I'm A Tool!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Yesterday, I found out I'm a tool. In modern vernacular, being a "tool" is considered a bad thing. It's a slam to be referred to that way, because it means you don't think for yourself or are being used by someone. It's like being called a fool, or a yes-man, or worse.

To Christians, being a tool in the hands of God is a good thing. We live to serve Him and His people, and if we can be a tool for that purpose, that's praiseworthy.

So I have a praise report to share on a heavy and personal subject. And, as usual with me, a prologue is necessary.

As we approach my mother's birthday on March 29, it's once again that time of year when I spend time ruminating on her life. Well really, I reflect mostly on her death. It's very strange to me that my mother's birthday reminds me more of her death. Yet there's also something very natural about that because it's all I know; so I guess, in an oddly realistic and rational sort of way, it makes sense: I was not around for her birth, and was for her death. I don't recall ever celebrating her birthday, and her death had such a powerful impact on me that I carried it as a legacy most of my life. In some ways, I still do.

Perhaps we should revisit the blog I wrote last year at this time. That might be an easier partial preamble. And because as I just reread it, I realized that a few things I said are of value to what this blog will eventually cover. Instead of linking to it, I'll just reprint it here:

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March 29, 2006

Today is my mother's birthday. A strange day for me each year, because she died when I was nine.

Some years have gone by and I've totally forgotten until a few days later, and I look back with a mix of shame at forgetting and questioning that shame...because, well, if I didn't remember, that means something, right? But did it mean I didn't care or was still angry? Why note the birthday of someone who chose to die?

Other years, the day has crept up on me painfully, like the metaphorical thorn in the side of the Apostle Paul, a spiritual splinter that arrives in early March and digs deeper as the month grows older.

But this year, I waited for this day with expectation. I knew I would write about it in this blog. And I knew I would share the piece I wrote about her a few years ago called Sadness Breeds. I wrote it for many reasons...as an exploration of autobiographical circumstances; a writer's exercise; a layman's editorialized analysis of experience and perception; an emotional conduit to express the hurt of wounds I was surprised to find were still open; and as a therapeutic process to find a peace with it all. Writing Sadness Breeds was a way for me to process my thoughts and feeling and memories about the events of her death and review its affect on me, then and now. It was a way to admit awareness of the legacy she left me, and to both analyze and exorcise the demons that came with that legacy. It was a way to step out of the darkness I walked shrouded in for so many years, and embrace the light that is the freedom of forgiveness. And as someone who writes, it was a chance for me to share it all, and attempt to put the reader in my head in the hope that it could possibly help anyone who had experienced similar feelings.

And so I share it. This link will take you to a simple website where you can read it. Or you can download a .pdf file and read it or print it. I warn you, printed out on regular paper it is 29 pages long. One radio friend once read it at work (before she went on the air) and I don't suggest that.

I do not seek pity. I do not seek praise, for praise should be given to Him, because in Him I found forgiveness and through His strength was I able to forgive.

I welcome you to share it with anyone in your life if you feel so inclined. I intend to offer it for publication some day, so I will ask that if you pass it along, you do so respectfully. Yes, it is my experiences, but my hope is that it can grow beyond the focus of me, and that the concepts within it can help others (whether those afflicted with it or affected by it) better understand the power of depression, the impact of suicide, the haunting of its aftermath, and the supremacy of triumph over it.

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Okay...that last paragraph especially is relevant to the reason for this blog, and why it's being posted now instead of me waiting for my mother's birthday to post…whatever I would have ended up posting then.

I have a very dear friend who lives in another state. I called her yesterday to catch up and during the course of our conversation she told me that I had helped someone without even being aware of it. She then went on to tell me about her sister, who is a divorced mother of a young boy. The sister has been experiencing bouts of depression and was expressing thoughts of suicide. She remarked on such ponderings as whether this life was worth living, she had lost hope in the Lord, she wasn't sure if she believed in Him any longer, and, especially frightening and sad, that her son "would be better off without her." My friend told her sister that that was a lie, a tactic of the Enemy to convince her into taking an action from which she could not rebound. Suicide is, after all, irrevocable.

My friend told her sister that if she thought her son would be better off without her, then she was certainly discounting her own worth. And if she wanted an example of how such an action would affect him, she should contact me. As a child of suicide, she could talk to me and realize that her son would NOT be "better off" without his mother, and especially by losing his mother in that way. (The sister and I had talked on the phone a few times years ago, so I wasn't a completely foreign stranger being introduced into her private state of being). Yet she seemed uninspired by the suggestion to contact me. My friend then remembered the piece I wrote, and emailed to her sister a portion of it wherein I indulge in a psychological analysis of suicide based on my own layman-but-personally-experienced perceptions.

It seems her sister read it, and contacted their mother to say that it had helped her gain some perspective. She felt less alone about her depression. She poured out the alcohol that she had been using to medicate her moods, realizing afterward that it not only served that purpose, but compounded the problem with phases of hazy and irrational thought. That's good, because we know how alcoholic states can affect judgment. God be praised that she didn't make any final decisions while in such a depressed and impaired state.

So my praise report is for the Lord. What I wrote was used almost exactly in the manner I'd hoped. If I was part of a divine conspiracy to help this sister by being an agent or have what I wrote be a tool, then I can only boast in the Lord, as Paul says.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

I so do love this passage. The first time I read it I had to shake my head, because it can be a little confusing if read too quickly. I personally like to read it slowly, and break it down for myself...and in this case, it means so much.

3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

Can I get an AMEN on that alone!?

4) who comforts us in all our affliction,

Oh thank you for that comfort, Lord!

so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God

He not only comforts others in the same way that He comforts us, He HELPS US comfort others in that way. That's...AWESOME! We are His agents of comfort, that we can relate to people based on our own experiences of both suffering pain and healing from it...and so those in pain may recognize in us some shared slice of experience...and that there is truth to the cliché that "misery loves company"...but not for the purpose of wallowing; for the goal of identifying, sharing, and healing. Isn't that...comforting?

I'm paraphrasing someone here (and I don't know who) but it seems to be very true: Our greatest pain can become our strongest ministry.