There have been a number of suicides in our area recently, a tragedy that has reared its head before but had been more calm for a while. Our church is connected to one of the grieving families and so I was present for the funeral of a beautiful young woman the other day.
The depth of pain was tangible in the packed church, thronged with young people in their best party clothes, because who owns a funeral suit at 19? The pastor spoke of coming across a clump of stinging nettles on a walk, with a clump of dock leaves at their base – the antidote to the pain being present alongside. He confessed that we as the Church have not been present enough in the community to bring the soothing peace of help and hope when life has stung many people.
I agree. Our heads are so often concerned with the internal workings of the church that we forget our commission to go into all the world. Even as I type I’m reminded that I’m excited to have been part of a process that has discerned, under God, the way forward for our church in coming years. But one of the key elements of our future is to be missional disciples, people who live in the world so we can be with those who have been stung and need help and hope.
As I walked to the graveyard I wondered to myself, “Why am I here, walking in the middle of these young people in pain, a collared dork who nobody knows?” And then it struck me – standing at the graveside as the rain blew horizontally on the gathered mourners – I can simply be here. With my umbrella. Covering the young people who didn’t think to bring one. I stepped forward and shielded a few folks from the full effects of the weather. They didn’t notice but they didn’t get so wet.
A few people went out to walk around our town this morning, praying as we went. We chatted with some people on the way, each of whom was hurting. Afterwards we took time to pray for them.
I might look like a dork in my collar, I might not understand youth culture (or any other culture outside the church), but I can hold my umbrella over someone standing in the rain. We can hold a ‘covering’ of prayer over those who don’t realise they need it. We can walk the streets and see who happens to cross our path. We can listen to God’s Spirit whispering peace and compassion to the heartbroken.
And with gentleness and respect, we might be given the opportunity to share the reason for the hope that we have.
If you have been affected by suicide or are contemplating harming yourself in any way, know that you are cared for, and that there is help and hope to be found. Come round for a coffee. Drop into The Hub or The Edge. Or call Lifeline (in Northern Ireland) on 0808 808 8000.