“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:19 NIV
After spending 14 years in Christian day school education as a teacher, department chair and administrator, I now have quite a number of young adults and young people who fall into the category of being former students. The youngest of these are now eighth graders, the oldest, well, some of those who were juniors and seniors in high school when I first started teaching back in 1983 are almost as old as I am, some of them 40 years old by now.
Since October, I have had quite a bit of contact with former students, in some ways that have brought events and thoughts into my life which I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
Today, for the second time in a two month span, I received word of a suicide. I’m still working through grief from a funeral I attended in October for a ninth grade boy who didn’t really even leave behind a clue as to why he felt he couldn’t face another day. This morning there is news of another one, this time a young adult whose life took some unexpected turns as a result of a brief marriage gone bad. My last conversation with him Sunday evening was no different than a dozen others, at least, that’s the way it appeared. It was a casual conversation. Now I am left to wonder if there is anything I could have said or done that would have made a difference. Suicide is more common during the holiday season, we are told.
Both of these young men were Christians. They were the loving, serving, sensitive types, who seemed to be growing in their faith. Both were hit in the face with an ugly divorce, in one case his parents, in the other, his own marriage. In both cases, their trust was undermined. Their world turned upside down. I can’t relate to the depth of despair that must have overwhelmed them, whether it was just for a brief moment, or for a long time. It was enough to push them both over the edge. I can still hear the pastor’s words echoing from the first funeral. There is always hope. How could that message have been delivered when it was most needed?
Last week, I got invited to lunch by a former student who had just returned from duty in Iraq. He was a changed young man from the days when he was a sophomore in high school and, at least in my classroom, the class clown. He was shaken and grave, there was an expression of fear in his eyes and face that I’d never seen there before. He could not sit still, and had difficulty focusing. It was as if he expected an explosion in the parking lot at any minute. He was glad to be home, but was facing redeployment in six to eight months. I’ve experienced despair and fear, but I’ve never faced that kind of fear. Yet, after today’s news, I feel a desperate sense of responsibility to figure out some way to commit to finding a way to communicate a message of hope.