It’s the day after Easter, and if I’m honest, I still feel the sting of Friday. I’ve been raised to celebrate Easter, but frankly, today I wonder where the resurrection is in my own personal story. Like me, perhaps you’ve spent this past week contemplating the story of Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Oddly, what has stood out to me this year is the story of Judas.
Judas is a zealot, a Jew who wants God to vindicate Israel against their oppressors, and believes this must be done with a violent, bloody rebellion. He walks alongside Jesus through some of the most important moments of their lives. And yet, his life with Jesus and others disappoints him. Jesus, it would seem, perhaps agrees on where the story should go, just… not how to get there. Moment after frustrating moment builds, fastening like a cord around his neck. The noose he eventually hangs himself with grows upon him. It constricts without his notice – this isn’t a moment of decision, but a snare that takes over his life, bit by bit, until it’s too late. Eventually, he gives up his friend, thinking perhaps that this will propel the story in the messy direction he had always wanted. But alas, it backfires horribly. Jesus won’t become the Messiah Judas wants Him to be. You might say that he f’d up big. Really ..really big. And the weight of it plunges him into an unforgiving and relentless abyss. Shame opens up a horizon wide, and swallows him alive, until all he can give anyone is his last, sinking breath. Remorseful, broken-hearted and ashamed, the rope takes its victory. And I can’t help but feel my jaw tighten as I realize how close I came to this.
Normally, I share theological and Scriptural reflections on this blog, but today I simply want to talk to anyone contemplating suicide, anyone who is where I was. I want to tell you to keep going, keep breathing. My hope in sharing this part of my life is that it helps you. No matter where you are, if this message has reached you, I’m grateful.
What I want you to know, friend, is though I don’t know you, I know what it’s like to wrestle against the night just to see another morning. And I know what it is to feel that you don’t deserve to witness that sunlight breaking through your window again. I know what it is to endlessly distract yourself today just so you don’t find yourself imagining again how you will do it. Maybe you’ve been groaning in your sleep too, tearing at your sheets in the night, trying just to crawl back to yourself. Maybe you too have bled your soul, tear-by-tear into your pillow. Friend, I know what it is to feel the air, everywhere, all day, everyday smothering you. Your chest is a locked cage that your heart doesn’t want the combination to. Listen to me: Stay alive today. And don’t let anyone shame you for it. You just do whatever it takes right now to breathe.
Do it right now. Breathe. Do you feel that? Your lungs opening to receive another moment, another second, and this one, and this next one. You’re here, friend. It hurts like hell – I know it does. But you’re still here. You’re still here, and that’s your victory today. You’ve anguished through the abandonment, the heartbreak, the humiliation. Now, hold on. Remember someone -anyone you love, anyone who is good, anyone who’s precious- and hold on. Do it for them.
And talk! Tell someone trustworthy what’s destroying you this way; it may be the only way to survive. You are in a battle for your life, and you’re worn out. Maybe you feel unwanted, used, manipulated, forgotten. Unloved. Unseen. Maybe someone didn’t keep you, betrayed you. Maybe you betrayed them, and thus, yourself. You didn’t even know how fragile you were underneath all your sheen, how ugly you felt behind the filters. What can anyone say when you feel like you’ve given everything, and ruined everything at the same time?
Judas and Jesus.
What if Jesus holds only mercy and deep love in his heart for Judas? What if even Judas is wildly wanted and held and remembered by the one whose life he discarded? How then, must we conclude, does God hold you and I? What if what we’ve made of our story isn’t what we think it is at all? What if this messy tale is being written for your good, regardless? What if in the end, it’s all healed and made well somehow? What if there’s… hope?
For now, the song love hums for me is, “Breathe, Samuel. Just breathe.” Can you hear your song? Listen. Breathe and listen. Meanwhile, my breath goes to vapor in this cold, spring air. It’s the only song I can sing right now: “I’m still here. I’m still here.”
I hope you’ll sing it with me.
Artwork: : Landscape by the Sea, Thomas Couture