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The Basin and Towel

with Indispensable Churches and Tending the Light

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vulnerability

September is Suicide Prevention Month

If you are contemplating suicide, please talk to someone now!
OR Please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 (TALK)

In June my wife Beverly and I had the opportunity to attend a one-day workshop in Fort Wayne on the ministry of the church around the issue of suicide.  We heard difficult conversations about how we think and talk about suicide in the church, how we minister to families and individuals who have confronted suicide, and what we might do to provide emotionally healthy church communities where all people might feel safe.  In fact, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recently suggested that comprehensive suicide prevention efforts in states and communities should focus on several areas that churches might be particularly good at:

  • identifying and supporting people at risk of suicide
  • teaching coping and problem-solving skills to help people manage challenges with their relationships, jobs, health, or other concerns
  • promoting safe and supportive environments
  • offering activities that bring people together so they feel connected and not alone
  • connecting people at risk to effective and coordinated mental and physical healthcare
  • expanding options for temporary help for those struggling to make ends meet, and
  • preventing future risk of suicide among those who have lost a friend or loved one to suicide.
The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Faith.Hope.Life campaign engages faith leaders and faith communities to promote the characteristics common to faith traditions that also help prevent suicide.  Visit their website at the link above for more information.  While you’re there, check out the National Alliance’s website for the Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, and Life(September 7-9) for more resources about suicide prevention.
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I John 1:8-10

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (NIV)

Our fellowship together as Christians requires openness and vulnerability.  Openness is me revealing to you my heart, my dreams, my disappointments, my sadness and my joys.  It is me showing you my inward life, so that perhaps you can understand me better.  Vulnerability is me opening my arms to you, inviting you to come in to my embrace.  There’s always a risk in that, as the Prodigal Father knew (Luke 15) – my open arms and my invitation are not a grabbing at you and a forcing of you into my clutches, but an invitation that you are free to decline, even to reject.  Still, the more open and vulnerable I am with you, and the more open and vulnerable you are with me, the stronger our fellowship may become.

But there are times when I am fooling myself when I think I am being open and vulnerable to you.  Sometimes I hear words coming out of my mouth like “I’m only human” or “well, that’s who I am.”  Most of the time I hear them not with tones of sadness, tears and Godly contrition but with tones more like defiance, even pride.  Since I use them when I’m being defensive, I know they are bricks in the wall I build between us, not true efforts at fellowship.  And yet I fool myself into thinking that I’m being humble or honest or open with you, when I’m really daring you to storm the wall from your side.

When I do that with God, He is ready to open His inviting, grace-filled arms to pour out His patient and faithful love  over my rebellion and invite me back into His embrace, to be warmed and welcomed at His heart.  But there are a number of reasons why I still stand off to the side and tell Him I’m fine without that embrace – pride, self-protection, stubbornness and more.  Nevertheless He patiently waits for me to come to my senses and take Him up at His invitation, knowing that I will not regret it in the end.

And if I am open and vulnerable with you, and you with me, will we regret it in the end?  If we show our hearts to each other, and open our arms to embrace each other, will we regret the fellowship that may result?  Or will we fall into that fellowship the way the Prodigal Son fell into the Prodigal Father’s arms, clinging to that love and welcome for all he was worth?  I think the latter.  And this kind of fellowship that we have with one another, modeled as it is after the fellowship we have with our Prodigal Father, will strengthen us both as we face the trials and troubles of the world.

Will you take my hand?

God bless us everyone!

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