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When the worst choice seems like the best

Note – What you will read below may, in some instances, become slightly graphic and I will use personal examples. If these depictions bother you, or if you knew Ellen Louise Allen, you may want to refrain from reading further.

 

We still don’t know why.

We likely never will.

January 13, 2016 my sister, Ellen Louise Allen, took her own life. And like many of those affected by this kind of action, we are left wondering what we could have done to stop it. What we could have done to change the outcome. And just left wondering what part we may have played in it.

In the days since I have come to the conclusion that there is no yes or no answer. There is no long-form response or explanation that will ever make it truly clear or sufficient.

Ellen was a loving, helpful, joking person who seemed to be OK to many who met her. She always had a helping hand to lend, would fight for those suffering injustice and was well-equipped with a kind word or gesture for anyone she ever met or knew. Only close family members and friends knew that she was fighting a battle below her cheery exterior.

What may shock those that know my family is that as a child, she and my sisters watched my father’s physical and emotional abuse our oldest brother, Eddie. We’re not exactly sure why, but it seems that maybe my father just wasn’t ready to be a parent when he was born. I was some 18 years behind him life so I never witnessed it, but my sisters all agree that there were beatings and verbal lashings that went well beyond discipline and reason.

My burden came in just the last few years when I learned that my father used to treat me as the “golden child”, comparing Eddie’s failures to successes I had not even yet attempted as an infant. He was made to feel inferior by my “example”. An unfair comparison if ever there was one.

It’s no wonder that Eddie chose a life of heavy drinking and drug addiction. He eventually died as a result of those choices and the view he held of himself.

But more than the other girls, Ellen was always very emotional and deeply affected by Eddie’s abuse. Maybe because she was the second oldest and they had a deeper connection. Maybe it was that mothering instinct – that she displayed with everyone she came in contact with – that caused her to care so deeply for Eddie and try to protect him.

In the present day, Ellen still seemed happy even though she battled dark times that had crossed her life. She had lost the love of her life decades earlier in Ronnie Brown. A divorce and loss of other loves also followed in recent years, yet she always seemed like she was on top of it.

Ellen knew God, but I’m not sure she knew of all the resources God makes available to believers when they face times such as hers. I think she knew of God’s unfailing love and what he did for her with the sacrifice of his son, but how to truly access the healing power of God’s love was something she just didn’t have knowledge of. And that is where I think the problem began and eventually ended.

Her daughter Sara texted me the other night, ranting as to why her mother was dead and how “Satan had won.” She turned to me as one of her spiritual guides for a scriptural answer, and I’m not sure there is a good one.

What I do know is that Satan prowls about us like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But like a lion, he knows he has to spring his trap when the moment is perfect, or he’ll lose his prey.

Satan laid this trap some 60 years ago when my sisters watched my brother being abused. They saw it. They heard it. They lived it. It’s something that I’m sure still lives with my remaining two siblings to this day.

As for Ellen, I believe that she got distracted from who God was because she might have been getting close to figuring out just who and what Jesus could do for her. Whatever was good in her life, I think Satan whispered, “Well maybe, but it’s really not that great, is it? I mean, it’s a cruel world.” He may have even tossed in, “Look what your dad did to your brother, right?”

And I think Ellen would hear it and agree, just a little.

And each time the enemy repeated his lie, she reluctantly agreed a little more.

And finally, after years of hearing the lie, she lost all sight of the truth and the savior and could only see the darkness that she’d been deceived into thinking consumed her on all sides.

My sister, the mother of three wonderful children and the grandchildren they blessed her with, is gone. Try as we might, we cannot change that.

But in her loss we can learn that there are others like her all around. Men and women every day are struggling over personal loss, tough times and just making ends meet. They need to know that there’s a God who loves them and who has already sacrificed everything for them, if they would only choose to accept his free gift of salvation.

While the Allen and Brown families are left with numerous questions at the time of our loss, the real question is what are we going to do about it?

Who, standing right next to you, needs to know the love of God today?

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When we’re really all in the family

Lately I’ve been researching my family tree and it’s been quite interesting.

Malcolm MacDonald & Family circa 1913In the last two months since I really got into it, I was finally able to find the birthplace of my grandma MacDonald. Just getting there was a task, but thanks to the Internet and Facebook, I was able to find so much more.

I actually found pictures of her as a child, as well as her brothers, sisters and father – my great grandfather.

And once that door opened up, I was able to start seeing connections to people in the past that I’d never known. And interestingly enough, some I did know.

I found that I was related to the likes Robert The Bruce, Charles Martel and even Charlemagne.

Finding yourself attached to those folks is somewhat sobering. But this weekend it might have gotten even better.

I was searching for pictures of these new-found family members when I found a web site that linked members of this royal chain even farther back than I expected. I knew I didn’t have time to enter in all the data, so I just started clicking through the father’s names until I hit one I recognized.

Isaac (Ishaq) ben Abraham.

That seemed a little coincidental, so I glanced over at his wife’s name and found it to be Rebekah. One more look and I found that his father’s name was Abraham and his mother’s Hagar.

And it suddenly dawned on me that – according to this one web site – I had a direct lineage to the father of Israel. Not just any Abraham but the Abraham.

Of course you make enough clicks backward and you end up with a nice pair of newly weds (and newly createds, for that matter) named Adam and Eve who were having some housing issues.

It dawned on me at that point that what I had always thought to be true with the story of Noah, was true all the way around.

We’re all family.

Think of all of the evil in the world today. Greed. Theft. Envy. Lust. Murder. Wars. This list is practically endless.

And when we think we’ve just about reached the end, we always seem to come up with a new spin on an old sin or something completely out of the blue.

But what is we thought of each other as family.

As a child considering the saga of Noah, it occurred to me that everyone on the planet must be able to trace the ancestral roots back to one of Noah’s three sons and then to Noah. That no matter our skin color, race or sports team affiliation we are all related.

Think about that for a moment.

That guy who cut you off in traffic and gave you the bird.

That woman that called trying to collect a bill.

Congressmen.

All of them – and yes, even the Congressmen – are your brothers and sisters. They may be a few times removed, but we are all part of one family. The family of man.

And it was for that reason that God sent the Son of Man to atone for our sins. Because to make amends for the seemingly endless array of things we have done and will continue to each other, He had to send a member of the family to get it right.

Am I directly linked to Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. Well, if I believe the story of Noah then I must be somehow. But whether or not I am in their bloodline means little in that we are all one race, under God and we really ought to start acting like it.

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