I'm not a big fan of football, but I do tend to watch Football Focus on a Saturday while we have lunch. Maybe it's tradition, maybe it's because I like sport and it was always the introduction to Grandstand for many years.
I watched it last Saturday.
If you did, then you too will have listened to Gary Speed talk about football. Like me you would never have thought that the following day you would wake up to the news that he had apparently decided to end his life. I sat stunned. Was there anything he said, any body language that gave away any sign that this was about to happen? No. Not that I saw. One rarely does in these circumstances.
I'm not about to pontificate about suicide and faith. There's no need. We do not sit in judgement on anyone who chooses when and how to die. Life may be precious, but God is a God of grace and mercy. If anyone understands the depth of human emotions and how we respond to them, then surely our creator does.
No, for me it's the numbness one feels when hearing such news, even when you never knew the person. I've only been involved with the suicide of one person. After a long illness, they decided that they had finally reached the point where they could no longer face the daily struggle. But the numbness doesn't only arise from the sense of tragedy and loss, but also from the realisation that life is so very fragile.
We are a complex arrangement of emotions and feelings. We live in a fallen world that besets us with our own failures and insecurities. A world that constantly seems to push us to breaking point with deadlines and expectations. It is, to me, no wonder that for some the pressure becomes unbearable and that they choose to bring it to a premature end.
And what about faith? My faith doesn't protect me from such feelings, from the pressures. There are times when the hope it offers seems a very long way from the reality in which I find myself. Truth be told, sometimes my faith makes it even harder. Because of my faith I choose not to say what I really want to say or do what I think I really want to do. Because I choose to seek to be obedient to the call and example of Jesus there are times when the pressure makes me wonder if my heart isn't going to explode as I bear the weight of all that see and feel.
My life is fragile too.
The one thing I do know is this: my fragile life is in God's hands.
A friend and I were talking many years ago about Christians and suicide. For many Christians suicide is unforgivable, but in the end I'm not so sure. Perhaps we ought to think more about grace than judgement. Perhaps God's response to the person who chooses to end their life prematurely is simply to say, "You're early, but you're still welcome."