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"Pastor, there is a
man that wants to see you, can you spare a minute." The truth was,
I couldn't spare any time, but knew I was trapped. "Sure, show him
to the conference room, I'll be there in a minute." On the way down
the hall I was preparing my best "We can give you food but can't give
you any money speech." To my surprise, I was met by a well-groomed
man holding his wife's hand.
"I think you knew my
father," he said, "his name was Bill Brooks." "Bill
Brooks, sure, I baptized him about a year ago, but haven't seen him in
a while, is he O.K.?" "No," his son said, "that's why
I'm here--he killed himself yesterday."
After I baptized Bill, he
came to the office a couple of times for counseling. He was experiencing
deep guilt over something that he couldn't seem to shake. I did the best
I could to encourage him but never really got through to him. He slipped
away from the church, and I never reached out to him like I knew I should.
"We're here to see if
you would be willing to hold a funeral service for him if the rest of the
family agrees to let you preach. You see, most of the family isn't Christian
and don't have much use for the church, but we are Christians and know
that Bill thought real highly of you."
I got a rather cool reception
when I paid a visit on the family the next day, but they did agree to have
a service at the church and let me preach. After the service I had a private
moment with the widow. "I'm so sorry about Bill's death, you know
he came to see me a couple of times." "Yes I knew he did."
"Somehow I feel responsible for what he did--like I failed him as
a Pastor. Maybe I should have referred him to a counselor when I couldn't
help him. I really feel bad for letting him drift away from the church.
I just don't understand why such a good, decent man would take his own
life." "We don't understand it either," she said as she
hugged me. "Thank you for standing beside our family." We both
wiped away our tears and walked away with many unanswered questions.
I didn't know why a good
man like Bill would swallow the barrel of his hunting rifle or why a good
God would allow it to happen. Suicide does that to people--it fills the
room with questions and sucks out all the answers. The pain a suicide victim
feels must be overwhelming. Unless we're careful, we can transfer their
pain through our guilt and regret. I guess that's why they call grace "amazing."
It is the only thing that can erase our guilt and give us hope.