A few weeks ago I was with a young man who’d tried to take his own life. It was quite the scene; the guys who found him went into shock (assuming he was already dead) and considering how ‘Quentin Tarantino’ the scene was, I could understand that.
As I knelt with the guy, this amazing peace descended. It wasn’t like an adrenaline rush; I had no vivid sight or racing heart, it was more like being in a sunny meadow. Proper peace; all stillness and no agenda. The unmistakable presence of something infinite and good. Very weird. Literally as I knelt I realised I didn’t need to solve the situation or ‘correct’ the guy for what he’d done, but simply to be with him. The sense of the word ‘with’ was deafening, like every cell in my body knew its sole purpose was with-ness. It was really strange: a joy tsunami and quiet terror in comfortable partnership.
Anyway I knelt there in the blood and held his hand as he got colder and colder, and this peace remained, this sense of presence. He was still alive, and we gently chatted for 15 minutes or so, waiting for the Paramedics to arrive. Funnily enough he didn’t try to let go of my hand all that time. ‘With’ is good.
I think the path of death looks like isolation, like we should be able to solve everything and we’re not worth helping; it whispers for us to barricade ourselves in somewhere, not to trouble people with our wreckage, perhaps because they’re worth more than we are. Death accuses. I think the opposite is love; it seems like love says to us we are worth being with. We are worth helping, worth presence, worth time and new starts. Love says our extraordinary value doesn’t change, no matter what. Every day we’re all faced with the decision this guy was faced with; do we listen to death or do we listen to love? Do we take our relentless failures (or successes) as a sign that we are responsible for our own value and we need to somehow earn wholeness? Or do we look up and allow the mystery of love to bring us into real freedom? Allow others to help us, allow the deeper truth of our unchanging value to speak out? Can we be free even from our own judgement?
Maybe we’re too fat or too thin to accept this message of love. Too old, too poor, too rich, too boring, too unholy, unpopular, unlovable, or just too important and well respected to even need it. Too damaged by the past, too far gone, too alone, perfect, sexy, hateful, fragile. For me, the really challenging message of true love is that all these things are irrelevant. Too clever, too stupid, squeaky clean or literally covered in blood; these things are all irrelevant. They’re as irrelevant as our height above sea level or our proximity to Basingstoke. They have zero bearing on qualifying for Love.
As we approach Christmas, we approach the with-ness of God. We approach a deeper, relentless Love that says we are Worth. Being. With. However you look at it, it’s flipping Good News. The question is will we accept it?
Article by Sam Cavender
I recorded the video below a few days after the event in order to get some of my thoughts down (and out of my head); I really just wanted to record it to help me offload/debrief from some of the really extraordinary things that had happened. Anyway here it is:
PS. Trauma! Obviously the scenario was pretty traumatic. It’s something I’m having counselling for, in order to be free of any PTSD. That took a huge effort of will because it would be much easier to just ‘man up’ and pretend I don’t need help myself. Personally I think the culture of ‘manning up’ is pretty toxic, so I had to put my money where my mouth was and seek counselling! Nightmare. Not easy but thoroughly recommended even if your trauma has had 50 years to fester; I reckon time is irrelevant.
2 thoughts on “With”
This is such a powerful reflection thank you so much for sharing this Sam. May God’s peace be with you.
Thank you Sam for sharing such an extreme experience. An encouragement to us all not to pass by.
Do tell us how you and John go on. God is good.