By Ryan Dunn
The deaths of Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Robin Williams and others upset many of us, partially because their departures leave us wondering what went wrong in the lives of these people. They were well-loved by so many, yet felt there was no other way of dealing with their struggles. Why did they feel so hopeless? If they could not find ways to alleviate their pain, what hope do others have?
Since 1999, the suicide rate in the United States has risen by 25%. Suggesting an increasing number of people are losing hope.
In writing this post, I seek to offer some points of hope. Below, I offer an argument to stay. And it is written out of love for my friends who are considering giving up, too.
The argument starts with the beginning of humanity. Genesis 1:27 — the very beginning of the Bible — makes a big deal of humans being "created in [God's] own image." I don't bring up this passage to make a scientific argument about the creation of the universe or humanity. Instead, this story makes a theological point, relating a special link between people and God. To be created in God's image means we bear a likeness to God. We carry God into the world. Each of us. ALL of us.
Being God-carriers is a tremendous responsibility. The idea carries an implication that the universe experiences God because of us. We make God seen and heard. On the flip side, the universe does not experience God without our involvement. If we are removed from the world, so is the image of God.
The world desperately needs the image of God, and so needs our representation.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE THE IMAGE OF GOD?
Several years ago, my son asked a seriously deep theological question. He was young. As he asked the question he still sat in a child safety seat strapped into the backseat of my Volkswagen. He asked, "Dad, are there, like, a thousand gods?"
I replied, "No buddy. Just one God."
He offered a thoughtful counter-question, "Then how can God live inside everyone at once?"
I struggled with how to respond to that. How do I explain the complexity of God to a child who does not yet grasp metaphor or mystery?
"Well, a little piece of God lives in all of us."
"Cool!" he responded. "I call the head!"
In his concrete mind, that made sense. He was not totally off. We do not carry the physical pieces of God within us. But we do carry parts of God's nature within us. Practically, each of us is capable of representing aspects of God.
- We carry God's mercy
- We carry God's unconditional love
- We carry God's good expectations for the world
- We carry God's will for justice
So when we exit, there is a bit less mercy in the world and the world has become even more merciless. When we leave there is less unconditional love and more people waiting to experience love. When we leave there are fewer hopes and good expectations. Without us, there is a quieter voice crying justice for the voiceless.
The world needs your mercy, love, hope, and voice. We are not better off without you.
You have a tremendous story yet to be told. Yes, you. The world has been merciless. But you are the image of mercy — and mercy will be in the world because of you. The world has taken your hope. But God is in the business of renewing hope — and that means you are in the business of creating hope, too. You have not been treated fairly. Your ability to persevere inspires others who hope for fair treatment, too.
Your past story carries quite a bit of pain. You may be living in pain now. You may need to experience mercy, unconditional love, good expectations, and justice. You will. And as you do, you're going to allow someone else to experience it — for you are the image bearer.
Will you give us a chance to bear the image of God to you? If you are hurting, would you consider taking the bold step towards love and hope and reaching out?
If you or someone you know needs help, see these suicide prevention resources. Rethink Church is availabe through social media platforms and through email. And communities of care are available through our Find-a-Church feature.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Ryan Dunn is the author. Ryan is the Minister of Online Engagement for Rethink Church. He is a wandering Chicagoan currently living in Nashville, TN, alongside his wife, mother-in-law, and inquisitive son.