“I Want to Kill Myself…”: A CrossTraining Chaplaincy Story

flip phoneIt was a late, mid-November evening when my cell phone flashed and vibrated with the text message – “I want to kill myself…” – was all I could read, that and the sender of the message.

It was from one of the players on the team where I had been serving as chaplain. I opened the messages and scrolled through – reading the desperate tone and cry of a young man. He had made a mistake. He had “sinned” as it might be termed in the church world, and now everything might be lost. He was lost and he was calling out for help.

Rev, I made a mistake…I got drunk, slept with a girl…I am supposed to get married next month…I feel like I want to kill myself…I don’t know what to do.

As I excused myself from the meeting I was in, I remember walking outside the hotel into the dark, muggy conditions of the night. As I rang his cell phone, I prayed, “Lord, let him pick up.”

Over the next hour, I would listen — as he recounted the story and as he shared the painful realization of what he had done and the potential cost and consequence of his decision. I did my job and assessed whether he was truly suicidal (he was not), but other than that, I felt a near helplessness…here was someone who needed a chaplain, a counselor, a confidant. Yet, I was miles away and the best I could offer was the cell phone.

I walked around the hotel while I listened. I finally sat on a parking block – listening, praying, listening more, and occasionally asking a question. We finally reached that point in the conversation where it was appropriate for me to speak, to lean into the situation.

Oh, to show grace and love, but still to be firm – like a father.

Many times in our role as chaplain, we become surrogate father. We are like that ancient father who stands out on the road and waits for a lost son to come back home. Eyes ever searching the horizon — looking to heal, looking to restore.

We ended the call that night with a promise to get together and to continue the journey together. And we did. And God did some things in that young man’s life. God brought about healing and restored his relationship with his fiancé. The themes of repentance and forgiveness dominated our following conversations.

I count it a privilege to serve the athletes, coaches, staff, alumni, fans and their families as chaplain – for the moments when they have no one else to turn to. For the times when they simply need that listening ear, the shoulder to cry on, a voice of wisdom, a representative of God and His grace.

Note: CrossTraining holds the utmost confidentiality with the people that we serve. We are committed to never share any details of any story that might reveal the identity of anyone served unless we have received the express consent of a person to share their story. Some details are obscured in order to preserve the integrity of those under our care.

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