Hope, by definition, lies in the future. It is a future-oriented phenomenon. I don’t mean hope the way I hear it commonly used–the “I wish this would happen” kind of connotation. No, I mean the kind of hope that requires straining at the muscles of faith and surrender because we reach for it all day every day. The kind of hope that requires superorganic perseverance. That hope.

Some of us often feel as if that hope eludes us. Perhaps not constantly, it just isn’t present as much as we want it to be. It’s like the flitting bioluminescence of fireflies, twinkling on a moonless night. I have met so many people for whom it seems that just doesn’t happen–sturdy souls whose light of hope shines like an eternal beacon, often lighting the way for others by inspiration. Then there are those of us whose struggle in life is maintaining hope, but maybe we aren’t supposed to. Maybe, for those of us who are prone to losing sight of hope, our job is simply to surrender to One who is the author of hope. That fluttering emotional nature is our thorn and our battle.

Unlike hope, which looks to the future, the impulsive cannot see beyond the present. The pain or joy or excitement or despair of the moment overrides good logic and reason. Impulsivity is the bedfellow of a dangerous kind of amnesia. This amnesia buries the good and bad of the past, the lessons learned and the “stones from the Jordan” in a sticky, black mud.  I wonder if that is what it was like for him in those last days or moments. I wonder if hope was obscured in that black mud. If the pain of those moments right before he made the decision was so blinding that he forgot the evening surrounded by joy and fun with his family and couldn’t see ahead to the hope of a new day with new mercy and promise. Was there was no looking forward to another day surrounded by the laughter and love of family or friends?

Perhaps the exhaustion of one more moment and the pain and torment inside his mind was overwhelming. My guess is that it was. In any case his impulse, an impulse he acted on, was to make the pain stop in the only way he could see available to him at the time. His faith, built on so many battles won in the past, and the light of hope for the future was literally pulverized by a compulsive decision to strategically place a lead projectile into his own body. Pain, overwhelming pain perhaps stoked by some dangerously selective negative memories, was what I imagine he felt in those last moments. Then it was over. For him.

By his words I think his father believes Matthew is with Jesus, and I do too. Doubtless he will be judged by humanity, and likely most harshly by those of us who are specifically admonished not to as part of our Faith. Some will call him coward and some will call him evidence of no god. In the end it doesn’t really matter how we judge him because there is only One who has that right.

He was my brother. I never met him, but he was my brother in Christ and in this great struggle, our struggle, and I am sad to hear of his passing. I trust, though, that the Author of Hope will use even this to cultivate the promise of hope in the lives of others. Redemption is, after all, a reworking of the wasted, broken, used-up and awry into something new. Hope in this tragedy is waiting expectantly to see how the Great Redeemer will use even Matthew Warren’s pain to heal others.

I look forward…