Last week many people were saddened to learn of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. I loved watching his show ‘Parts Unknown.’ He took the audience to exotic places, where he ate exotic foods. You felt like you were walking alongside of him on a foodie adventure, and then sitting right next to him along with the locals at a table. You could almost taste what was on his plate and you felt like you were part of the conversation that was taking place at that table. Two of my favorite episodes were not so exotic, but he even took the foods I am familiar with and made them seem that way. Those episodes were shot in Mississippi and in Charleston, South Carolina. Although Mr. Bourdain had a history of depression, his family and friends were still shocked about his suicide. His mother even telling the New York Times, “He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this. He had everything. Success beyond his wildest dreams. Money beyond his wildest dreams.” So apropos is the title of the show he hosted.
We all want to look like we have it together, especially in this day and time, but I think most of us have “parts unknown.” I am about as genuine as it comes, what you see is what you get, but there are still parts of myself that I keep hidden from the world. It’s usually the negative parts like sadness or despair, but I’m trying to get better at sharing those things with others so that they will see they are not alone, we all deal with those feelings at some point in our lives. I look back and there was a period of time in my twenties when I was in very deep despair. Within a year’s time Phillip had lost a coaching job when the Braves went a different route with coaches, we had a baby pass away and his surviving twin brother with kidney issues, Phillip lost his next coaching job because of the baseball owner’s lockout and so there went our plans to build a house. We were pretty much stuck living with family and trying to figure something out while taking care of a three year old and a sick baby. Life was piling on and I was wondering why God was allowing this mess. I’d been through tough situations before, but this seemed to be never ending. My “I’m strong” veneer was crumbling. The parts unknown even to myself, were starting to bubble up to the surface. I could feel the anger, despair, and sadness taking over. I didn’t want to say anything though. I didn’t want to place more of a burden on my husband, and I was part of the glue trying to hold this little family together. Then one day as we were going on year two of the piling on, I was driving down a curvy road and a thought came to my mind, a very scary thought, a parts unknown thought. The voice in my head said, “What if I just miss this curve and drive straight ahead?” Yep, it was just a flicker, but that flicker of a thought actually came to the mind of the, “I’ve got this life stuff figured out, just go with the flow,” young woman that I was. Then an even stronger voice from my heart took over and asked, “Montee, what are you doing? Don’t you know how much I love you? Don’t you know how much your precious family loves you and needs you? Don’t you understand I have a plan for you?” God was speaking to me loud and clear. At that moment He pulled me out, saved me from drowning in my despair. I realized then that God was still with me, He was in control, not me. There was something I was learning from these tough times and it was how to depend on Him and I’ve never again thought otherwise. Oh yes, I still have times of frustration, but no matter how tough things get now, no matter how much life piles on top of me, I know God is at work. He’s doing His finest work on me and He is gradually teaching me how to help others who are going through difficulties in their lives and when their parts unknown come rising to the surface.
After Mr. Bourdain’s suicide, I read that 123 suicides occur each day in the United States. It is the tenth leading cause of death in this country and rising. Yes, the rich and famous put the spotlight on this, but there are so many ordinary people who battle their parts unknown. They are searching for something to make it go away. We have 1-800 numbers, therapists, pills to pop to make the hopelessness within us disappear or to keep it under control. I thank God for giving me the Holy Spirit that rescued me from what was happening in my thoughts, but not everyone understands what God can do for us, and that’s why it is so important to share this wonderful thing He has given us. We have become a couple of generations that are wrapped up in self, trying to get the world to see someone who has it all and to be in awe of our “perfection.” Maybe suicide is increasing because people can’t live up to what they perceive as perfection, or maybe because we no longer really get to know people deeply. Our best buds these days are cellphones. My cellphone has “Life Companion” written across the screen. Wow, says a lot right there. Even toddlers sit with a cellphone in hand, almost hypnotized, scrolling and working it like an expert. What are we doing?! We are creating anti- personal relationships is what we are doing. Our heads are in our cellphones and our laptops instead of verbally communicating face-to-face. Our heads are in our cellphones and laptops instead of physically holding on to the people that need us and bowing our heads in prayer with someone who really needs to be led to a life in Christ Jesus. We aren’t going to save everyone, but we at least need to try by becoming more human towards each other and opening up about what we have experienced by sharing with others who need to hear it. We can’t do that by staring at an inanimate object in our hand.
In the past five years Phillip and I have known four people who have committed suicide. They all seemed to have it all, one a very wealthy and successful man. Three of them took their lives quickly. A very dear friend took his own life slowly through addiction. We tried to help him as much as we could, but failed. No matter what we did, that demon overtook him and he killed himself with alcohol. We all have parts unknown that we are afraid to share. We don’t like looking weak, or as a failure, or become a burden. We want everyone to think we are happy, that we have it all, just like Anthony Bourdain’s own mother thought. He probably didn’t want to burden his family and friends or be a disappointment to them. He may have thought he had it under control because everyone believed his life was perfect, but he was still searching, searching for something, anything, to quiet those parts unknown.
Don’t be afraid or timid about sharing yourself with others, including the bad things that you have gone through. God always places someone in the spot where you can help that person with kind and gentle words of understanding. You share yourself once, twice, and it gets easier. You may be able to help, you may not, but we all have to try. It’s our calling as Christians, and as God’s precious creation….Love one another, with a tender heart (Ephesians 4:32) because life is fragile.
Please watch this short video from our friend, Shawn Kaplan, as he shares his own personal story.….