Giving UP

riding the air
Originally uploaded by lucy96734.
Ninth grade might very well be the year of nearly all teen-age angst. Bare Naked Lady’s even wrote a song about it: Grade 9. When I look back on jr. high to high school, ninth was my darkest year. I didn’t go gothic, (though I did listen to the Cure), my hair wasn’t dyed, or any particularly long. It was a combination of not fitting into the crowd at school, still dealing with my parent’s divorce – dad moving back from Boston around then – and let’s not even mention the basic insecurities of male adolescence – i.e think Bobby Brady singing “Time To Change” that made it dark. Oh, and did I mention that I was trying to negotiate the pressure from church to “go tell friends about Jesus” even though I really didn’t know who they were talking about?

In essence, ninth grade for me was a time when I simply had reached the edge of what I could handle. Nothing made sense and there was very little if anything that gave me a sense of security or stability. It was into this that I grasped for something to control, to feel that this aspect of life was under my control. I didn’t know I was doing this at the time of course, but it has come back to hit me like a brick. In the darkest recesses of my mind I had wondered what it would be like to simply put an end to it, to kill myself. Granted nowadays suicidal teen-angst is so cliché as to diminish its reality. Either way, there would be these moments when I couldn’t handle it anymore and would daydream about relief. Minus the gay theme, Patty Griffin is spot-on in this realm with Tony - "I guess you finally stopped believing that any hope would ever find you. Well I know that story, I was sitting right behind you".

Come Spring, a student at Rice University had jumped off a campus building – he’d had enough. So, one night some older, and thank God, much wiser friends who went to Rice were talking about this guy’s death and it’s impact on them. “How could someone lose hope? How could they come to this?” To which I innocently said, “Uh, I understand how.” They caught on that I had some of the same thoughts. And simply said, “If you are thinking about killing yourself. Don’t. We’d like you to stick around. We really believe God is gonna do something big with your life.” Oddly enough, that was enough for me. Like night and day. I said, “ok.” And that was about the end of that.

Flash forward nearly twenty years. It seems that God’s got this thing for relationship – some would ask where exactly it “says” so in the bible. But you would be blind not to see that everything he does happens in relationship with people, down to Jesus getting tired, hungry, and dirty walking the roads with his closest friends. And so it is with you and so it is with me. Well, he’s pretty stinkin relentless about this and just how far he wants to go. So sometime, conveniently, around the beginning of what Christians call the Lent season, he says to me, “I want more;” like the way a spouse might say to the other, in a desire for deeper intimacy, more life in the relationship, enough of the status quo, let’s notch it up a bit. To which I responded, “Me, too.” Little did I know what was in store as I have been taken through the ringer since then. Enough so, that in the past few days I have felt much like I did in ninth grade – overwhelmed with instability, loss of control, uncertainty. (I haven’t been digging up old Cure tapes – I never actually stopped listening to themJ ) During the night – which makes sense – I finally said to him, “If this is what it’s gonna be like I’d rather end it now – just kill me, or I will.”

His response?

“Say, when have you felt like this before?”

Grade 9.

And it all comes back to me. Not only was I attempting to manipulate God with my own death, I was explaining to him that, like then, I was still in control of at least one thing - when to say it’s over. What he is after – get this – my TOTAL trust…to trust him even with when it will be over. I found myself saying, “ok, gotcha. You can have even this last straw of control.” I am reminded right now of a line from Grosse Pointe Blank in which John Cusack, speaking of dying, “Nobody chooses when.”

Once again, control is at the center. Never would I have guessed that something so dark and dire and destructive was ultimately a means of gaining control of some thread of life. In the end, that is what suicide is. Yet, I gotta tell ya that giving up the right to “choose when” really does free one up to care about more important things, more enjoyable things, more life-giving things. It also seems to free up a “more” in the relationship that I never guessed was possible… no matter how scary it’s getting… even if it means getting tossed into it.