Rest for a Weary Soul

I’d like to introduce you to my friend John.

I went to university with John. We had the same major and I shared a class or two with him. He was also a fellow music-minded person and was in my choir for several years. He was a “small chat” kind of friend and our conversations never much got past the weather, classes and events around us.

He was quiet, studious, easy-going.

We graduated the same year and went our separate ways.

He moved to Ohio. I returned to Australia.

I found him on Twitter about 10 years ago and followed him. I started having conversations with him about the usual–weather, old school days, current events.

He would recommend me websites, sermons, books–I think he thought I was a lost soul his mission was to convert. Sometimes he did so gently; other times he was not dissimilar to a street preacher with fire and fury.

Come to find out he had married but was now divorced. He had been working for a Christian publishing company but lost his job. I joked with him when his suburb, Euclid, hit the news in Australia as the global financial downturn hit the area hard. His house wasn’t worth a fraction of what he still owed on it.

He had applied for several jobs–I remember one at Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter which he was particularly hoping he would be offered, but wasn’t. I’m not sure if he ever was successful in regaining solid employment.

His politics were far right. He stood for everything I didn’t. His remarks to those who believed contrary to him were caustic. He was highly intelligent, but quite narrowly-focused in his thinking.

We parted ways around 6 years ago when he unfriended me on Facebook and lost interest in Twitter. This happened after a particularly bitter tirade about politics and how, in his opinion, nobody who called themselves a Christian could vote for a Muslim, foreign-born president, especially for one who killed babies.

That was the kind of person he was.

Today I was looking through my Facebook account and saw that we had both liked Bryan Duncan (former lead of the Sweet Comfort Band and a chart-topping CCM artist of the 80s). Just for old times’ sake, I clicked on his profile pic and scrolled down his newsfeed.

And then I stopped in disbelief at a comment made on his latest Cruz2016/NeverTrump-branded profile pic:

“RIP my friend.”

Obviously, others had the same bewilderment as I.

“What are you talking about?” was one response.

“John committed suicide.”

Oh man! Really?

Evidently, life became too much for my friend. I don’t know the circumstances he faced nor the pressures that he felt every day. I have no idea how he dealt with his past and how he reconciled is ultra-Calvinism with the apparent out-of-control world around him.

I really didn’t know him that well.

I don’t know if, given a reboot, I would have taken the chance to understand him more. We were poles apart.

hAYNESBut he was a good man and a beloved child of God. It is obviously that he touched many lives and will be missed by the same. His family grieve as all those in loss grieve.

Regardless of what drove my friend to take his own life in what should have been his prime years is beyond me. God knows.

He is at rest now. This tortured soul as found peace. Whatever his politics, religion or societal status, he has been embraced by everlasting Love.

Rest in peace.

*  *  *  *  *

For those who struggle with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, there is help.

Lifeline (Australia) 13 11 14

Beyond Blue (Australia) 1300 659 467

Suicide Prevention Line (USA) 1-800-784-2433


Learning from Tyler Clementi

Gareth Higgins has written an excellent post on his blog “god is not elsewhere / some conversation about movies, art, politics and spirituality with gareth higgins” as he downloads his frustration at the senseless suicide of Tyler Clementi, a promising young University student in the U.S.  Reading about how young people have been let down by a system that is still mired down in handed-down, modernist thinking, does more than slightly annoy me. But I had best let those who are skilled in the art of wordsmithing to say what I feel better than I could ever say myself. So here’s a paragraph or two from Gareth’s blog:

I am tired of not feeling free to discuss sexuality in church as anything other than a problem.  I want to celebrate it for what it has become for me: an astonishing gift from God, the space in which love between human beings, made a little lower than the angels has the potential to find its most elegant and connected expression.  The space where we may come closest to mirroring the divine relationship with the human.  The space that can produce such profound happiness, and is so powerful that it leave you feeling as if you’ve been ripped  apart.

The story of Tyler Clementi is not just about a young man and his roommates’ stupid prank.  It is a story about cruelty, and dehumanization, and fear, and the lack of an understanding of how human relationships can promote the common good instead of individualistic gratification.

It is a story about the role that bad religion – most of it Christian – has played in creating a culture of shame around sex and sexual identity in America, and the distortions of human happiness that pass for healthy religious practice. (Read it all here.)

I know there is a HUGE debate within American evangelicalism about the place of LGBT Christians in the church, but that debate will not be entertained here. God loves us all equally and accepts us all equally. God’s grace is not only enough to take care of the sins of all but to restore relationships, break down dividing walls, tear apart prejudices and judgmentalism and heal all kinds of hurt. That is what we need today.

And we need more people who will stand up and be champions of that grace, who will proclaim boldly the unconditional, inclusive love of Jesus to all, and put an end to senseless suicides by showering people like Tyler with grace and hope for a better world.