We walk along the path,
Stopping and praying as we go
And lo, a building of rainbows stands
Made of tiles, the next more beautiful
And unique than the first
And as we walk along,
The beauty doesn’t last
For as we gaze along the tiles
A broken window meets our eyes
And greets us as though hell had come
This is the world we live in
Beautiful, but broken
Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.
Four years ago I took part in a church program that changed my life. In that week I shoveled rocks, played with kids, painted the inside of a trailer, made friends, learned more about a culture within a culture, had an ‘aha’ moment about my life compared to others, and found my calling as a writer. The above is an edited version of something I wrote after coming home from my youth group’s mission’s trip to Cass Lake, Minnesota. I mentioned in a previous blog post that this was the same trip where my emotional healing started to take place, and that this trip inspired me to use my writing to reach out to others. Sadly, I neglected to mention something that had happened earlier that day, the event that inspired me to write the poem and other things that I’ll get into later.
One afternoon, the leader of my small group decided to walk around the reservation and pray at various locations as we went. One of the places we stopped at was an abandoned building where the walls were made of pastel-colored tiles, and we all gushed at how beautiful it looked. When we walked a few more paces down the road, however, we saw that someone had thrown rocks through a few of the windows of that same building. We don’t know what happened to the building, what it used to be or why someone would want to destroy it, but our hearts still broke at the sight. I shared the experience with the rest of our troupe that evening before we started singing hymns, and a friend sitting next to me penned what would later be the title of this poem: beautiful, but broken.
Before I went on the trip, saw the Beautiful but Broken Wall and shared my experiences, there were only two questions holding me back from ending my life. As I look back on it years later, now there are four.
The first question: Would it hurt? There’s not really much to say about this question and I know that it’s petty, but I never wanted to die a slow, painful death and I still don’t. Looking back on it, I think that God used the small, nagging fear to keep me alive long enough to discover my purpose and that suicide wasn’t a good answer to dealing with trouble.
The second question: Would anyone really care? This haunted me for a long time. I can’t say how many times I’ve wanted to have an “It’s a wonderful life” moment and discover how different the people around me would be if I never existed. If someone said or did something nice to me, I couldn’t ever help but wonder what the motive was behind that action, or if they really meant it. If someone wanted to be my friend, I’d wonder why. It took a long time for me to realize that the answer to my question of self-value can’t be found in other people. No matter how much impact a person can have on someone else’s life, positive or negative, that person is still just as much of a human being as I am. A friend of mine wrote recently in her blog called “The Literal Loudmouth” (check it out when you have a moment; she has a lot of insightful things to say about writing) that “Human beings may share 99% of our DNA with everyone else, but we sure do not share the same memories.” If you’re having suicidal thoughts or you know and care about someone else who doesn’t want to live anymore, this is what I want you to take away from this blog entry: your worth is not found in the things you can do, the way you look, the way people view you, the friends that you have, the money you make, the experiences you have, or anything else about you. Your worth can only be found in God.
The third question: Have I accomplished the task that God has given me? When I tell people that I’m studying to become a writer, people usually say one of two things to me. The first: “Well, I’ll betcha that you’ll become a world famous bestselling author!” The second: “Well, good luck making a living!” To be honest, I don’t know which response irritates me the most. Writers don’t tell stories or share their thoughts in order to get famous or earn a lot of money. Any writer will tell you that, unless you’re as talented as JK Rowling or as lucky as Stephanie Meyer, you don’t usually get either of those things by pursuing this career. And anyone who thinks that I write in order to get famous or earn a lot of money clearly doesn’t understand anything about writing, much less me.
I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I write in order to speak. It’s a lot easier for me to express my thoughts and opinions through a pencil or computer than through my voice. But there are several other reasons for why I choose to write. I want to share stories with other people. I want to learn more about the deep philosophical aspects of the world we live in, and I want to share my thoughts and see which ones work and which ones don’t. I want to reach out, touch lives and be a positive impact on the people around me. But more importantly, I’m a writer because that’s who God made me to be.
I’m not the kind of person who believes in coincidences. That is, I might believe in one coincidence, but experiencing an entire line of coincidences spread out over time says that there’s something important that I’m missing, something that God is trying to point me to. The Beautiful but Broken Wall event combined with the night we made our confessions inspired me to write a book series for young adults. It’s been difficult, discouraging at times, and it’s had its ups and downs. But when I think about how much time and effort I’ve invested so far to this project, combined with the support that I’ve gotten from family and friends, it feels worthwhile. And I feel as though this is something that God wants me to do, because whenever I had discouraging moments or I got really far into the story, he sent me reminders of Jeremiah 29:11 through friends, sermons, and at one point even a complete stranger, motivating me and giving me the strength to go on. I wouldn’t feel happy about myself if the work I put into my series went to waste.
The fourth, final and more important question: What waits for me afterwards? There’s not much to say about it, but as a Christian I believe it’s probably the most important thing to ask when you’re making a big decision. You need to count the cost before you buy the product because some things come at too high a price. I’ve said before that, even if you’re a Christian, that doesn’t excuse you from any act of sin that you commit in the future. That being said, life is a precious gift that God chose to give us. If we were to end it now, it would be like throwing it back in his face and saying “Thanks, but I don’t like this gift. Give me something else.” The Israelites grumbled and complained time and time again after the exodus from Egypt, and that generation never even got to see the Promised Land. Who’s to say that we’re any better than they were?
If there’s anything that I take away from reflecting on my experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts, it’s this: Please remember that everything comes at a price. You’re much more valuable than you think, and life is a precious gift. To throw yourself away would be an incredible waste. If you haven’t already, I urge you to find a counselor or someone you trust to talk to and to keep you accountable. You’d be surprised by what the power of friendship or trust can do. You’re not responsible for everything that happens to you. But you are responsible for the way you react to the things that happen to you.
Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”