At the beginning of this year, I read a book called "Letters from the Ledge" by Lynda Meyers. For me, it was a long time coming, because I'd read a rough draft of the first few chapters back in 2006 or 2007 and I was immediately hooked. But it was definitely worth the wait.
In short order, I came to know the characters as my friends, to experience their lives alongside them. The story is compelling because it doesn't gloss over pain, pretending that everything is ok when it's not, nor does it dive into darkness that is overwhelmingly depressing. The pain is present, but so is the hope and healing.
Here's a brief glimpse at the story:
High above Manhattan, Brendan walks the ledge.
Night after night he stands with his arms outstretched, ready to fly away.
Sarah can see him from her window.
Paige can see them both from her fire escape.
None of them know they’re being watched each night by the others.
But everyone has a story to tell.
Still reeling from the suicide of his best friend Tess, seventeen-year old Brendan struggles to overcome addiction and identity issues. Walking the ledge outside his Manhattan apartment has become its own sort of drug, as he stands night after night with his arms outstretched, ready to fly away. Sarah can see him from her window, and begins journaling about a boy on a ledge. Paige and Nate, a young couple in another building, can see both teens from their fire escape. None of them know the others are watching, but a strong desire for freedom resides in each of them, and as their lives begin to intertwine, that desire will be tested. Anyone can jump, but not everyone can fly...
Sharp, humorous, and deeply layered, this chronicle of a suicidal teen’s survival explores the reality of addiction and other tough issues, but does so easily, through the use of multiple perspectives, intelligent dialogue and authentic characters. Equal parts romance, contemporary drama, and coming of age, this highly engaging and intensely beautiful novel challenges our cultural perceptions in the battle for balance.
Here's a small taste of the prologue:
"When I was a kid I used to dream about being a pilot. I had a bunch of model airplanes and I would fly them off our balcony, then ride the elevator down and try to find them. Of course they were never there, so I figured once they left the balcony they must have become real airplanes–Pinocchio style. I know better now, but there’s a part of me that still wants to believe in miracles. When you make the leap, can you really become what everyone else says you can’t?" - Brendan
This book brought up, for me, the theme of hope. Sometimes it's easier to hope than others. Sometimes life becomes overwhelming and it's hard to see the possibility of hope. But one of the things I appreciated the most about "Letters from the Ledge" is that no character is beyond hope (even Brendan's dad, who is still a villain at the end of the book).
Every character in the story has painful experiences that have shaped them, and that they still have to deal with. None of them are "there;" none of them are fully healed and restored. But their journeys are so beautiful. It is such a privilege to get to be part of their stories for even a short time. It is remarkable how much they are able to help each other and bring healing to each other's wounds, simply by allowing their lives to intertwine, and to take the risk of caring for another. By shifting their focus from themselves and their own pain, they begin to help another, and experience unexpected healing in return.
I think Lynda has shown so beautifully how God works in us. He uses others to meet us in our pain so we realize we're not alone. Even though all our stories are different, and all our wounds are shaped differently, we all have the capacity to show empathy and care, and by exercising this gift, we are blessed in return.
Every once in a while, I am tempted to give up hope for someone. A circumstance seems so big and ugly and overwhelming, and it's hard to find that glimmer of hope. But I am reminded often that God is in the healing business, and we have every reason to hope.
Because Easter was this weekend, it's a bit fresher in my mind. Christ suffered. He died, so that we could live. So that we could have hope and healing. And by his death and resurrection, there is no more despair. And because he suffered, we can be comforted in knowing that God does understand pain, has experienced more excruciating pain than we could imagine, and we can rest in the hope and power of God who sustains us.
So, every time a situation seems so black and dark and hopeless that no resolution would ever be possible, as it seemed for Brendan and Paige at times, it is good to be reminded that this is not the end. God can make beauty out of ashes, and broken and despised things into the most glorious, beautiful hope of all.