For those interested in the interview with Janet Parshall, further discussing suicide and the response of the church, you can listen here.
I pray this conversation will continue the openness that has begun.
For those interested in the interview with Janet Parshall, further discussing suicide and the response of the church, you can listen here.
I pray this conversation will continue the openness that has begun.
“I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation.” – Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
At the height of World War II, one of the world’s foremost leaders and the champion of Britain’s campaign against the Nazis struggled with a black dog whose appearance could never be predicted, and whose mastery was never guaranteed. When the “black dog” of his depression appeared, there was little but a gleam of discernible hope preventing Winston Churchill from acting on those drops of desperation. Charismatic, popular, and brilliant with a seeming inability to comprehend impossibility of circumstance, Churchill was later speculated to have been living with bipolar disorder.
He shared the plight of mental illness in common with some of the world’s most luminous minds, including Van Gogh, Beethoven, Handel, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Sylvia Plath, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Frida Khalo, and Edgar Allen Poe.
I won’t bother to bore you with a more contemporary list of celebrities suffering from mental illness, or more specifically, from bipolar disorder (and there are many). I will only reference a young man with bipolar disorder – Matthew Warren – who rose to ultimate celebrity through his untimely death. At the risk of over-elucidating the need for public awareness and acceptance of those suffering from mental illness, I cite Matt because it seems that within the Church, there are blocks of brethren that persist in wrongheaded notions about mental illness and, beyond that, how to treat their brothers and sisters when tragedy strikes. To quote Frank Viola (Christian Post guest contributor) in his blog likewise referencing the Matt Warren tragedy, Christians tend to fall in one of three camps where mental illness is concerned:
“1. Mental illness is demonic in origin. So the antidote is to cast out the demons that are causing it.
2. Mental illness is psychobabble. There’s no such thing as a “mental disorder.” All so-called mental illnesses are just sinful behaviors. So the antidote is for person to repent and get right with God.
3. Mental illness is a physiological disorder. The brain is a physical organ just like the heart, the thyroid, the joints, etc. Thus if someone has panic attacks or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or chronic depression or ADHD, they have a chemical imbalance in the brain, not dissimilar to a hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure or arthritis.”
My blogs are traditionally long, so I’m going to respond to these philosophies in as little time as possible. Mostly, because I’m trying to remain civil.
1. To say mental illness is demonic in origin shows a patent disregard for Scripture and a misunderstanding of Christ’s mission on earth. Matt Warren had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Word is clear that one cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) – a concurrent occupation by both the Holy Spirit and a demon would be impossible. Further, Christ’s mission was not to interfere with the aggregate of human knowledge about the world and to further confuse us in our path to the Father, but to redeem those lost to sin. It would have made no sense for Jesus to actively collude with a primitive misunderstanding of the nature of mental illness by calling it “demon possession,” instead. In Luke 9:1-2, we’re told that Jesus gave the disciples “power and authority to drive out all demons AND to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God AND to heal the sick” (emphasis added). The Bible distinguishes these activities, separating demons FROM illness and disease.
2. To say mental illness is psychobabble – that “mental illness” is just the consequence of sin – is ridiculous. If you sin by cheating the government on tax day, you will feel sadness or guilt. These emotions are proof of a quickened conscience, evidence of the Holy Spirit’s conviction. These emotions actually support the premise that the sufferer has a proximity to God sufficient to elicit them (contrasted with the “seared conscience” referenced in 1 Timothy 4:2 of the one who is unaware or apathetic toward his sin). Even Christ himself experienced sadness – and is described as a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) So if sadness = sin, then was the entirety of the New Testament wrong about Christ’s freedom from sin? Also, what a cruel Savior we would serve if He brought “mental illness” on everyone who sinned! What of the criminals who’ve done awful things but maintained their sanity? Where is their mental illness? And what of the separate classes of mental illness? The cognitive disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the developmental disabilities, such as autism and ADHD, are included among these. Does it make sense to conclude that these patients are all in sin when (a) their illness would prevent them from even UNDERSTANDING they were in sin? And/or (b) their illnesses (in the case of developmental disabilities) were present from birth? How do you explain the “sin” for the child born with autism? How much sin was my Noah in when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 5? And if you’re trying to pass those developmental disorders off on the parents’ sin, that’s not going to fly.
