When Suicide Happens

by FreestocksI’ve read of the suicides of many people in the past, and no such story is a good story. Whether it’s a person who’s in the public eye or a person who was hardly noticed, we lose a person. A mother devastated by her toddler’s death. An actor who suffered in bruising isolation. A seminarian whose struggle was largely unseen. A doctor who couldn’t continue under mental anguish. A pastor who was overwhelmed by everything.

The loss is aggravated by the circumstances surrounding the death. Those left to respond  rotate a series of questions, all of them in big-deal categories. We question life, ours and theirs. We wonder about God and faith. We query our social relationships and relatives. We turn to the tragic circumstances that form around an individual and try to see them.

Here are a few things I think are worth doing–commitments worth making–when someone commits suicide, in no particular order. They sound too general because I’ve written them about “a person” and I fully intend for that be come across as a person who comes to mind, a particular person, a designated individual or individuals who you love:

  1. We commit to being and not only doing, to tunneling into the beautiful wonder that is the self and to emerging from that wonder with a stubbornness for searching for the same in others.
  2. We commit to grieving, feeling as fully as possible, the deep fissures in us when someone kills herself or himself.
  3. We commit to becoming more human by relating to individuals differently and based upon their uniqueness all the time.
  4. We commit to the hard work of paying attention to what turns a person, lifts up a person, spoils a person, hurts a person.
  5. We commit to loving as much as possible in the present moment.
  6. We commit to getting mental and emotional support for ourselves and our communities in the forms of clergy who are permanently slanted in the direction of full liberation; therapists who are helpful in pursing with us our own deep change in the face of psychologically rough worlds; spiritual directors who can listen us into freedom as we journey into the company of God together; family members who embrace us unconditionally and love us lavishly; and friends who are just like family and who stay in place when family diminishes, drops, or dies.
  7. We commit to asking better questions, even when the question is “How are you?” and staying around for the response.
  8. We commit to telling another person how they impacted us, how we felt because of something they did or said, and how we are changed specifically because they matter.
  9. We commit to standing close when a person feels abandoned, reminding them by our physical presence when our unheard words ring hollow that we are with them.
  10. We commit to responding after any death with a voracious invitation to our own special life, to cultivating healthier relationships, to dealing with the destructive dynamics in our own lives, to being different and better people, and to advocating for everybody’s healthcare and self-care.

Also, if you’re in Chicago, consider attending the National Day of Solidarity to Prevent Physician Suicide.

Rohr on Resurrection, Transformation, & Humanity

by Felix Russell-SawI might quibble over a point in this, but today’s meditation was a gift to me, given recent challenges to my soul, recent deaths I’m dying. Here’s part of it:

Resurrection is not a miracle as much as it is an enduring relationship. The best way to speak about the Resurrection is not to say, “Jesus rose from the dead”–as if it was a self-generated miracle–but to say, “Jesus was raised from the dead” (as many early texts state). The Eternal Christ is thus revealed as the map, the blueprint, the promise, the pledge, the guarantee of what is happening everywhere, all summed up in one person so we can see it in personified form.

If you can understand Jesus as the human archetype, a stand-in for everybody and everything, you will get much closer to the Gospel message. I think this is exactly why Jesus usually called himself “The Son of Man.” His resurrection is not so much a miracle that we can argue about, believe, or disbelieve, but an invitation to look deeper at what is always happening in the life process itself. Jesus, or any member of “the Body of Christ,” cannot really die because we are participating in something eternal–the Cosmic Christ that came forth from God.

Death is not just physical dying, but going to the full depth of things, hitting the bottom, beyond where you are in control. And in that sense, we all probably go through many deaths in our lifetime. These deaths to the small self are tipping points, opportunities to choose transformation. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people turn bitter and look for someone to blame. So their death is indeed death for them, because they close down to growth and new life.

But if you do choose to walk through the depths–even the depths of your own sin and mistakes–you will come out the other side, knowing you’ve been taken there by a Source larger than yourself. Surely this is what it means to be saved. Being saved doesn’t mean that you are any better than anyone else. It means you’ve allowed and accepted the mystery of transformation, which is always pure gift.

If we are to speak of miracles, the most miraculous thing of all is that God uses the very thing that would normally destroy you–the tragic, the sorrowful, the painful, the unjust–to transform and enlighten you. Now you are indestructible and there are no absolute dead ends. This is what we mean when we say we are “saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus.” This is not a cosmic transaction, but a human transformation to a much higher level of love and consciousness. You have been plucked from the flames of any would-be death to the soul, and you have become a very different kind of human being in this world. Jesus is indeed saving the world.

Sign up here for meditations from Fr. Rohr, if you appreciate this kind of material.



