Suicide Awareness: The Difference Between "Spiders" and "Fish"
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. I was thinking about this last night as I was giving my three year old a bath. Ok, I should probably disclose right up front that I have ADHD and am usually thinking of multiple things at any given time. I was also thinking about the four teen suicides that have taken place in my community since September. The youth pastor in me aches for the families and friends dealing with these losses. The daddy in me weeps at the thought of one of my three boys ever feeling that suicide is the only answer to their problems. I was further saddened by the statistics I had read that according to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds, and fourth leading in 10-14 year olds.
I was roused from these thoughts by a sudden splash of water and the smiling, bubble covered face of my youngest son, Aiden --the joyous price I pay for sitting on the edge of the tub while he bathes! In that moment, a distracted time of grief, wetness, and love, God spoke to me. Well, not in words, but in a vision. He gave me an illustration using my son’s bubble bath. Aiden has sensitive skin which is irritated by the chemicals in the bubble bath; however, Aiden LOVES bubbles! So, I indulge him every now and then with a tiny bit in his bathwater. God Point #1: Sometimes we like to submerge ourselves in things that are NOT good for us. During the course of the bath Aiden suddenly stares down at the water with a look of fear that only a three year old can give and says, “Daddy, there are spiders in there!” You see, Aiden couldn’t see past the bubbles into the clear waters underneath. God Point #2: Sometimes we can’t see past our hurts and fears to the clear, abundant waters of life on the other side.
One of my personal rules as a youth pastor is to treat each heart-ache, each break up, and each tear with the tenderness and love it requires. Notice I didn’t say deserves! There WILL be a new boyfriend or girlfriend next week, they WILL be friends again tomorrow, and I WILL be approached for comfort the day AFTER a message dealing with that day’s mistakes that were discussed IN the message. These temporary trials do not necessarily deserve compassion, but they do require it. In doing so, I build trust and love with my group and get the opportunity to model servant leadership on an individual basis. Loving your neighbor as yourself is, I believe, one of God’s answers to how to help prevent suicide.
Our community is bringing attention to Mental Health Awareness Month by centering in on the tragedy that is suicide. I am partnering with our local Christian radio station 88.7 F.M., The Cross, to host a free concert featuring Building 429 and friends, testimonies from local parents who have lost children to suicide, provide resources on suicide prevention and awareness, and accepting donations to be distributed among local suicide prevention organizations.
After his initial scare and my assurance that there were no spiders in the water, Aiden’s imagination took over, and he could see “fish” swimming in the waters of our bathtub despite the bubbles covering the surface. He was seeing PAST the bubbles without actually being able to see past them. That is our goal beginning now and in the month of May, helping others to see past the current trials and “spiders” in their lives to the calmer, more inviting waters of the future --a future that is worth fighting for, worth living for, and worth the wait. What is God whispering to your heart? How can YOU contribute to helping end suicide in your area? It may be hosting a large, noisy concert, or helping someone through the loss of a relationship or the grieving that accompanies the death of a loved one. However you feel led to serve, do so knowing you make more of a difference than you will EVER know.
Written By: Pastor Larry Roy
A Little About I
I am a 33yr old married father of three wonderful boys. My wife Lisa is truly my God given soulmate, and still the only one that turns my head. I am an ordained minister of the Church of God, Anderson and the Associate/Youth Pastor at Liberty Grove Church of God in West Monroe, Louisiana. My youth group (REAL CHURCH Youth Ministries) is a mix of the greatest teens in the entire world! I love to read, write with my sister (Teen Christian author Leslie Lamb), and enjoy time with my family. I am a student at Warner University and a member of the United States Corps of Chaplains.