“His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” (John 9:2-3)
3. Mental illness is an actual physiological disorder. And the weight of medical, biological, and neuro-scientific evidence agrees with me. If it wasn’t, then the (a) medication used to treat it wouldn’t work, and (b) the MRI’s, FMRI’s, SPECT’s, PET’s, EEG’s and MRS’s used to view structure, electrical impulses and connectivity within the brain would show nothing different for the neurotypical, than for the mentally ill. The last time I checked, demon possession and un-confessed sin weren’t reparable through modern medicine.
It’s because mental illness is an actual, physiological disorder that I was utterly shocked by some Christians across the web, who posted comments after Matt Warren’s death such as: “Suicide happens soon after your [sic] stupid enough to read ‘The Purpose Driven Life;’” and “Poor Matthew denies God’s love with suicide.”
“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11)
Did the authors of comments like those above read that passage from James?
I hope I haven’t come across too stridently. But my heart is so wounded for the Warren family, and I am so shocked by the pervasive ignorance and cruelty of some people in the Body that reigning in my tongue proved challenging. The bottom line is that those living with mental illness are struggling with challenges the rest of you – you 75%’ers, you neurotypicals – cannot possibly comprehend. We are told – commanded! – to love the “least of these,” to love our neighbors as ourselves. How much MORE SO ought this to be in the case of the Body of Christ? We who are separate from the world – in the world, but not of it? I urge those who are uneducated about the nature of mental illness to do their research. I urge you to pray for the mentally ill. I urge you to stop your hateful diatribes and lift up in prayer those whose lives are marred by a pain you do not know.
And now, finally, I’ll sign off.
I have to let out the dog.
Kentucky author Wendell Berry writes about something that many of us in our migratory modern lifestyles have never known–the vital connection between people and place that creates community. Following recent tragedies, a national dialogue has commenced–most prominently over gun control and less notably about mental illness. I do not pretend in these few words to offer any ideas about what legislators should do concerning these issues. I only hope that by sharing one of Berry’s stories I can highlight what too many miss–our need for connectedness, our need to mutually take responsibility for each other in our respective communities.
In his short-story “Watch with Me,” Berry takes us back to rural Kentucky in 1916. The story begins with the lovable, hard-working Tol Proudfoot who is laboring on his farm when his mentally ill neighbor Thacker Hample, also known as Nightlife, walks over the hill that separates their farms and grabs Tol’s shotgun. Nightlife declares, “Why, a fellow just as well shoot hisself, I reckon,” and then walks off into the woods. Over the next twenty-four hours as Nightlife wanders mindlessly through the county Tol, his nephew, and various other neighbors follow close behind him in an attempt to keep Nightlife from hurting himself or anyone else. By the grace of God, they evade several close calls, and on the following morning Nightlife returns to his right mind, puts the gun down, and goes on with life.
Berry wants us to ask, “What makes our world different from this past era?” Today our communities have disintegrated. Few of us live in the same town as parents and grandparents. We often live private and anonymous lives. Even at the grocery store, we opt for self-checkout in order to save time and avoid having to make eye contact with another human being.
In his story, Berry makes clear that the same types of tragedies we see today could have occurred and did occur in times past. However, his narrative argues that they were less likely to occur because of an essential safeguard that was in place, namely community. While the government can do many things to better assist the treatment of those with various mental illnesses, they cannot do for us what we will not do for ourselves. The government cannot resurrect our disintegrated communities.
We must personally take responsibility for those whom God has placed in our path and demonstrate genuine care and concern for their well-being. Mental illness, by its very nature, causes isolation. When community truly exists, people counteract isolation with loving interaction. In this way, we protect both the individual and the community at-large. We will never be able to avoid every tragedy, but we can attempt to protect others by resurrecting community.
I was in a peaceful cove of water, deep into a fjord, circled by mountains, hours inside a national preserve. Only a few dozen people wandered the schooner (9 of them my family), when the captain announced a 10 minute “all quiet” as he cut the motor. “No talking…just soak in the sight and sounds of nature….”
