Has Anyone seen Robin Williams?

by | Aug 14, 2014

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I thought I saw Robin Williams this morning. It seems to me the world is a little poorer this week since Robin Williams is gone, it is not just that he is no longer alive but the crushing tragedy of the way that he died. I, like millions of others never met him other than on the silver screen but all the same as I see him all over my Facebook find myself grieving his death. Robin personified one of my highest values, he made me Laugh. In a world that is complex, painful, wonderful, beautiful and terrifying all at the same time Robin had a gift that helped us all find the beauty, joy and treasure even in the midst of the pain and fear. He irreverently said the unthinkable but often also bravely said the unspoken. I will never forget movies such as “Dead Poets Society” which as a young man inspired me to “Seize the Day” nor “Patch Adams” a movie which helped shape in me the pursuit of Joy. I wish Robin were here to help us all mourn his death. What would he say to us? I believe he would make us laugh, say something outrageously irreverent about himself to remind us that in the midst of our sense of loss there is still joy hidden in pain and beauty hidden in the ashes. Robin where are you when we need you? So I am looking for Robin today in the midst of the crazy world we are living in.
There is another reason I am thinking of him today. I have a secret that I don’t often talk about that has caused me great shame and pain at times in my life that helps me identify with the funny man Robin Williams. I have wrestled depression and suicidal thoughts for large parts of my life. I was in my mid teens when I first made a serious plan to take my life and I believe to this day that if my older brother Bob had not providentially stepped in at the exact right moment my life would have ended at that time. The thing with depression and suicidal thoughts is that they are like a guilty secret addiction. You know you shouldn’t think like this, you know that you would horrify and terrify the people you love if they could see into your head so you keep them to yourself or minimize them. Additionally in a world which seems to value strength the last thing you want to do is give your critics fuel to throw on the fire that is already burning in your soul so you run away into your shame and fear that there is something deeply wrong with you. That is when you develop coping methods. Part of the way I coped in my life was to pursue laughter and joy. I have heard it said that laughter is like a pressure valve in our soul to allow anxiety, fear and pain that has built up to be released in a non destructive manner. I know that when I look back at my teens when I found myself trying to find my way into my life whilst coping with a broken home, an absent father, an alcoholic mother, brokenness at home, bullying and failure at boarding school I became “Nigel the Clown” I was the guy making everyone laugh. Humour was my refuge and my hiding place. You could be forgiven if you could have seen snippets of my life at that time for believing I was the happiest boy alive, but the truth was depression and suicidal thoughts were my constant companion. Until my early twenties I had a ritual. I found a reason not to die each day. Why I should not give in to the insistent beckoning of my false friend the spirit of suicide who promised an end to my fear, my pain, my failure and my shame . Then thankfully like old school mates me and Suicide drifted apart sometime in my twenties as my faith in Jesus Christ grew and I learned to listen to the loving voice of the Truth and he began to help me deal with the “stuff” in my life.
I wish I could say that I have never seen the face of Suicide again but the truth is he is like that embarrassing old friend that keeps in touch with a card at christmas or a note to say “I am thinking about you.” Over the years he has dropped in for tea a few times and there have been times when tea turned into staying the night, then that turned into an extended visit because I didn’t know how to get him to leave. On several occasions I have had to get people with authority to evict him.
In conclusion I can’t help but feeling that Robin’s tragic death speaks as profoundly as his wonderful gifts and his life. It has reminded me of some great truths.

Fame, Success and Money are not Enough
Failure is always painful but what many people do not realize is that success can be crushingly painful too. When we are working towards success, when we do not feel successful we may struggle with many things; low self worth, frustration, anxiety etc but in failure there is this comfort “I feel lousy, but at least I know why. ” So failure for many, and I speak as one who is adept at failure having failed over and over again in so many areas of my life, failure has its own comforts. For one thing it is familiar and for another it is possible to feel that my pain is temporary and when I succeed I will feel better. There is hope in failure. However sometimes success is not the cure it promised to be. It is a destination which soon reveals that even though I have fled from poverty, failure, pain or obscurity I could not out run myself. Now I still have all my same thoughts but I have something new. I have the opportunity, money and time to do some truly damaging things to myself and those around me. In this way success can be demoralizing because when it comes we find it did not solve all our problems, it did not silence the demons of our past nor our fears of the future. It did not finally define me and silence the critical voices around me and within me. So even as we bask in success we turn to find all our old enemies alive and well we and realize the hope we had was false hope. We hoped success would heal us and free us and it is often a huge blow when we realize it didn’t. So Robin’s death has reminded me not to wait to be happy and hopeful. The hope and the cure is not in that far flung land called success but it has to be embraced here and now today.
In Philipians we are told
Philippians 4:4-9 (New American Standard Bible – NASB)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Where did I see Robin Williams? In my shaving mirror this morning I caught a bit of Robin in me. In death he reminds me to embrace joy every day, to live with kindness, to give my cares to God and trust him with my heart and then to seek and focus on the good things in this life. To live with humble gratitude for each moment and to draw life each day from whatever is true, honourable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, praise worthy and in so doing walk with the God of Peace.
Robin thank you for your life, your love your lessons and most of all the laughter. I pray you found the peace of God, and that he found you.

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