We started a new series at church today called Fight of Your Life. Our pastor asked us to do something that gave me pause in the beginning, but I soon discovered the brilliance. Under our seats, there were notecards with ten questions. Each required a simple YES or NO answer. The answers were anonymous- no names on the cards. We were simply asked to be honest.
The ten questions were:
Have you ever struggled with fear, depression, or anxiety?
Have you ever lied about, gossiped, or made fun of another person?
Have you ever been addicted to something?
Have you ever been physically abused or physically abusive?
Have you ever been sexually abused or sexually abusive?
Have you ever thought about or attempted suicide?
Have you ever had a sexual relationship with someone you weren’t married to?
Have you ever struggled with attractions, thoughts, or behaviors that are outside of God’s will for your life?
Have you ever struggled to believe God likes you, loves you, or wants good for you?
Do you have secrets?
The questions were written on small notecards that would fit in the palm of a hand so that your answers wouldn’t be easily seen by folks sitting next to you. It was even okay to move to a different spot to complete your card. I sat between my mother and husband as I answered my questions, not even tempted to glance towards their cards. This was a solitary, introspective activity, not one that required interference from others. I knew that my teenage daughter was sitting across the room with the rest of the high school crew answering the same questions. Everyone folded their notecards in half and put them in buckets.
After a bit more of the morning message, the buckets were brought back into the venue. We were asked to select notecards from someone in the room. A random person. Someone who could be a stranger. A co-worker. A neighbor. A family member. We weren’t supposed to know, yet we were asked to represent that person.
The pastor asked that we stand for every ‘yes’ answer as he read the questions aloud. The anonymity of the answers freed us to stand in secret solidarity with the individuals that we now represented. That was the brilliance. We could see the struggles around the room as we stood or remained seated for each question. We could see that no one was alone.
Some of the questions weren’t surprising. I expected to see a large amount of people standing on the questions about depression and anxiety as well as the one about gossip. Ditto the one about secrets. I assumed that most of the adults in the room would stand for the one about sexual relationships without marriage. There was one question that was devastatingly eye-opening.
When our pastor read the question about suicidal thoughts or attempts, a shocking number of people stood up. Every single one of those standing represented someone in that room who had either thought about or attempted suicide. That room was full of people from all walks of life. That room was full of people who were young and old. Rich and poor. Healthy and frail. People like you. People like me. People who have- at some time in life- felt desperate enough to consider or attempt suicide. That physical illustration wasn’t lost on our teenager either. It was the topic of conversation on our ride home.
The whole activity reminded me of a favorite song by Tauren Wells called Hills and Valleys. You can listen to it here.
There’s a part of that song that says:
“On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there”
When I hear that last line, I hear power. The idea that I am seen. The idea that I am heard. Mountains or valleys- it doesn’t matter. I am not alone.
To the person that I represented with the anonymous answers, you are also not alone.