My heart as a parent breaks for Rick and Kay Warren in the tragic loss of their son Matthew. While the pain of losing a child is almost incomprehensible to me, I can’t imagine having that loss splashed across the home page of every leading news website. And piled on top are the idiots who have never met Rick or Kay, but feel now is an appropriate time to spew their special brand of evil hatred. While I can’t alleviate their pain, protect them from the prying eyes of the insatiable media or throttle the fools who attack a family while they are down, I can at least share what I know of the character of this family.
During my time working for Rick at Saddleback I saw the heart of a gentle and loving father and grandfather. Between services almost every weekend most of Rick’s grandkids come busting into the greenroom with their parents in tow looking for Papa Rick. In doesn’t matter if George Bush, Tony Blair or CNN is there, Rick has time for a game of Tubby Tubby. (For the uninitiated, Tubby Tubby is when Rick lays on the floor and stacks the grandkids on his stomach. He then wraps his enormous arms around them and rolls from side to side calling out “Tubby Tubby” while the children collapse in squeals of laughter.) After a round of Tubby Tubby everyone grabs a juice box out of Papa’s refrigerator and Rick heads to the stage to preach another sermon to the Saddleback family.
Kay has amazing mother’s heart which has been broken again and again as she has seen her children struggle with enormous challenges. She walked with her son Josh and his wife as Jamie went through a terrifying battle with brain cancer. She comforts and supports her daughter Amy through years of struggle with a difficult to diagnose immune disease. In the midst of all of the challenges her children faced Kay waged her own war with breast cancer. And she did all of this with beauty and grace in the harsh spotlight of public scrutiny that she never asked for.
Woven through all of the challenges of leading a world famous church, answering the demands of thousands of church members and hundreds of thousands of admirers, fueling a worldwide movement to stamp out AIDS and to care for orphans, Rick and Kay have dealt as quietly as possible with the mental illness that finally led their youngest son Matthew to take his own life this past week. Very few people outside of family, close friends and Saddleback staff members realized the daily anguish Rick and Kay dealt with as they desperately tried to help Matthew. Many times Rick or Kay had to cancel public appearances at the last minute to try to help Matthew through another crisis. When I got the email on Saturday morning saying that Matthew had died I knew all that I needed to know. Matthew had ended his long and tortured battle the only way he saw possible. And a family who have known more pain than most could endure now have to face the worst and face it while the world looks on.
My prayer, and I hope your prayer, for Rick and Kay and Josh and Jamie and Tommy and Amy and all of the Warren family is that they will experience the peace that Paul speaks of in Philippians, a peace that passes all human understanding. Rick and Kay are wonderful parents and grandparents. They are remarkable leaders. They are kind and caring people. But today they are hurting and brokenhearted humans, just like you and me. Will you join me in praying for healing that can only come from God?