Thursday, March 17, 2011

Unseen Footprints

Day 2: Has a painful experience ever had a positive impact on your life?

When I was fifteen, a close friend of mine committed suicide.  That was probably the most difficult time of my entire life.  It's hard to accept the fact that your friendship isn't enough to keep someone alive.

100_5313-1.JPGBefore Gatlin died, I had never really experienced death.  A couple of great grandmas had passed away and I was extra close to one of them, but they were old and their deaths didn't come as a shock like Gatlin's did.  I had never lost someone close to me... and I had certainly never known someone whose death was self-inflicted.  I think it's most difficult to come to terms with a suicide, more than with any other death, simply because you keep asking yourself, "Why?" and "Could I have prevented this?"

Guilt was a huge issue after Gatlin committed suicide.  I couldn't stop wondering -and I still sometimes wonder- whether or not I could have done anything to keep him alive.  I didn't understand why he would end his life over something so silly.  I didn't understand why he would willingly hurt every single person who knew him.

When we were both in middle school and struggling with depression, Gatlin and I made a promise to each other, "If you go, I go."  We basically agreed that if one of us committed suicide, the other one would too.  We were each other's accountability in a way.  Gatlin died years after we made this "deal."  Although I had already overcome my depression, I was suddenly faced with the issue of our promise.  I felt deep down like I was breaking my word, even though dying would have been much worse than not keeping a silly promise.  And why did Gatlin get an escape from life when I had to stay on earth, suffering without him?  It just didn't seem fair.

Another struggle I dealt with was with God.  The summer before Gatlin died, I had rededicated my life to Christ.  I gave every part of me to the Lord after realizing I could never handle it on my own.  However, after losing Gatlin, I was faced with the painful reality that even though I had found the Lord again and found joy, there was still suffering.  I didn't like that at all.  I was angry at God for a long time.  "After all I've given You, after all You've promised... You let this happen?  How could You?"  I began an ongoing struggle with God.  Why did He let me feel so much hurt?

The first time I opened my Bible after Gatlin's death, I stumbled across Psalm 77:19.  It was an obscure verse.  I'd never paid attention to its words before, but this time, they seemed to blaze through my mind.

Psalm 77:19
Your path led through the sea,
Your way through the mighty waters,
though Your footprints were not seen.

This verse made me realize that even though I couldn't see God anywhere in the chaos after Gatlin's death, He was still there.  My grief and guilt were like an ocean of churning waters.  I was nearly drowning.  However, God's footprints were silently gatlin guthrie 2 jpgmoving through my life, slowly healing my wounds and bringing my head above water.  I wasn't going to drown.  He was there, even though I couldn't see Him.

It's been a little over three years since Gatlin died.  These three years have brought a transformation in my life.  I've been forced to trust the Lord in difficult circumstances.  Without Him, I could not have made it through.  He has shown me that I can survive anything with His help.

While I still ache over Gatlin's death and wish he never would have made the decision to end his own life, God has turned his death into a source of healing and transformation.  So in a way, the painful experience of losing my friend to suicide has made a positive impact on my life.  I've learned how to be strong.  I've learned how to trust God, even when it hurts.  And I've learned that it's possible to heal.   

1 comment:

  1. I'll admit it- I actually teared up reading this. I love posts like this because I can really see your heart in them (that might only make sense to me, so sorry if it does).

    I'm not even sure I should even be commenting. Part of me thinks that something that moves me like this should be greeted with silence.