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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Only You, In The Entire Universe

My brother shot himself when he was 15 years old.  I was 14.

If you've experienced such a tragedy or read much about it, you know there is a lot of guilt to pass around.  Lots of people, particularly those in the closest circle, wonder, "Should I have known?" "Were there signs and I missed them?"  They wonder, "Is it my fault?"

Probably the one who took it the hardest was my dad.  He was the Sheriff in our town.  A rule-follower from way back.  Follow the rules and you'll get ahead in life. Break the rules and suffer the consequences.  He was fair, but always thorough.  Few crimes went unpunished.  That's the job when you're the Sheriff and the Dad. 

If you remember, there are a lot of rules to be tested when you're 15 and Jody had been testing a lot of them.  How do I know?  Because, being the dutiful baby sister that I am, I told on him. A lot. For instance,  just the week before he killed himself, I came home and he'd been backing the pick up truck in and out of its parking space in our driveway.  I told on him.  He got in trouble.

My sister thinks she remembers him saying not long before, "I should just kill myself" and she never said anything or did anything about it. Though she admits she's not so sure and wonders if the guilt just put that memory there.  

That morning, Jody had a quiz in French class and he was caught cheating.  That sweet teacher did what she was supposed to do and told our folks.  We all knew he was going to get it.  I remember Mrs. M.'s eyes being red and puffy for weeks after.

That evening at Wednesday night church, he'd been behind the building experimenting with stuff he shouldn't have.  He was with someone else and I didn't find out until a couple of months ago who it was.  That guy has never mentioned a word of it and I can't help but wonder if he's felt guilty over the years.  

The premise of "The Shack" is about a father coming to terms with a tragedy that happened to his daughter.  Eventually the father breaks down admitting that he feels like it was his fault. Like he should've been able to save her, to protect her and feels the guilt so heavily.  He feels the turmoil of the final moments of his daughter's life wondering if SHE was saying, "Where is Daddy?" And, he even feels the shame when he's with the rest of his family just knowing that they feel the same way. That he should have protected her.

It seems so simple, but this line the Holy Spirit-figure speaks hit me like a ton of bricks: 

"Only you, in the entire universe, believe that somehow you are to blame."

I always dismissed the guilt that all those in my brother's close circle might have felt, thinking that was so silly to think they should've or could've done something differently, yet the guilt that I felt was so real and painful and smothering.

In reality:
Only my dad, in the entire universe, believed that somehow he was to blame.
Only my sister, in the entire universe, believed that somehow she was to blame.
Only the French teacher, in the entire universe, believed that somehow she was to blame.
And, only I, in the entire universe, believed that somehow I was to blame.

So, where does all that guilt come from?

"A thief is there only to steal and kill and destroy. I came so that they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of."  John 10:10

The enemy has stolen a lot from my family over the years, but I'm learning to recognize it for what it is.  I want that better life Jesus talked about, don't you? Are there any lies you've been believing? 



  1. I'm going to stop reading your blog if you keep making me cry. :(

  2. Oh, Kristin, thanks for sharing this. Beautifully written, as always, and such a good reminder!

  3. This post has impacted me on so many levels and generated so many emotions and questions regarding my own life. I've mulled it over for days. Couldn't bring myself to post a comment until now b/c every time I try, I break down in tears. I think there are so many "What If's" to dwell on in life. It has taken years to start to realize that the dwelling on yesterday takes away from the doing today. I want to be better at the doing.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and your perspective. You are so real and genuine and I love that so much about you.


  4. Just now reading this beautiful post and wondering if the days before writing this were hard or peace-filled. I love you so.