The Suicidal Man

I met a suicidal man, today.

It happened this morning as I walked between buildings at work.  He cried out to me from across the street where he sat in a parking lot, a bag containing his belongings at his feet.  Tattoos decorated both arms, and his blonde hair was cut short, revealing a face, red with tears.

“Call an ambulance,” he yelled.  He rocked back and forth, his knees drawn up, and openly cried.  “I’m going to kill myself.”

I asked a staff member to call 911, and then I approached the man, slowly, closing the distance between us in sections.  First I crossed to the median and paused.  Then I crossed over the grass embankment, and then the sidewalk.  Eventually I drew up next to the power station across from him.  At each stage, I talked to him calmly and quietly, asking him about his situation.

His story came in bits and pieces, jumbled like a jigsaw puzzle fresh out of the box.  I told him the system would be able to set him up with a drug and alcohol recovery program and asked him what he planned to do once he was clean.  He shook his head, uncertain.  He said he would find a job, but he didn’t know beyond that.

I began to segue in spiritual matters, asking him if he had been attending church.  He said he had gone to church once since he came back to Mississippi.  Just then, the first police car approached.  In the seconds I had remaining, I talked about looking to God for His strength, but then the situation was out of my hands.  I found myself wishing I had had more time, wondering if I should have handled it differently.  In the end, I knew his story, and the telling of it had kept him focused and occupied until help arrived.  Psychologically, it was the acceptable approach.  Spiritually, though, the man needs direction, and any opportunity I had to offer that direction was gone.

Sometimes, our opportunities to reach one another are brief.  What takes priority?  In some situations, that may be decided for us.  In the context of secular therapy, the desires of the client drive what subjects are broached.  Spirituality may never come into the equation.  If it does, then the definition of spirituality and religion is left up to the client.

In a sense, it is the same with biblical counseling.  The one who comes will receive biblical counseling with spirituality and religion defined by the word of God, but the client must first choose to come.  Since he could have gone elsewhere, the choice to pursue Christian counseling is, itself, self-defining spirituality–albeit in agreement with scripture.

In life, we can choose which of these we are going to be.  We can be like the secular therapist, where everyone can be comfortable and unchallenged.  Or, we can be the people that others sometimes avoid, but also who they seek out when they are ready to hear the biblical word on a matter.  If we choose this second path, others may skirt out company when they are having their “good times”, but when times are hard and they need a real answer, we will be the ones they seek out.

Don’t be afraid to broach spiritual matters.  Speak the truth in love while there is still time.

NOTE: This is a reprint.  I wanted to say so at the top of the article, but then that’s all people see at Facebook.  Lame excuse, but there it is.   Yesterday, I re-posted the article about my father’s death.  It basically closed my former blog as I lost all desire to continue.  That had me thinking, and today I decided to run the first article from the former blog.  The Suicidal Man was first posted on March 23, 2012.

Image Credit: Suicidal Ideation