Not long ago Chester Bennington committed suicide. The internet exploded with comments, prayers for his family, and even some judgements on his life. As I read through comment after comment one struck me more than any – some had branded him a coward. Yes, a coward. As that blanket statement infiltrated its way through my mind I had to ask myself, “Was Chester a coward? And if so, did that make my brother a coward, too?”
I wrestled greatly with this question. It was hard to even sleep some nights.
But, God gently reminded me of what I already knew. He even used my own words to do so. Below is a post I wrote not long after my brother took his own life. It also humbly reminded me to not place sweeping statements, or brand someone as this or that, without first truly knowing them. To define someone by an act of brokenness is a sad mistake. To define or label someone whom you’ve never walked life with is truly a horrible thing.
Ten Minutes In Life.
I was reminded today as I drove out to see my brother’s grave of things that I had forgotten. Maybe forgotten is the wrong word. I was confronted with tiny particles of life that I had pushed to the back of mind and disregard as valuable. My mind became a movie screen as I let the film play of all that I hold dear, of all the people who I love, of those moments that, at the time, seemed life-shattering to me. Soon though, the pictures focused revealed images I have gazed upon many times before, yet they seem entirely new to me; as if I’ve never been in that moment. Nothing had changed, yet, everything had changed.
Standing in front of his grave today I couldn’t fight the tears. I placed the orange, yellow, and white blossomed plant that I bought for him next to his headstone. I looked down at the ground that almost looks like cement and I let my mind wander. Naturally, my mind went to my mom. I thought of her sadness, her longing to be with her son again, of her need to feel like she made things better for him. We had a talk not that long ago, one that will stay with me forever. My mom’s voice was strained, and I could hear countless sleepless nights as she asked her weary question. We had been talking about being saved. We spoke of how Allen had come to know the Lord – which had just been a few months before he took his own life. My mom was worried, the echos of doubt concerning his salvation the elephant between us. Not because of a God that couldn’t save; but, because of her. My mom was consumed with guilt. She worried and fretted that she hadn’t gotten to Allen in time. A deep-rooted fear filled her, and I knew that she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. She was crushed by the thoughts that she could have, somehow, saved my brother.
I know my answer was lacking. It’s hard to explain to someone who needs that sense of control over a situation – that you have no control. There isn’t an “if I got to him in time.” I will forever remember the sound of her crying as I said to her that Allen had always been saved. He had always been a child of God, long before he realized it. My mom didn’t need to worry that my brother’s death had some how caught God off guard. Allen’s salvation did not rest upon her shoulders. After all, how many of our sins, yours and mine, were future sins when Jesus died on the cross? The answer is – all of them.
I know that people think that my brother’s life was tragic. He made some horrible choices in his brokenness. Satan took hold of his hand and he was hard pressed to let go. But, to me, that is what makes my brother’s life so beautiful; that God could see the person my brother was and draw him near anyways. The beautiful person inside that was full of laughter and love; the person he was without Satan’s grip. I find victory in my brother’s death. I haven’t always seen it, but I know through all of that darkness His light reached in a saved Allen. And that is beautiful; it’s beyond words. Allen’s past mistakes do not define him. His suicide was ten minutes of his life. That’s it. Ten minutes out of twenty-nine years of living. If you add up the sum of all of our mistakes, it doesn’t weigh more than the blood that Christ spilled for us.
I think the thing that I hope for the most is this: That he isn’t defined by this one tragic moment in his life. I hope that when the sum of all of Allen’s minutes are gathered that those ten aren’t at the top, instead I hope that the sum will messured as him being a child of God. I hope that others will see his life as beautiful, the way that God saw it. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the glory of God being able to reach where no one else could – because we are not meant to carry that weight. I hope that Allen’s last ten minutes in life don’t become the remaining amount of who he is in the sight of God.