Editor’s Corner: Awakening

Amy Forbus

It seemed that if something bad was going to happen in 2016, it was going to happen to my friend Allison. Broken relationships. Totaled car. Family problems. Financial problems. Health problems. If you can imagine it, she was dealing with it.

I knew it was bad, but I didn’t understand just how awful until one Sunday night when I received a text message from her saying she had tried to kill herself, but had changed her mind and sought help.

Just before her admission to the psych ward, I got some time on the phone with her—long enough to say a few I love yous and not much else.

On that day and every day since, I thank God she didn’t succeed in her attempt.

Having known a fair number of people who relied on harmful theology that considered suicide an unforgivable sin, I’ve been grateful for the United Methodist statement on suicide since the first time I heard it existed. Rooted in the declaration found in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God, it refuses to condemn or stigmatize those who complete suicide or who are affected by the suicide of a loved one. And by extension, it implies that neither should we shame or place a stigma on those who attempt suicide, but don’t complete it.

Since that terrifying day in December, I’ve learned so much from my friend: about the health care and mental health care systems; about managing chronic illness; about priorities and persistence; about the value of honesty with oneself and openness with those we love.

I’ve also witnessed new life springing forth, right in the middle of a literal and metaphorical winter.

Allison has decided to live—really live. It’s a choice she makes every day, sometimes every moment. She flat-out refuses to be miserable. She asks to be held accountable for her personal growth (and, as a pleasant side effect of that request, we talk a lot more often than we did before). She reflects through journaling and counseling. She takes better care of herself, physically and emotionally. She acknowledges imperfection; when she makes an occasional misstep, she owns up to it, surrounds herself with support and keeps moving forward.

There’s something miraculous about walking alongside someone in the midst of an awakening: rediscovering what might have been lost, renewing a sense of gratitude, remembering that rebirth can happen whenever and however it needs to happen. Gifts from God bloom all around us, if we awaken our souls to receive them.

To reach me, send an email to aforbus@arumc.org.