Suicide Watches

“I will speak of God’s love forever.” – Psalm 89:1

Have you ever been on a suicide watch? Most people have—either in the short term, where you don’t dare let your friend alone, or in the longer term, where you watch a person slowly die and try to help helplessly. I often show up places as a pastor and say, “Do you mind if I stand around helplessly with you for a while?”  I intend while there to speak of God’s forever kind of love, without necessarily using words.

People in jail are often on watches like these. They help by watching. People in hospitals are often on watches too. The patient may not be actively resisting medical care but you can tell they want to. They don’t want to go on. They have seen enough, heard enough, smelled enough, thought enough, been hurt enough. Their answer to tomorrow is “No, thank you.”

Most of us look at tomorrow and yell “Yes, please.” Jesus often said let those who have eyes see and those who have ears hear. “See something, say something.”  Help by watching. Or “Open up your lips and let your mouth show forth some praise.” The psalmist adds the tongue’s common sense, “I will speak of God’s love forever.” Help by witnessing.

Advent watching often tells us that we “don’t really know the hour or the day.” Advent is an alarm clock that says wake up and look around—and we may sleep through it and its multiple snooze buttons. Watching for the time of God takes common sense and a bit more. It takes helpless, hopeful love.


May we be common-sensical enough to hear, see, speak, and love, forever.

ddauthordonnaschaper.jpgAbout the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.