Stuff I learned in Youth Ministry and other things my Youth Pastor taught me… pt. 4

“At the center of everything, there is stillness and that’s where the power is.” – Anonymous

April 1st, 2014, a dear friend, former classmate and would be 2014 graduate, took his life. Almost two weeks later, I’m still in shock.

Ethan Miller was your typical good ole’ country boy and was the sweetest gentleman that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was constantly picking people up when they were down and I never saw him without a smile on his face. He was also very open about his faith with God. He was never one to preach, but he always took every opportunity he had to spread the great Word. Which is why it’s hard to believe that he was dealing with problems of his own and thought that was the only way out. Nobody, not even his closest friends knew things were bothering him. But, he was first to help any one in despair.

I wasn’t going to post a blog on loss, or anything on social media about Ethan for a while. But, the day after his death, I was scrolling through posts about him on Twitter and came across a tweet that another dear friend of mine’s mom posted. It was a video that Ethan made of our freshman year.

With the class of 2014 being guinea pigs (as always), my school changed their scheduling my freshman year. They made the freshman have a separate schedule than the other upper classmen to help us “better” transition into high school (in my opinion, helped less than they thought). But it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. We all came from different middle schools and since we were on our “own”, we had to make the best of it, because all we had was each other.

Part of the video is when the freshmen had their “prayer circle” at lunch. I went to most of them and one day, I was called by God to lead one before summer break on forgiveness and loving those who have sinned against us. I had no idea Ethan had recorded some of it. Now, 3 years later, we still only have each other. I feel like it’s my duty to share the greatness of how great God is, just like the way Ethan did. The night I found out that he ended his life, I was heartbroken. I cried myself to sleep and woke up multiple times wanting to puke. But not just because of Ethan, but because of every one else that my school had lost in the past few years due to one tragedy or another. 

I began thinking about Ethan’s closest friends and family and tried to imagine how they felt knowing that their son felt like that was the best solution to his problems. I thought of my friend that died back in August that died of heart failure. I thought of the other few students that have died throughout my high school career that my older friends were close with. I found myself getting angry with God. Why would He allow tragedy to happen, especially to young adults who have their entire lives ahead of them?

Why?

All that week, I was on edge with people at school and home. I didn’t want to talk about how I was feeling. I couldn’t get on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram without constantly being reminded of these losses. I cried myself to sleep for a solid week. But, I didn’t want any one to know that I was upset. I wanted every one to know that I had it all together and that I could just “get over” what happened. I still haven’t. But then I began to think, “What if God allows these tragedies to help us learn that we need each other?”

Too often I see bullying and hatred from not only teens but people of all ages. We are all so busy trying to do life by ourselves that we forget that God put us on Earth to lift up and encourage each other. We’re supposed love our neighbor. Forgive our enemies. We were made as emotional beings and too often do we try to hide our emotions because we’re afraid of what people will think of us. 

I don’t like talking about my feelings to people for various reasons but a major reason is because I don’t want people to know I am broken. I don’t want people to know that I don’t have it all together. I’ve talked to several people in the last couple of weeks about grieving. And I realized that I am not the only one who is afraid of being vulnerable.

Something that I know to be true, no matter how hard I try to push back my feelings, is that grieving is a necessary process. The Bible talks a lot about the importance of grieving and that it’s okay to be sad. But, the Bible says that grieving is only temporary.

“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5

The Bible also talks about the importance of lifting each other up and to be there for each other.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”- Proverbs 11:14

We NEED each other.

The more we try to do life on our own, the more we try to hide our feelings, the more we distance from one another, the more suffering there will be and the longer we feel lonely.

My favorite poet, Levi Macallister, wrote a poem entitled, “Dear Pianist” a couple years back. The lyrics express the importance of opening our hearts to each other. He expresses the process of letting go, coping with emotions, and finding happiness in simple things.

“We fall apart and into our gods, but God meets us where we are! And oh, what a thought! To live a life that’s free! But we are such a self-destructive bunch, aren’t we?” – Levi Macallister

This line speaks so much to me. It explains how we all have our own “gods” that we cling to. But that God picks us up where we are. It shows how we all long to be free, but that we are self-destructive people. We are called to love. Yet, we are constantly tearing each other down. An important lesson my youth pastor taught me was the importance of Fellowship. Fellowship when we are happy and joyous and free. Fellowship when we are unhappy and sorrowful and lonely.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12

This piece of scripture depicts a mental image of what strength in numbers looks like. It says that we can not simply do life on our own because we will be overpowered. It says that when two come together, they can defend themselves. It says that when three come together, they are not easily broken. But what would it look like if four came together? If seven came together? If twenty-three came together? What would this world look like if every one came together?

We are sinful beings. We are imperfect. We will make mistakes. It’s in our nature.

However, our battle is not against flesh.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12

The battle has already been won when Jesus sacrificed His life for us on the cross so that we can receive redemption.

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” – Ephesians 6:4

We have defeated death through Christ. If we stick together and lift each other up to the Lord, pain will only be temporary. I know life can knock us down. But we don’t have to stay down. Satan is full of lies. I don’t always know why tragedies happen but I know one thing is for certain: YOU ARE LOVED. Suicide is never the answer. I promise, there is someone there for you. God is there for you, always. And with each day, I feel more and more called to have such a compassion for people. We all experience heartbreak and pain.

You do not have to go through it alone.

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