At that moment, I happened onto an obscure deck with a PERFECT panoramic view of mountains and waterfalls! Where’s my family?? (For me, a delight is multiplied when I can share it with someone.) SOOO for about 2 minutes (of the 10 “quiet” minutes) I ran through the boat searching for them. I don’t know where they were (it wasn’t THAT big of a boat) but I couldn’t find them … and my joy sagged as I made my way back to the hidden deck. I tried to absorb the view, but by then I was distracted by how LONELY I felt… which sharpened the loneliness I had been feeling for the whole trip. “Jesus, I’m alone again, and it hurts….” The sinful strongholds that accompany hidden disabilities sabotage close moments in my marriage until they are rare and fleeting. (Satan, the predator he is, likes to hijack normal feelings of loss and define my whole LIFE by them.)
I know Jesus cares, but…
It took about 5 minutes of the 10 “quiet” minutes before my soul was still enough to sense God wanting to be with me. Alone. Just me. He wasn’t trying to make me lonely. Or point out my alone ness. He was inviting me into a beautiful moment with HIM. (He, too, finds joy multiplied when shared – that part of me is like HIM.)
So I accepted His offer…
I felt the misty morning fog soak my face … new bird songs sent bubbles of joy through my spirit … I lifted my eyes to the tops of those magnificent mountains … then followed their green slopes all the way down until they disappeared into the cold, unfathomably deep, dark water. I looked up again, this time watching each waterfall, almost in slow motion, cascading down in wavy white ribbons from some unseen rivers of unknown sources inside the mountain. The sum of splashing sounds washed over my sore soul, soothing … smoothing the wrinkles of worry and want.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters (Ps 29).
Like a slow dawn, I realized the Lord’s voice was speaking to me in those waters. “God, You made this thousands of years ago…kept it hidden … it’s almost unreachable … I’m honored to see it.…”
I knew you would come, today,
and I knew you would LOVE it!
Those intimate words, whispered to my soul, wrapped me in love, evaporating my loneliness as the magnitude seeped into my spirit. Creator God handcrafted a magnificent multifaceted scene which He knew I would LOVE. He waited outside of time, for me, in time, to come see what He made! Then He joined me on that deck, as I soaked in all its beauty, by myself, with Him. My soul’s Lover.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters…
The Lord sat as King at the flood; Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.
The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.
Ps. 29:3, 11
Still, Travis Cottrell
Hide me now under Your wing, cover me within Your mighty Hand.
Find rest, my soul, in Christ alone. Know His power in quietness and trust.
When oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm
Father You are King over the flood, I will be still and know You are God.
Be still and know I am God … Ps 46
Getting more still,
Forgive me for taking so long to write. The past 6 months have been months of searching, seeking, changes, and at times overwhelming. God is faithful and I can’t even begin to imagine going through life without Him. Thank you, Lord, that You will never leave me or forsake me.
Now for the updates . . . First, my son (who has schizoaffective disorder) has a new psychiatrist closer to home which is a HUGE blessing! Since his last psychiatrist retired, he was going to have to see a nurse practitioner if he stayed at that same office. I have nothing at all against nurse practitioners; However, I felt with my son’s illness he needed to be under a psychiatrist’s care at all times since he has come so far yet still is having problems with finding the right combination of medications.
I saw an article in the newspaper about a new psychiatrist moving to our area who was going to be taking new patients. Praise God for our Jehovah-Jireh, “The Lord will provide.” My son loves his new doctor, who by the way is very compassionate and empathetic (which many of you know is very, very hard to find!). I am so thankful for him.
When I was struggling with the decision of changing jobs, it affected him more than I realized. We are now working with his meds because the job change I was making caused some symptoms of paranoia. Weight gain from the meds has also been a major issue. I am thankful he takes his meds and wants to take his meds because he understands he would go into full blown psychoses if he didn’t, meaning he would think that cameras were all over the room watching him. Before medication, he thought that everyone, even those on TV, knew all him about him and were talking about him — major paranoia with auditory hallucinations saying no one liked him. I can’t begin to imagine what my son actually goes through every day even with his medication. The stigma of “mental illness” doesn’t help at all. I have realized that there will always be those who don’t understand and those who don’t want to understand but I know who does and I know that I can trust Him.
