woman for a change.

I don't normally "get political," but I find that every four years there are a number of featured women on news programs and other media outlets claiming to understand what I must "want from the government," simply because they share with me a particular set of reproductive organs.  I hate to break it to them, but I also have a brain.  And this may be a bit of a stunner, but I am fairly adept at using it.  In other words, I can think for myself.  It just so happens that when I do this thinking, I often find myself at odds with these women who would otherwise claim my concurrence. 

You see, as a woman, I am bothered by the fact that our government has now acquired over sixteen trillion dollars of debt, and that the current administration seems to have great difficulty with remedial calculations.  That bugs me.  I am also bothered by the fact that I may not have control over my own health care and that the leaders of our country seem to think I need them to decide upon this for me.  That bugs me.  I am furthermore bothered by the fact that I am being offered complete and unimpeded access to the barbarous practice of abortion, and that this should be something that I find comforting and celebratory since I am, after all, a woman.  That bugs me (especially as the mother of an adopted child).  

So I was greatly relieved and proud to view women at the RNC speaking boldly, eloquently, and intelligently about these same things.  They were women, just like me, yet they were not claiming to speak for me.  These particular women -- of every race and background -- were speaking for themselves and sharing their desires for our nation.  And they were sharing these passions because they have thought long and hard about it, and they believe our country is on a road to disaster.  I happen to agree with them. 

I really do not mean any disrespect to the current administration of this country, who holds a position of due honor.  I am simply diametrically opposed, at heart, to everything he has done.  I also do not mean any disrespect to women who happen to support the current administration.  Again, I am simply diametrically opposed to their viewpoint.  But I have known many of them over the years, and some of them are exceedingly dear to my heart, women of honor.

I'm just so glad to finally, finally hear women in positions of leadership and authority, making me glad to stand with them.  It's an honor, truly.  And it's not like it's a dishonor to stand with the men.  That's an honor, too.

But they never dress as well.