Contrast of Ruins & Disappointments
“There are times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest” — Elie Wiesel
Last weekend just by a stroke of faith, I happen to be on third mainland bridge as a man who was trying to take his life because things were not working out. I am no hero or anything but I didn't know when I flung my phone and ran as I saw this man climb the rails of the bridge to jump into the river.
You never know that you are a negotiator until that becomes the only option. My first reaction was fear, should I ran away and avoid seeing this kind of thing happen, or do I try at least even if I don’t succeed I can say I try and he still took his life.
I went from screaming at the top of my voice while running toward him to get his attention and when I got to him, I froze and my reflex action was to start singing and praying out loud. And then he says to me “ I am a christian, I believe in God, I probably know the bible more than you do, I know what faith is, I understand hope, I don’t need to hear about any of that right now”.
Immediately my psychology degree instinct kicked in and I remember when trying to talk to a distressed person, the key to get their attention is get them to talk. Then I asked him to tell me his story.
He took a deep breathe and began like OK “I will tell you, but you have to promise that you will not judge me and feel that I am any less a christian”
At that point tears filled his eyes and then I remembered that a comforter or in this case a suicide negotiator cannot break down too, so I tried my best not to cry. This was so hard for me because, I cry about every damn thing, when I am upset I cry, when I am sad I cry, I can cry at the drop of a hat, so it took all the courage in the world for me not to cry as I watched this 43 year old wail in my presence.
As he cried, a thought came to my mind. I thought, I am certain this man has tried to talk about how he was feeling to many but they always quoted the scripture to him or prayed for him. It is very normal for that to be a default response when someone is hurting, but in most cases, hurting people just want someone to say “I understand how you are feeling, everything will be alright”.
The first rule of counselling is that feelings of hurt, sadness and disappointment should be validated and it should never be interrupt or invalidated by alternatives; allow them feel whatever they feel and create the environment that allows for such expression.
I still remember somethings from my cognitive psychology module :)
He spoke of his disappointments, how he finished University of Lagos with so much hope to conquer the world as a medical doctor, how he worked for a bit and went to do his master with so much hope that his life would be different only to be earning a salary that made no sense and even worse he wasn't paid regularly.
How he had considered moving to Saudi Arabia to practice medicine but was struggling with being able to live in Arabic country as a practicing Christian. How his rent is long overdue and he had no hope of renewing his rent and that his biggest fear as a man was that his three kids and wife whom he can barely feed were about to be homeless and there was nothing he could do.
Then he said something that struck me “I have been researching on suicide from a bible perspective and I heard a preacher on YouTube say it is not a sin ”. It gave me chills because in 2012 after my engagement didn't workout, I felt like my life was over and slowly became obsessed with suicide research.
My ex had an amazing family and they knew about my biological dysfunction as he had told them so they became my family and even though his mum said to me, your relationship has ended, we still love you and you are still welcome here anytime, you can still come to see “Mimi” (my ex’s niece) whom I had grown so closed to. I just couldn't bring myself to take the offer.
So I started feeling the exact same way about suicide, my google search history in those days was “is suicide a sin? will you go to heaven if you kill yourself” and it took great support system from wonderful friends and colleagues at the time for me to get pass that feeling.
He spoke of his disappointment with God and how he is beginning to question his faith in God. He said most of the things he knew about God in his reality just didn't make sense.
But isn't it funny how every good in our lives has a contrast, for me, what I am learning is that it is in these contrast lies the greatest lessons and the opportunity for God to intervene when all hope is lost and show-off his title as the creator of heavens and earth, the beginning, the end and everything in between.
I have gone through so many contrast in my life that I have began to master the act of dealing with it by doing nothing, by just allowing my heart to break in pieces when it does, by crying in the middle of the pain, frustration or unmet expectation and then when I am done I go back to waiting on God. I believe it is extremely important to not deny how you are feeling.
I now know for sure without any shadow of doubt that no matter what happens in this life, I will be OK.
These days I no longer spend my life trying to escape pain but I think most of us have mastered the act of looking so put together that we are afraid to tell God what he already knows “that we are disappointed” that we had hoped for far more at this stage in your life; that we would have gotten married with so much hope for the best only for the marriage to fall apart, that we thought we’d be happily married and have kids by now or done that Ph. D before 35 but things haven't turned out exactly as we had hoped.
Even more importantly, the church has mastered the act of preaching the prosperity and feel God message that Christians are almost surprised when trouble comes knocking. But God never promised us a troubled free life, in fact the bible says in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
If we will have trouble it means disappointment even with God is imminent, thus, should be a normal and a comfortable feeling that does not make us bad or weak Christians. God’s glory cannot be revealed if we are lying to ourselves when we are not OK.
I started keeping a gratitude and a disappointment journal in 2015, if I feel overwhelmed and don’t want to talk about it yet to someone I write it down, it has been my saving grace and one day I will give it to my kids. I have learnt that this balance is what brings us to that place of “none of these things move me”.
Going forward, I am carrying my experience on third mainland bridge on to always be on the lookout for opportunities to be God’s arms, legs and ears in this world. Even if all I can do is listen to you I will because people including strangers have been there for me in ways unimaginable.
Hugs and frozen kisses!