Today in the Christian church we hear the familiar story of Nicodemus, the Jewish leader who slipped out to meet with Jesus late at night. It’s the story which contains the famous verse, “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son, so that all who believe in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Suicide loss is unlike other loss. Most of us, whether people of faith or not, have been at one time or another plagued by questions about the eternal destiny of our loved ones. Or, perhaps worse, we have heard words of condemnation aimed at those we have lost.
I thought that I would write a prayer out of an encounter imagined to be like the one between Nicodemus and Jesus. Perhaps you have your own idea of the same event, or of one that you yourself long to experience.
It is so dark.
Is there a God of darkness? Are you the God of darkness? Or is there no one?
The dark, wrapping itself around my coat, is somehow comforting. The endless daily reminders of loss are not visible. The people who chatter about so much that means so little are nowhere to be found
But in the dark I am so alone. Inside and out, darkness. My beloved died in the dark, and so then also died a part of everyone who were touched by that brief, shining life.
Where would I go, to find someone from whom to hear that we are gathered up in love? Would I slip out of the house sometime after midnight, try to make myself invisible under the street lights, pull on a hat as I trudged down an alley, lean against an abandoned car in a darkened parking lot?
Whom would I hope to meet? Would there be someone there, someone to say, “Tell me your story, and I will listen?” Would there be a person, crouched down on the blacktop behind the abandoned car, drawing with a stick in the loose gravel, and saying, “We are all on the same side, together, the living and the dead, because we all live, and the lost and the found, because we are all found.” Would there? Would there be such a person?
And what about that question of belief? What does that mean, for whom, and when? Would there be a person to uncurl himself from the position in which he crouches in the parking lot, to twirl a battered basketball on his fingertips, and to toss it into the crooked hoop with an easy arc? And that person, recovering the ball, would say, “It means there is a love so wide that it cannot exclude anyone, that it draws and welcomes all to itself, that none might perish. A love so deep that it embraces all, melts all resistance, and revives into glory every broken person, this side and that side of death.”
In this vast sleepless night, , is there a light that the darkness does not overcome?
Image: Henry Ossawa Tanner, Study for Nicodemus Visiting Jesus