Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
It was the darkest evening of my life. And true to the poem, there were miles to go before I slept.
And I was tired. Tired of fighting and tired of striving. Tired of arguments with God and myself. Kay Redfield Jamison describes it eloquently:
“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralysed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing and hopelessness permeates their entire domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace.”
All I wanted was to sleep.
The idea of suicide was not new in my mind. It had occupied space in my brain for more years than I cared to remember. It was always an option – a get-out clause if life got too difficult – a strange comfort. Nietzsche once wrote:
“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”
Many people may be horrified by the thought of suicide as a consolation; but the fact that there was a way out of my mind was a strange and melancholy security blanket. Perhaps it is because death had always been close at hand in my life. Physical illnesses had wrought much damage through my young body and I didn’t trust it. I loved the idea of one day getting a new body. When I could cling to little else, I clung to Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes… for the old order of things has passed away.”
Amidst the mess and mire of my mind there remained that strange juxtaposition; my faith and my pain did not sit well with one another. The pain begged for escape; the faith made me hold on. On the nights when I most wanted an ending – I was very clearly reminded that I had a job to do.
On that darkest of days, as I lay in my hospital bed listening to the cries of despair and confusion which escaped from the patients lips in their sleep, I felt something stir.
It was not a stirring of hope – it was a stirring of calling.
It did not distinguish the pain and the disgust I felt – but it was all too real.
“We’ve got to shine in here”
And years later as I have walked alongside those who feel they are at journeys end; I have been reminded again and again by the story of Elijah.
A hero of the faith. A man of God who stood beside Jesus in the Promised Land.
And yet in 1 Kings 19 we see him ask that he might die. It’s ironic, as mere sentences before the text tells us that he ran for his life!
All too often, the thought of suicide comes when someone is searching for an answer to life.
Elijah’s story as told in 1 Kings remains for me a glorious example of suicide prevention.
Exhausted and hopeless Elijah wishes for an ending.
God deals with him ever so tenderly. He lays him to sleep and he makes sure he has food prepared, he gets him to have a little more sleep.
And then God speaks – not in fire or thunder – but in the still small voice that it can be so very hard to hear.
I imagine it was the voice that told the men on the road to Emmaus that their hope was not lost! It was the voice that comforted the cries of a persecuted people.
I believe it’s the voice that called me on. It didn’t whisk away my pain in a miracle; not did it make a path forward clear. But it whispered again and again that I had to hold on. That I was holding onto to something worth hoping for.
It wasn’t preached in clever homiletics not complex theology (although I have heard God in both) but it those around me who stayed when it would have been all too easy to flee. Those who spoke softly and firmly into my life again and again. Those who believed in a future that I could not comprehend and those who loved me when I was at my most consumed.
We need to speak of suicide.
The reality of the pain of the individual and those who might be left behind.
More than that though, we need to hope for the people who cannot hope for themselves and see a way through where they may only see a wreck.