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Matthew with Rick WarrenImage: Kay Warren

Matthew with Rick Warren

You have an anniversary coming up—April 5. Do you have something clear in mind that you're going to do?

I want to be with people that I love. I will go to the cemetery. The cemetery comforts me. For me, it helps me accept the reality, because a part of me waits for him to walk in the door. The cemetery actually is a reality check for me. I connect back with God into that place of hope. This isn't the end of his story. There is more to this story.

People were very moved by Rick's comments, "In God's garden of grace even a broken tree bears fruit." How does that influence your thinking ?

Two levels: First it relates to the kind of person that Matt was. He was this funny, quirky, hilariously silly guy. He made me laugh. He is always so exquisitely, sometimes painfully, sensitive to people and things around him.

We put on his headstone "Compassionate Warrior." He fought for others, even though he himself was very broken and knew his brokenness. As he traveled with me around the world, he was brokenhearted by what he saw. But he was so sensitive and broken, it turned in the other direction. It made him bitter. He was a broken tree, but he still produced beautiful fruit.

There are people who have told me that Matthew saved their lives after his death. They said, "I don't want to do that to my family." Others say, "I've taken suicide off the table because I don't want that to happen to my family." A young guy told me, "I heard of Matthew's story after he passed away. I've been suicidal for such a long time, but it drew me to your church. Here I've learned how much God loves me, and so Matthew saved my life." The tree continues to bear fruit.

How has Matt's life changed your view of the mental health system?

The mental health system is just broken in the United States. I can't say that strongly enough. Not that people aren't trying and not that there aren't some really wonderful, compassionate people in the field of mental health. But it is so complicated. And most of the attempts to help don't always help.

In the conference that we're doing is a little pebble in the giant lake of mental illness. But the church has a role to play. Christ followers have to be in those conversations, and we have not. And we must.

When you realize that a large portion of people go to either their priest or their pastor or their rabbi first before they even go to a healthcare professional, it makes equipping faith leaders more urgent than ever. Most are not well equipped. Pastors are dealing with people with mental health issues every day.

Are you thinking through the life and sacrifice of Christ in a different way?

That's a hard one. I've encountered each person of the Trinity in this last year in ways that I don't recall before. It's all about God. He is sovereign. He could have saved my son. He could have healed him. He could have prevented him from taking his life. At the end of the day, it is all at God's doorstep.

When Matthew couldn't face another day here and he ended his life, he fell into the arms of Jesus. The words of an old hymn "Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus, I come." I envision Matthew saying those words in the moment that his spirit left his body and Jesus picked him up. I can just envision Matthew saying, "Jesus, I come into Thy freedom, gladness and light. Jesus, I come." (Sleeper, 1887) My encounter with Jesus is that of the Savior who receives and embraces.

The Holy Spirit? I've encountered his comfort and the truth that he has sealed us. Matthew's faith in Jesus Christ is as a child he was sealed, and nothing could take him. Nothing could take that salvation from him.

I've encountered the Trinity—in ways that have kept me going.

Timothy C. Morgan is CT senior editor, global journalism. Follow him on Twitter@tmorgan815

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