As I Corinthians 13:12 says: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
The next major change in our lives was I decided not to stay with the company I had been with for over 10 years so I am moving into a new territory so to speak with the new company I now work for.
Also concerning church, my son loves the new church we have been attending but my heart is still at my old church. I am going with my son when he is able to go to “his church” and then have decided to go back to my church when I can. As I mentioned above, I know there will always be people who don’t understand my son’s illness, especially in the church, which has been a real struggle for me. I am finally getting that. It still hurts, though, knowing how my son has to deal with his very real illness along with death to the dreams he had of his life but I keep telling him God’s plans are a lot better than we could ever imagine and, we have to trust Him! I just wish ”people” would put themselves in my son’s shoes but only God can change hearts.
Then I remember The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37: 29 — But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarius and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Mercy. Go and do likewise. I need mercy. My son needs mercy. We all need mercy.
I would like to end with an excerpt from the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. She refers to a quote from Jean-Pierre de Caussade, in A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, eds. (Nashville: Upper Room, 1990), 244:
“You would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are. You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more nor less than blasphemies – though that never occurs to you. Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet [God's] beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is.”
As my pastor says, God is good ALL THE TIME!
I can’t remember the last time I was afraid. Nervous? Yes. Anxious? Regularly. But nervous and anxious are not the same as that white-hot void in your stomach that materializes when your future is on the cusp of changing for the worse; when your very life hangs in the balance. It’s been some time since I’ve felt that.
When I was 22, I spent a few months between college and law school working a mindless retail job at the mall. One night, during Christmas of that year, I was working a double shift until close. It was well after 11 pm when I got into my dad’s borrowed car in a vacant parking lot to go home.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2: 8-9
That night, I was over-tired, under-slept, and footsore. In an attempt to save time on my commute, I took a short cut that led me through a wooded area, near the state park. Fast forward to the current day. I’ve recently been issued a citation in the amount of $160 for doing 67 mph in a posted 45 mph zone, so I needn’t tell you that my foot is more lead than flesh, and that on the night in question I wasn’t adhering to posted speed limits. (A proclivity for fast things extends into other areas of my life, as in my riding for example, wherein my trainer has been known to scream, “Slow down! You’re going to kill yourself!!”) On that winter’s night, I may have been doing upwards of 80 mph. The music was up and the windows were down as I struggled to stay awake. I came barreling down the unlit, rural road, and hit my brights.
That’s when I saw it.
Directly in my path – not more than 25 feet in front of me – was a solid line of trees. Not saplings, or skinny birches, mind you. But a stand of meaty, ancient pines with large grey trunks and roots the circumference of duct work. I know, because I got close enough to practically kiss them.
The curve in the road that I had entirely missed had been marked off with a single reflector, and that single reflector hadn’t done me any good at 80 mph. My first thought was, “I will never hear the end of it if I total my dad’s car!” And then, for the first time in my life, I had this thought:
“I might actually die.”
THAT was my first encounter with true fear.
I’d like to think it was my cat-like reflexes that motivated the following thought pattern. If I slammed on the brakes, I would either (1) skid out and hit the trees passenger side first, (2) not gain enough brake leverage to stop in time to avoid a head-on collision with the trees, or (3) some combination of (1) and (2). So, I slammed on the brakes while banking hard to the left in the opposite direction. I had no idea what was to the left of the car, but I was turning there at about 60 mph.
What was to the left was a sedan carrying a couple who had no idea I was about to do a bumper-car spin-out into their driver side quarter panel. And then the clock hands started to slow, and I saw in perfect clarity what I see even now writing this – the glasses and the brown hair of the car’s driver, and the face of his passenger as she began to turn in my direction, no doubt prompted by the headlights shining into her ear. I saw the red tail light of their passing car and then the Ford logo as it pulled away, and I ground to a halt directly behind it. My head hit the head rest, my bags fell to the floor, the car rocked on its suspension.
But I was alive.
