It’s about time. Unfortunately, it takes a horrible tragedy before we realize just how wrong we have been. We realized we are not as safe as we thought we were when the Twin Towers were taken down. We realize today that there are more slaves in the world now than at any other time in history. And now we’re faced with the suicide of Pastor Rick Warren’s son.
As soon as I heard the tragic news, I was so deeply saddened. At the same time I was hopeful. I have seen how God has worked in high profile tragedies to make himself known.
I have been praying for years that more Christians would realize just how messed up some of us are in our thinking about mental illness. My first glimmer of hope came when I read this article by Amy Simpson in Leadership Journal. Amy’s father was a pastor and her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I was deeply touched as I read her story. My mother has also struggled with mental illness her entire life. Just as Amy, our family was always trying to hide my mom’s illness from those in the church. We knew they would not understand. But maybe things are changing. That first glimmer of hope stirred in me when I read her words,
You can make your church a relevant, accepting place for those who struggle with mental health, or who have a loved one who is mentally ill, by talking about it.
Yesterday, my daughter shared one of our pastor’s wives Facebook post, What Christians Need to Know about Mental Health by Ann Voskamp. Ann’s mother was locked in a psychiatric ward when she was a young child. Her father warned her “that if she told, it’d slit us all.” I feel compelled to quote part of her post here, but I encourage you to read it in it’s entirety.
So much for believing the Truth will set you free. So much weight for a wide-eyed nine-year-old.
So I locked lips and heart hard so no one knew about the locked wards and the psychiatric doctors and why my mama was gone and it’s crazy how the stigma around mental health can drive you right insane.
There are some who take communion and anti-depressants and there are those who think both are a crutch.
Come in close — I’d rather walk tall with a crutch than crawl around insisting like a proud and bloody fool that I didn’t need one.
I once heard a pastor tell the whole congregation that he had lived next to the loonie bin and I looked at the floor when everyone laughed and they didn’t know how I loved my mama. I looked to the floor when they laughed, when I wanted them to stand up and reach through the pain of the flames and say:
Our Bible says Jesus said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick.“ Jesus came for the sick, not for the smug. Jesus came as doctor and He makes miracles happen through medicine and when the church isn’t for the suffering, then the Church isn’t for Christ.
I wanted them to say it all together, like one Body, for us to say it all together to each other because there’s not one of us who hasn’t lost something, who doesn’t fear something, who doesn’t ache with something. I wanted us to turn to the hurting, to each other, and promise it till we’re hoarse:
We won’t give you some cliche – but something to cling to — and that will mean our hands.
We won’t give you some platitudes — but someplace for your pain — and that will mean our time.
We won’t give you some excuses — but we’ll be some example — and that will mean bending down and washing your wounds. Wounds that we don’t understand, wounds that keep festering, that don’t heal, that down right stink — wounds that can never make us turn away.
Because we are the Body of the Wounded Healer and we are the people who believe the impossible — that wounds can be openings to the beauty in us.
We’re the people who say: there’s no shame saying that your heart and head are broken because there’s a Doctor in the house. It’s the wisest and the bravest who cry for help when lost.
There’s no stigma in saying you’re sick because there’s a wounded Healer who uses nails to buy freedom and crosses to resurrect hope and medicine to make miracles.
There’s no guilt in mental illness because depression is a kind of cancer that attacks the mind. You don’t shame cancer, you treat cancer. You don’t treat those with hurting insides as less than. You get them the most treatment.
I cried when I read this article. I cried for the church. I cried for my mom. I cried for me.
I cried for me because I have struggled with depression most of my life. Until recently, my struggle has been internal. I finally got tired of hiding. It was too exhausting.
I’m sure there were all kinds of things wrapped up in my hiding. Quite frankly, I’m tired of analyzing why I’m hiding, why I’m depressed, and why I hurt so deeply so often. There are probably at least a dozen contributing factors. I’m just tired of hiding. In fact, I think I’m more tired from hiding than I am from depression.
Maybe I’m hiding because I’m on the leadership team at our church. I’m smiling as I type these words. They all know and they still value and appreciate me. They have shown me more grace and care than I deserve. Just like Jesus. Just like my husband and family. I know that I am loved.
My prayer now is that God will use me in my struggle and my weakness to help others.
To lead more humbly.
To love more deeply.
To make a difference for Him.
Because when I am weak, He is strong.
He always has been and always will be.
No more hiding.
Jana and I had a wonderful time wandering in downtown Greenville today. It was one of the best days I have experienced in a long time. The weather was perfect and we made some fun memories. On the way home she asked me a question: “How do you hear from the Holy Spirit?” First of all, I thought it was an amazing question. Secondly, I could have felt inadequate to answer it, but decided to draw from my own experience—something that had happened to us that day.
We were walking past a restaurant and there was a young man playing an electric violin. We sat on a bench near him and watched while he interacted with two adorable children. Both of them were taking violin lessons and the musician patiently answered their questions. He kindly explained the difference between a “regular” violin and an electric violin.
Then he played.
There’s just something about music that reaches down to the depth of my soul. And this musician’s music particularly spoke to me. He was young (well, young to me) and had soft, kind eyes. You could tell he loved what he did and it was as if his violin was a part of him. His very being seeped through every note.
As we were listening I was struck with the goodness of God and His love for me. I know He put us there at that moment and I felt like the Spirit told me to give him the money in my wallet. I only had a $20 bill but I knew that money was not mine. I approached him after his set and shared that his music blessed me. I was so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience it. And he was truly thankful.
I could not share a standard theological answer to Jana’s question. I could only share my experience.
Somehow I knew.
It was the Holy Spirit.
The money wasn’t mine.
The money belonged to the musician.
And God is really the great musician.
And He loves me more than I can imagine.