05 Jan what needs to be said
Is it super ridiculous of me to ask for a ‘barf bag’ when my friend offers her support for an upcoming speaking event? I know it is tacky. Crude, even. I know it is weak and self-absorbed. Believe me, I know. I think my biggest fear these days is the very real possibility that I will get in the way of someone hearing the right message, whatever that may be for them. It makes me sick to my stomach. For real. Sick-sick. The only comfort I have is the knowledge that God uses wreckage to make masterpieces. He gathers shards and makes mosaics. He uses flawed people to talk to other flawed people and manages to get His message across, despite all of our crazy flaws. Or because of…? I don’t get it, and I certainly haven’t even scratched the surface of getting Him, but I asked Him to use me. So here I am, sick to my stomach again and hoping I don’t mess up.
If I was someone else, looking at myself with kinder eyes, I would tell me to breathe. I would tell me to speak from my heart. I would tell me to tell my story, the brutal truth of it, the pretty parts and the ugly parts. If I were looking at me, I’d probably laugh at the wild, panicky look in my eyes. Yes, I am that friend. I’d laugh! I’d totally laugh at me if I weren’t me. But I am me, and I’m not laughing. I’m asking for kinder eyes, and for mercy, and for courage for this Sunday. I have a very small segment in the four Sunday services at my church during which I will have a chat with a Pastor I’ve known off and on over the years since I was a teenager. Who better to sit down with and unzip my protective outer coat of bravado and share my guts?
Today we met to work through some ideas on what needs to be said. We discussed what we think is best shared in that setting, considering time constraints and weighty subject matter. Can we do it justice in 8 minutes? No. We know that. But you know what I love about this particular church? They are willing to start the conversation. They are willing to unzip the protective outer coat and get real and get revealed. It’s a bunch of authentic, flawed people, just like me, trying to make sense out of the journey. I love that they asked me to be a part of this moment. That they would honor my journey and allow me to help with this series is so huge. Probably not to them, but to me it is a moment I never imagined. I wish I could call Mason right now and tell him! Even though it scares me… so many people, so much at stake… I will show up. I’ll share a little bit about my son and the day that ripped my life apart. I will talk about the aMasongrace project and the students who are changing the world with me just by showing up and showing love and braving the days together.
I say it all the time and I believe it with my whole heart: “We can do all things” (Phil 4:13). “We can do hard things” (GDM, Momastery). “We can drink the coffee, then do the things” (Funny Facebook meme someone should definitely take credit for creating). So, I can do this. I think classier people call it ‘butterflies in the stomach,’ or something equally delicate. Not me. I call it “I need a moment in my car to pull myself together because I am supremely unqualified for this and have NO IDEA what needs to be said!”
I know what I say when I talk to students and I know what I share when I meet with parents. God does the work, even in secular settings. However, I’ve only spoken to three church youth groups. In one, a beautiful, popular, perfectly normal football player stood up and told me, in front of the entire group, “I’ve tried to kill myself three times. I will never do it again because you just showed me what it would do to my mom.” Shock and awe filled the room. “Not him.” “Not that kid.” YES! THAT KID! In the other youth group, I felt like I didn’t connect with the students at all. There was minimal interaction and you seriously could have heard a pin drop. I thought they were bored. I fumbled with the scriptures the youth pastor asked me to insert. I just got that weird, unreadable vibe and was happy when it was over, totally blaming myself for failing them. Shows what I know. There was a line of at least 20 kids, some with their leaders, some with their friends, some alone, waiting to speak to me as soon as I set the microphone down. The youth pastor called me later and said, “Does that usually happen? Do you get that kind of response all the time?”
I am always blown away at how the message is received because it is different every time. It kind of reinforces the idea that we just need to be brave enough to start the conversation, doesn’t it? We need to put the topic on the table as a savory dish and let people take as much or as little as they want. What I’ve seen is when you least expect it, someone sits down at the table and takes a heaping helping and it’s the one person you would never have guessed would need it. The Masons. That Footballer. The 1-in-5. (You know the statistic, right? One in five teen suicides show no warning signs. This means no signs, no evidence, no clues.) I am thinking about the courage it takes to start this kind of conversation and the absolute bold love it takes to start this conversation in the church. I’m thinking of the lead pastor who will do some heavy lifting this Sunday, and I’m amazed at the heart he has for people. He is going to challenge some old beliefs and confront some antiquated attitudes. He is going to speak truth into the hearts of people he may never meet in person. He is going to change the trajectory of someone’s whole life. I don’t even know if he knows that… I’d be hyperventilating into a
barf paper bag if I were him. I am thankful for the pastors who get up on the big stage, week after week, and start these kinds of conversations.
As I sit here envisioning what Sunday will look like, I know one thing for sure: I don’t know what needs to be said. I probably won’t even remember it. It might even be different in each service. I really don’t know. But what I have seen time and time again is that God will use my messy story to encourage someone else. He will prepare hearts. He will open minds. He will pave the way for the message to be heard, in whatever form. God will use the story of the son I lost to save the son you have.
On June 8, 2013, I spoke at my son’s memorial service. I told people God would use this tragedy for good. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know when, and I certainly didn’t imagine being a part of it. But this Sunday, I will tell a piece of my story and God will use the broken shards to build a beautiful mosaic, right in front of my eyes. Not because of me, because let’s just be honest here. I’ll be sweating through my shirt, my lips will stick to my teeth, I’ll probably be nervously smiling like a maniac and at completely inappropriate times. And I’ll probably cry in front of thousands of strangers. (That’s always fun.) But listen, God will make all things work for good. That’s what He does. He is going to blow right past all of my weakness and insecurity. He knew this day was coming when I first held Mason in my arms, all 9 pounds and 14 ounces of him. He knew this moment was heading my way when I held Mason’s hand and kissed his face for the last time at the mortuary. God will calm the butterflies, He’ll hide my flaws, and He will give me the words. Not for me. Not just for me. He’s going to do it because He knows what needs to be said.
Will you come? Will you sit where I can see you so if I get nervous and my head starts getting in the way of my heart, I can look for you? Barf bag, optional.
It’s Just Me…
The blog, It’s Just Me, is written by Holly Chamberlain who makes her living as a sales manager but who makes her life by working with teenagers, teachers, and parents to redefine the criteria for self-harm and suicide. She is the Founder of the aMasongrace project and shares these core messages with students to help build resilience, offer hope, and improve self-esteem: Moments Pass, Please Stay, & You Matter. To subscribe to the blog, please visit the website and enter your email address, www.aMasongraceproject.com. Follow the aMasongrace project on Twitter and Instagram @aMgYouMatter. To invite the aMasongrace project to speak at a youth group or school, please contact Holly via aMasongraceproject@gmail.com.