“It seemed like a good idea at the time…”
How many of us have said that about a good decision that turned out not to be? If we are honest, that would be all of us.
Sometimes the decision seems trivial: saying yes to time with friends when you need to study, telling your boss you’re too sick to come to work so you can sleep in, using a big chunk of your monthly food budget to buy a new dress…
We can learn from poor decisions like those and hopefully we do. But what about those decisions not so easily reversed once we see the outcome is not what we expected?
Once you are: married, pregnant, deep in debt, unemployed, broke, broken, incarcerated, addicted or infected, the decision that got you that way reveals itself for what it was all along. But that knowledge is of little use when you find yourself trapped in the fear and pain of present circumstances, looking down the road at a future of unending suffering.
I’m willing to bet many of you have never heard the name Kevin Hines. Before I tell you his story, I have to tell you a little more about mine.
I have always been a strong person. Several years ago I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Much as I hated to admit it, this was not just a bad case of the blues that I could pull myself out of if I tried hard enough. I was becoming suicidal and that scared me.
I finally had to take a leave of absence from my job. For a brief time I was hospitalized. One day when I was able to leave the house, I went to the library to rent some movies. I have always loved documentaries. I found one called “The Bridge.”
“The Bridge” is about suicide.
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California is the number one destination in the world for people wanting to commit suicide. Since its opening in 1937, more than 1700 people have ended their lives by jumping. “The Bridge” captures 23 of those suicides as they happen.
It is the most horrific documentary I have ever seen. It is ranked as one of the most controversial of all time.
Later after viewing it, I was at least gratified to learn how the film crew kept their work and the location of their cameras secret, fearing more would leap to their deaths in order to be immortalized on film if they knew of the project. It was also comforting to know they did not watch with dispassionate eyes. They had cell phones at the ready as they sat behind their cameras, scanning the length of the bridge, trying desperately to interpret and report behavior of would-be jumpers before it was too late.
I was standing in front of the TV screen when the documentary began. When it ended, I was still standing there. I had become so lost in and horrified by what I saw and heard that I simply forgot to go sit down.
It takes 4 seconds to free fall 220 feet to the water below. The impact is the equivalent of hitting cement. One should not expect to survive an impact of that magnitude.
Kevin Hines jumped from the bridge at the age of twenty-one when he could no longer endure the torment of bipolar disorder. As soon his hands left the railing, he knew he didn’t want to die…
Four seconds is not a long time in which to have an epiphany.
To date, only 26 people have survived a suicide leap from The Golden Gate Bridge; Kevin Hines is one of them.
There is yet another decision that is nearly always irreversible and just as destructive as the decision to leap from The Golden Gate Bridge. I am referring to the decision some are making to join ISIS.
I suspect that no one changes their mind after joining ISIS and just walks away with a “thanks-but-no-thanks” and a handshake but I wouldn’t be surprised if more than one would like to.
If ISIS was honest in their propaganda, their website would say something like the following:
ATTENTION: YOUNG, FOOLISH, INSECURE AND IMPRESSIONABLE
“We need bodies. We need bodies we can train to kill for us. We need minds we can shape and brainwash. We want power and wealth. We want control. We are entitled to it and we are driven with a murderous rage to destroy anyone who gets in our way.
We do not care about you. We do not care how hard you work for us. In the end, you are just another body, another mind that we can use, that we can mold into a killing machine. We will feed you, we will teach you. We will teach you to use a weapon, to hate like we do, to rape women, to have no regard for life – even your own.
We do not serve Allah. We ourselves are gods. We serve no other master but ourselves. We are not Muslims. We pretend to be Muslims to deceive you. We laugh at how easy this is. We love turning the rest of the world against Muslims. It makes it so much easier for us for we thrive in an environment of fear and hate. It makes us seem like we are everywhere, like we could BE anywhere… We operate best when the world is in chaos and confusion.
If you want to throw your life away, if you want to be owned by us and used for our evil purposes, we ask you to leave behind your country, your family and all that you have known and loved and come join us.”
Many of you are familiar with the classic 1946 movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Marlo Thomas starred in a later adaptation entitled “It Happened One Christmas.”
Like the main character in the original movie, Mary Bailey is facing a seemingly insurmountable crisis. Leaping from a bridge in a suicide attempt seems like her only answer. When an angel materializes to stop her, she says she wishes she had never been born.
The angel sees a heavenly purpose in granting this emotion-based request and Mary is allowed to see how life would have played out for those she knows and loves if she, Mary, had never been born to be a part of it.
After this frightening and enlightening experience the angel says:
“Strange isn’t it… each life touches so many other lives and when they’re not around, it leaves an awful hole, doesn’t it? You see, Mary, you really did have a wonderful life. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you just threw it all away?”
Think about that if you are thinking about joining ISIS. And maybe, before going to sleep tonight, you might say this prayer, taken from the 1691 New England Primer. You will probably recognize the second verse. Many of us learned it as children.
Our days begin with trouble here
Our life is but a span
And cruel death is always near
So frail a thing is man
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
Whether your bed is in a house in the suburbs or in a crumbling apartment building near a battlefield, I pray that God will watch over you and guide your decisions, big and small. If ever we needed wisdom, it is now.