Christina Stafford was in pain and wanted to die. After a failed, but serious suicide attempt, she didn’t know where to turn. She told God that if He was going to keep her alive, then He needed to send her a friend. From there, she headed downtown to Streetlight, a Youth for Christ drop-in centre in Calgary (Canada) and asked to talk to someone. She acknowledges that taking a step like this wasn’t normal for her, but more of a last resort. Christina says, “I knew that if something didn’t happen before I made it back home that night, I was going to try again to take my life.”She just needed a reason to live. Then she met Maria, a YFC staff member.
Christina tells her story this way:
We talked a bit that night. I tried to explain how I was feeling without sounding completely insane, being heard and not judged. I don’t know how she convinced me to stay alive that night, but she did. We talked a lot about God and Maria believed that I was still alive for a reason. Not only had I tried to kill myself, but I come from a background of severe abuse, neglect and abandonment. This had led to the heavy use of drugs and alcohol, which made everything in life seem even more hopeless and out of my control. But because God had answered my prayer and sent me a friend, I had to believe that there was more to life!
I thought it would be a lot “bigger and better” when I accepted Christ into my heart I was waiting for that big moment of revelation to hit me like a wave and to have powerful emotions knock me off my feet. I was waiting to just know that God was real and that everything would be okay and that my life would now get easy. (I think I’ve seen too many movies). It wasn’t all made clear in one moment. It’s been a process – a series of moments. Through it all I have had my friend, Maria, to turn too.
So many nights I would call Maria after nightmares, crying, begging her to make my pain stop. Screaming about how I wanted to die. I was a self-mutilator, also known as a cutter. Sometimes, when the pain got to be too much, I would cut myself. I would use anything that I could get my hands on, including forks and plastic pens lids. I thought I was smart about it. At Streetlight I would ask to use a pen, and then keep the lid, return the pen and go outside somewhere and cut. Maria wasn’t that easy to fool. One day when I asked for a pen she asked me why. I told her I needed it to write something down. She then handed me a crayon. I was shocked!
Since I really didn’t have to write anything down, this was of no use to me. I think Maria saw the look of confusion in my face because she then asked, with a smirk, if I wanted a different color. She had bought the box of crayons for me so I could still write and at the same time, I’d be safe. It was about a year before she would let me have anything except crayons! At the time I was frustrated. (Especially when I actually had to write something). But now I look back and smile.
One of the nights that stands out the most is one when I was staying at a shelter. Maria couldn’t come see me because I was in lock-down. I was having a bad night and wanted to sneak into the bathroom to cut myself. Over the phone Maria told me that I would feel better if I sang “I’m a Little Teapot.” I was sitting in the middle of the smoke-pit at a shelter with a bunch of people sitting around me. I was NOT about to make a fool of myself. As it turns out, Maria can be very persuasive. I started to sing when she asked if I was doing the actions. Of course I wasn’t! I was not even really singing; more like whispering really. But she insisted, and although she couldn’t see me, I felt like I should give it a try. So I did. And I laughed so hard I forgot why I was so upset to begin with.
Through all this, Maria believed in me. My life was heading down the path of destruction. I was a high school dropout, I wasn’t working, my living situation was rocky at best, I spent most days thinking about death and I didn’t know God. Now, not one of those things can be attached to my name. It reminds me of how much we really need each other in this world. How each of us can make a difference.
Knowing Maria has been a journey of learning to trust, a new path for me. When I messed up, she didn’t hate me or leave me or judge me. Instead, she talked me through things. She invited me into her life as we spoke. She showed me what I didn’t know; a whole other side to life – another option not talked about amongst street kids and gang members. Our friendship has grown and changed over the years. But one thing remains the same. I am alive. I am here for a reason like she said.
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