So early the other morning this kid walked out to the park near my office, climbed the tree by the cricket nets and hanged himself.
This sort of news cuts me to pieces, I'm devastated. I try to imagine what it would be like to get to the point where a painful, public death is the better option than living another day. It was on a Tuesday morning. Just a mid-week restless night followed by a dawn hanging. Such a tragic end to a beautiful existance. He didn't deserve to go down like that. No one deserves that kind of pain regardless of the catastrophic mistakes we make.
It's funny though, the pain we go through. People of previous generations must look down at us, what we've got, our relatively easy existance and wonder why on earth our suicide rate continues to rise. I mean, most of us have never lived through a time of war, famine, depression or disease. We can buy fast-food at any time of the night, mobile phones connect us with any friend in an instant, we live in one of the richest countries in the world and we are bearing children at about the same age as the life-expectancy in Africa. Our choices are limitless. It could be heaven.
But it's not.
People are constantly trying to distinguish our generation, but to be honest I don't think we'll know who we were until we are remembered by generations to follow. Generation Y they call us. Comes right after X. Raised by Baby Boomers. The children of the revolution. The Boomers are famous for their approach to peace, then sex, contraception, their greed in the 80s and a huge divorce rate. Oh they also invented rock music and currently control the world. But to me they're simply the oldies. They worked hard to change the world and did it. Everything that is popular now is because of them and everyone that knows a little bit about marketing knows that their generation are the richest consumers. Columnists love to talk up some sort of rift or tension between our generations as if we're about to duke it out for control of the planet, but I think it's exactly the same as any relationship that kids have with their parents, things will settle as we mature (they did for the Boomers and their Builder parents).
But one thing doesn't sit right with me. The Baby Boomers fought hard to change the world, they got it and we live in it. The problem though, seems to lie in that. We live this amazing, gluttenous life, a life filled with the fruit of the Boomers' labour but it just isn't filling the void. We're still lost. I can't get my head around the fact that a kid could commit suicide or self harm after the achievement of every comfort that we live in that has been so passionately pursued by previous generations. We've reached a pinnacle in humanity and it's not even coming close to hitting the mark. It makes me wonder. I wonder if the things they pursued all those years ago were ever going to make a difference to our prosperity and I wonder if they'd known back then that it wouldn't really make our lives any more comfortable whether there would have been any passion for change or a revolution at all. I wonder, did they pick the right fights? Has the comfort and prosperity that they achieved become null and void because we, the following generations, are still not happy. And finally, I wonder which revolutions will we pursue. What changes in the world will define our generation.
There's this guy in the bible who asks Jesus about gaining eternal life, the kind of life we were always meant to have. He was this rich official, it's in Luke 18:18 if you want to look it up. Jesus tells him that if he wants eternal life he has to sacrifice the things that hold him down. Jesus directs him to give his money to the poor and follow him. He doesn't do this though, neither of these things appeal to him, they clash with his lifestyle. Imagine the change, the discomfort, I don't blame the guy. Luke then goes on to say that: "He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go." I find it interesting that Luke points out that he is very rich and terribly sad... sound familiar? It sounds like me. It sounds like us. We live a very comfortable, cashed-up, secure existance, we pile up money like a Babylonian tower, shelter from pain. We control our lives and we, like the rich official (or rich young ruler in some translations) and are not prepared to change... it's picking us off, one by one, like the young guy in the park.
Somehow we have to find a way to escape our self-destruction and I'm glad Jesus takes a stand on it in this passage. He sets this standard, he says to give up the cashed up lifestyle, the self-controlled destruction and simply follow him. Now I'm not sure any of us, especially in the western world have ever mastered this, we're so envious of everyone around us and we're all (including church leaders) incredibly greedy and self-centred. We have no comprehsion that someone in a third world country might be able to feel prosperity. We think success starts in our wallets but it's really in our heads.
Perhaps we can learn from where the Baby Boomers missed the mark. Perhaps there's still hope for our salvation. Perhaps our generation will define itself by its self-sacrifice and pursuit of the true Jesus Christ. I can't imagine anything harder and it seems incredibly impossible but it's the only revolution worth fighting for. The only war I want to wage. It's a battle for our heads, our hearts and our lives and God is on our side.