Mournful Mondays

Mondays are mournful.

One of my morning routines is a reading of our local newspaper. I know, that sounds so dated. At least I read it via an app on my iPad. Some solace.

Anyway, as I sit at the table on Monday morning there are stories of death. Like today, a story of civilians killed in Afghanistan via the endless conflict. A carjack victim that become the aggressor, shooting and killing the would be assailant. Then of course, there are the obituaries  I don’t read them. I don’t even scan them. But they are there. And each one represents countless family members and friends who are beginning yet another week of life, but this time with a heavy heart and in a state of mourning.

Truly, it doesn’t make Monday any different than any other day. Each day brings more death. More 250 word summaries of an individual’s life. More black and white 1″x1″ photographs for remembering one by.

Over the weekend there was a loss that caught the attention of more than most. A famous mega-church pastor from California lost his son. To suicide. Rick Warren published the book “The Purpose Driven Life” and became globally famous in what must have seemed like the blink of an eye. His church shot over 20,000 and became an individual with input at such lofty platforms as the White House. He and his wife engaged aggressively in the battle against AIDS in Africa, and found numerous avenues to use their fame in hopes of impacting the lives of others. “The Purpose Driven Life” was published in 2002. His son Matthew would have been 16 at the time.

I was sixteen when I attempted suicide (twice). My father was also a pastor. His influence rarely stretched across the entirety of his own small congregation. He never published any famous books…or any books. He has possibly spoken with the president of his local Kiwanis, and did work with the local university’s International Student Fellowship. Clearly, his scope of impact was significantly (as in…exponentially) less than that of Rick Warren.

With that said, I can not express the fish bowl that is a pastor’s home. It goes with you everywhere. Especially to high school. Even if the students have never met your parents, been to your church, or have any idea what you believe. You’re still ‘a pastor’s kid’ carrying a truck load of expectations on your back. At least, I was. And every pastor’s kid I’ve ever talked to was. Some relished it. Some survived it. Others hated it. I have no idea where Matthew fit into this spectrum.

Details are still vague, but we are told that –

“…only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.” (taken from Rick Warren’s formal statement to the church)

A few quick thoughts. First, whether it is just parental opinion or a transference of words from medical professionals, his mental illness, depression and suicide are ascribed to have been a part of his struggle since birth. Something he was born with. Something he had no say in. Something he did nothing to cause. I wonder how much of this stems from their theology. Being Southern Baptist, there is a belief in God’s sovereignty that includes His clear choosing of who has and who doesn’t. Who is predestined, and who isn’t. This statement doesn’t say, but does Rick’s theology mesh with his life experience? Is this something God did to Matthew? Was this a curse that was part of his eternal destiny among the damned? Or does the breakdown of the life of a loved one cause us to ask what we really believe about this God?

Second, Matthew had “America’s best”. How? Through the means of his parents. Successful. Wealthy. Able to give as needed without a second thought. I don’t begrudge the Warrens that. I most certainly don’t despise Matthew for that. Ironically enough, last week both of my kids were sick. I had to endure great stress figuring out how we were going to handle two Urgent Care visit bills and some prescriptions. How was that going to work in a checkbook already deep into the read? Never mind my mental illness treatment. Are we this great of a country when the best of health care (mental or physical) is only readily available to the really wealthy? When most of the mentally ill will never get any care?

Third, “in spite” of that care, the mental illness never subsided. Because it is relentless. It is not an infection that can be cured with antibiotics. It is not a tumor that can be extracted with surgery. It is not a broken leg that can have a rod inserted, a cast put on, and heal back up in a few weeks. It is a neurological problem. It is a brain problem. It is a wiring problem. And I grow stronger and stronger each day into the belief that it can be managed (sometimes), improved (to some degree), and even handled (temporarily)…but it will once again rear its head. The despair will rise. The fear will swoop in. The pain will build. And given the worst of circumstances at the worst of times, it may very well end this way.

This Monday morning I mourn with Rick and Kay Warren for the loss of their son Matthew. I mourn with the dozens in my home community who lost loved ones over the weekend and start their week looking for answers and hope. I mourn with the tens of thousands of mentally ill across our country who are on the brink of self destruction but have no access to the kind of care that could help them survive at least one more day. I mourn mindless killing. Endless violence. The ability of darkness to sweep over places made for light.

Mondays are mournful.

7 responses to this post.

    • I especially like how the picture looks like the precious child has an awesome right arm with some cool ink on it! :-D

      Yes, much happier story for a Monday. As one of my tattoos says “Love Wins”.

      Reply

      • Ha ha it does look like he does :p

        It is unfortunate though that I had to hunt for that story. We do seem to love pain more then happiness and then we wonder why so many people are sad? :P

      • Pain has no let down. Happiness inevitably seems to.

        I know that is a hideous approach, but one that I struggle with. Why get my hopes up to be dashed, when I can start low and get surprised from time to time.

        I always enjoy seeing my Moodscope score go up, more than watching it drop.

        You are right though…we do so seem to love the pain.

      • My partner said to me a few years ago that everyone has to work at being happy and I know sometimes I work pretty hard to make myself upset. I don’t know, I just try and take it a day at time :)

  1. Thank you for this powerful and personal post.

    Since hearing of Matthew’s death, I’ve been praying and reflecting on my own story. I’m only now emerging to join the conversation about it.

    Like Matthew, I am a Christian with a mental illness who has attempted suicide. Unlike Matthew, I live to tell about it.

    The mystery of mental illness is much deeper even than you suggest.

    Yes, it is a neurological problem that can be “adjusted” with psychotropics and talk therapy. Maybe with time and more study we’ll get better at this. But, it will no doubt cost a great deal and the question of affordable treatment will remain.

    Mental illness is, however, at its root, not a puzzle science can solve, but a mystery we mourn. God only knows when we will be relieved.

    Reply

    • Thanks for your reflection. I am glad that like myself you have been able to survive the darkness of suicide. And done so while maintaining your faith.

      Everyone’s story has great power, and I’m confident that your emergence into the conversation will impact the lives of others as we all journey together.

      Peace.

      Reply

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