I went online this weekend to read the news of Matthew Warren's death. The youngest son of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, Matthew (27), took his own life after a prolonged struggle with depression. There's a fairly predictable level of verbal vitriol in the comments attached to the news articles. And I hate that the meanness is predictable and even mundane now.
It makes me crazy and I like to think that I don't get it.
I start to feel all righteous about how I would never savage anybody who's going through a crisis like that. I'm nice. I'm a helper. I make things better.
But as I read through some of the comments (it's like a train wreck, you just can't look away), I realized that there is a common thread that hits close to home for me.
Because I am just way too familiar with the formula of Job's comforters.
Job's friends came to him and said, "Dude, your life is a disaster. Clearly you've sinned, because bad things only happen to bad people. Look at us. We're fine, so obviously our formula works. Repent, according to our list of requirements, and everything will get fixed."
So the formula goes like this: "Obviously, the problem is ______ and what you should do is ______."
I know it so well.
As an eldest child, I've pretty much been a rescuer from birth. I learned early on that doing things perfectly was the only way to go. Then I had four children and it was my job to steer them right. And as a counselor, most of my clients expect me to identify what went wrong, and formulate a plan to turn the Titanic before it goes down.
Life (in the form of a massive nervous breakdown 10 years ago) has taught me that there is no formula.
Life has taught me that evil is loose in the world, and it preys on everyone.
Life has taught me that I am not God, and that when I make the attempt, things get ugly in a heartbeat.
And yet I persist.
I persist in trying to control my own life, and when I've done all the easy stuff over here, I'll go looking around for material elsewhere.
Blech. This is so not OK.
And in the midst of my ugliness, I'm comforted and encouraged by Anne Lamott's Facebook status this week:
"We are all so ruined, so loved, and in charge of so little. We can't save a single person we love. I hate this! I do not agree to this! Unfortunately, it is the truth. So what do we do, especially those of us with tiny, tiny control issues? Breathe; release; stick together; tell the truth; trust, surrender, cry a little and wait for Grace to help us get our senses of humor back. What do we do about teenagers, or those with Alzheimer's, or--yikes, worst of all--ourselves? Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe."
I don't want to go out into the world with a formula that I know is stupid and pointless and crazy-making.
I want to go out vulnerable, and ready to be heart-broken.
To weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn.
To share in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings.
To sit in the ash heap, forever if I have to, with Job, however he happens to show up today.
God help me.