Thursday. 6:40 a.m. I just got out of the house headed for work. I survey the skies. Gray day. I don’t know why but more often than not I am easily affected by the weather. Today just might be gray inside my head too. I heaved out a sigh, tried to smile and welcome the change. It had been sunny the past days – summer skies in October. A little change can be nice, I tell myself.
It’s about a kilometer’s walk from our apartment to where I stop and wait for the first ride of three to where I work. Same path every day but each day can bring something new as I walk along. Today found me looking up, focusing on the skies like I was looking for something. I walked on until I reach just past the school outside the subdivision’s gate and there it was to my surprise, a patch of clear blue among the vast expanse of gray. Hope. Was the first word that came to mind. And it reminded me of just how hard a collision I had with it earlier this month.
Tuesday. October 2. At around 5 in the morning, I read a text from Ate Shelby. She told me to go straight to her that morning when I arrive because we had to work something out. She sent the message at around 1 in the morning and somehow that told me something was wrong. I expected to be in another place that day. Everybody was to join the Worldwide Day of Prayer. But then, something happened and I couldn’t guess what. I was worried. I kept thinking and thinking, recalling my work the past few days, trying to remember what could have gone wrong. I prayed, asking for grace – for more of it – to be able to face that day.
I finally arrived after what I thought was the longest trip I had going to work. I then went straight up to the 5th floor, unit 507. The door was open and in I went. Kuya Carlo was watching over Xielo and Ate was in the kitchen. She told me to sit down so we could talk. And then she told me what happened. Nuri was no more. She took her own life.
Shock, grief, tears, questions, helplessness, regret, guilt, fear? I couldn’t remember which came first. But I do remember arms that held, words that soothed, homes that gave refuge, ears that listened, silence that comforted. Grace.
The first two days after that, I was filled with guilt. I wished I could have spent more time with her. I wished I could have talked to her more often. I wished I could’ve listened to her more, maybe then I would have detected some indications of deep sadness? I wished I could have prayed more for her. I wished I could have told her more often I was just a text away. I just wished I could have done more. And then there were questions. Confusion. Doubts. Why? Why did this happen? Why didn’t she choose to reach out and ask for help? Did all hope escape her that time? What about the hope that she had in Christ, why didn’t she hold on to that? But as our leaders have said, it was not a time to ask theological questions but a time to grieve especially with those who are most affected. We couldn’t blame anyone, it was her choice. We may never know the answer to all our questions but we can hold on to God’s promises, to his sovereignty. Only He knows the answer to all of them. Only He was not caught surprised with what happened.
If I was in a different place from where I am right now, maybe I couldn’t have experienced this. But if this same tragedy happened and I was in a different place, maybe I wouldn’t have coped with what happened the way I was enabled to. You see, God has placed me in a loving community of believers, men and women of faith. It is a place where we call one another Kuya or Ate, regardless of age or role in the community (student, faculty or staff) and that to me is an indication of humility. The way how the leaders walked with everyone in this time of grief, fear and confusion really encouraged me. Everything that they said regarding what happened reflects the faith they have. Everything that they did showed forth love and understanding.
It would seem like a great contradiction but somehow this event in my life I believe is part of God’s answer to my prayer to know Him more. For the past few months I have been asking God to let me know Him more deeply. To experience His love in ways I have never experienced before. And if this did not happen, it wouldn’t have been etched deeply in my heart – these words that haven’t been as alive to me as they are now:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39
It has been my staunch belief before that no true Christian would ever take his own life. If one really knows about the truth of the hope that he has in Christ, he would hold on to it and thus would not be able to harm himself. But God, through everything that transpired since that day, let me understand that I had a very narrow view of His love. I’ve come to know that I cannot judge a person’s relationship with Christ based on any action or behavior or any outward manifestation of it. Only He knows the true condition of a person’s heart. And if one has truly put his faith in Christ as his Lord and Savior, then nothing will ever separate him from God. A person will not be judged on one thing that he has done wrong but on whom he has placed his trust. And if that be Christ, then not death nor its seeming finality, not life nor its seeming mundaneness in everyday things, not rulers nor powers, not one thing can ever separate God and someone who is a true beloved. Even putting all this down in words seem limiting to this very truth. Because it is unfathomable. All this putting it down to words is just a distilled essence of a larger, living truth that can only be experienced in Him. And all this just overwhelms and humbles and makes me feel very small. But loved. Deeply loved. Because He has chosen to reveal his love in such a way.
It’s a gray day today. But inside me are vast blue skies stretching to eternity.