An Unfinished Act of God’s Love

Photo Thanks to Greg Rakozy

Photo Thanks to Greg Rakozy

I finished James Loder’s The Logic of the Spirit: Human Development in Theological Perspective, a book I’ve owned since seminary, a book I’ve returned to a few times, a book I couldn’t read through until the last couple months, 10-11 years after buying it.

I’m not even ready to attempt a review. That’ll take me a few years, but he weaves and integrates physics, science, philosophy, cognitive and psychoanalytic theory, and theology into what is a strong presentation of how we are created as a product of the Creator Spirit, for creative purposes, which despite the losses, changes, and injuries in life, find ultimate repair in the face of God, the person of Jesus. Trust me: there is so much to the book. I’d loan it out but I don’t trust you’d return it to me, evidence, for sure, of my continued need to rebuild torn portions of my self in the face of God.

Nonetheless, I think this quote, his last words in the book, capture the broad, grand work Professor Loder accomplished in this fascinating work. It may not take you ten years to return and read through this material, but if you’re at all inclined for the disciplined reflection hinted at in the words below, be courageous:

In actuality, human development is never experienced as a cycle or a sequence; it often feels more like a few decades of searching, finding, and losing an uncertain fulfillment. But in each person the search is a longing for the eternal intimacy of a love that may be grasped only unclearly and proleptically, but nevertheless profoundly, in the face of a beloved caretaker. At three months of age, before the sense of abandonment begins to dawn upon consciousness, the prototype of the face, the configuration of a gracious presence, is set down. Even in the absence of the face, the longing appears and persists. This anticipation cannot be fulfilled in human terms; indeed, every human effort to solve the dilemma posed by the abyss underlying development only intensifies the difficulty. When the longing for that intimacy is satisfied by the Spiritual Presence of Christ, the Face of God, then the answers to our basic questions may dawn on us. A lifetime is an unfinished act of God’s love; it is intended that we complete that act by returning ourselves to God, directly and through others, in love. In this recognition, we discover that the fundamental data about us are not merely that we are alive and developing, incredible products of a vast expanding universe. Rather, as each life unfolds, gets torn open, stripped of its survival techniques and its passing pleasures, and discovers itself as spirit, then it appears from under the surface that we have been created for nothing less than the pure love of God, whose universe is our home.

Photo Thanks to Michal Kulesza

Photo Thanks to Michal Kulesza

“Uncomplicated Conditioning and Deep-Down Knowing”

Perhaps I am a cynic, but my uncomplicated conditioning and my deep-down knowing about the ubiquity of racism remind me that the invisibility of a symbol is not the same as the absence of racist hate.  I have had numerous interactions with white folk in nice suits, who would turn their nose up at a “redneck” racist, who share the same views but don’t literally wear it like an ornament around their neck.  It’s 2015, it is not okay to wear your racism on your sleeve (or your t-shirt), but that doesn’t mean it is not still carried around.  And that is what worries me.  Deep-seated, hidden, structural, institutionalized racism is just as (if not more) dangerous as out in the open racism because we don’t always recognize it or see it coming.

…In a moment when some faith seems to dictate that some black folk need to forgive (and forget) while some white folk stubbornly hold on to a flag and revisionist version of history that condones their racism and insistence for white supremacy, we have a lot more to worry about than whether or not the rebel flag will live on.  What we know for sure is that nine churchgoers who went to study the bible last week won’t.

Racial oppression doesn’t occur in a vacuum so it cannot be neatly or conveniently taken down (or away) without the residue, implications, consequences and permanent scars of its existence, and neither can the confederate flag.

Go read the rest here.

Thank you, my sister, scholar, teacher, proclaimer of truth, Dr. Robin Boylorn.

A Spiritual Hero

Michael and Gardner C. TaylorYesterday afternoon, the afternoon of Easter, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor died. I will reflect more on his passing, particularly as I said to Dawn on the poetic nature of him dying on Easter. It was fitting in many ways. But here is a quote from our interview with him in 2011, when his voice was as strong as a few months ago when he and Mrs. Taylor wished us a Happy New Year.

I’m literally numbering my days. I’m approaching what in my childhood we would have called my “commencement day.” My stage of life means to be aware that we all are just strangers and pilgrims. We can make this place home sometimes. Our danger is the false notion that it is home.

All in all, life’s a great experience. But by faith we believe there’s a better one. It’s hard to imagine what it can be like. At the point I have reached, one ponders more and more what it’s like. It does not yet appear. But this we know, the Bible says, that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Those are tremendous things to wrestle with. Not too much for the human mind to ponder, but too much for it to have. I cannot picture this. The best I can do is try and understand the crude symbolism that we’re given. Our home will be far richer, far finer than anything we can think of. The maker of that home is God.