I can think of no other explanation for surviving this kind of a close-call, than that the Lord had physically interjected his hand between the car, the trees, and the passing Ford. I am an awful driver, and an even worse magician. Close-calls like that aren’t just lucky, they’re divinely directed.
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’” Luke 2:10
Do not be afraid.
Apparently the sister who booked herself a double shift during the Christmas shopping season, just to get a little extra scratch and nearly killed her tired, speeding self on the way home thought she could thumb her nose at fear. Then, fear showed her a finger of its own.
Fear – real, suffocating, pit-of-your stomach fear is about the worst feeling in the world. What I hate most about what happened in Newtown, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary is that those children and their teachers were afraid. Afraid in an “I might actually die” way. Afraid like a band of mutton-stinking shepherds when the pitch-black sky burst open and a voice from heaven like a sonic boom cried, “Do not be afraid!” kind of way.
(Footnote: I will save any discussion about the failure of the mental health system in America for a later time. For my part, I do not believe that the Sandy Hook tragedy was wholly due to laxness in American gun control.)
But now my fear, the real kind that makes you want to puke if you weren’t turning the wheel so fast, is what happens to those children who grow up to be Adam Lanza. His was a complex psychological picture and by every account, he was severely mentally ill. His handicaps were invisible. Among his many disabilities was an autism spectrum diagnosis – a diagnosis which the media has used as a lightning rod to establish debate between mental health pundits on whether or not the diagnosis gave Adam a penchant for anti social – and more specifically, violent – behaviors.
The white-hot fear I have now is for my children.
I find that fear is a more regular visitor now that I have children, and my heart walks around outside myself in the form of three blonde children who grew their tiny bodies just under my own ribcage.
I have a son with an autism spectrum diagnosis, with ADHD, with OCD, and with Oppositional Defiance disorder. I have another who may have epilepsy, who was recently described by our neurologist as “severely ADHD”, and who, in conjunction with the foregoing, seems to be expressing some severe behavioral problems that might point to something even more darkly complex. What happens to my boys when they grow up?
I am trembling just a little bit.
“’Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:11-14)
Fear has an effective way of forcing us to listen. When your heart temporarily stops, it’s a great way to get your ears to work. Like when a great company of angels begins a chorus loud enough to strip the wool off the sheep and you think, maybe the baby in the barn might be worth investigating after all.
I am listening to my children. I am watching them closely. I am calling our neurologist and booking appointments at a lightning pace. We are even more motivated now – Matt and I. We refuse to be a statistic or a news story. We remember the place of purity from which our children began their lives, and we remember the One who provided it. He is the same One who will protect them as they grow, and reward the diligence of the parents who’ve been entrusted to shepherd them. Though we continue to endure close-calls, our family’s path is, and always has been divinely directed.
There is no greater job than to parent these children, and we are privileged to have it. Remembering that helps the fear to fade. I get to take care of these three. What a gift. No matter what their ICD-9 codes are.
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
For now, when I’m feeling a tad more rational and I’ve turned off the coverage of the Sandy Hook funerals and the days at school are uneventful with no disciplinary notices smashed deep in the bottom of backpacks, I tuck the fear back into a quiet chamber of my heart, to ponder it for another day when I am feeling less brave. And even then, it will be okay. Because the baby in the manger made sure it would be.
I waterskied for exactly 60 sec. this week. I didn’t realize it would shock my grown children until they scrambled to find a cell phone and video the “event”. I keep forgetting they have no memory of my youthful zooming days (being raised in a HOT state made water central to recreation). To their credit, they recovered quickly enough to cheer their hearts out for their (aging) mama (who was in fact aging every second she was up), and were (in my humble but perfect opinion), by far, the most supportive boatful of people on that lake. If sound carries over water, Canada heard them.
But it wasn’t enough that I got up. Nooo. They started pointing and yelling for me to cross the wake! … cross the wake! Are they kidding?? Until that exact moment, I hadn’t skied in years, and was really only doing it right then just to make sure I still could. (I want to know when my body ages out of certain activities … and skiing happens to be one of them.)
I’m convinced children can collectively get their mama to do almost anything, and mine are no exception. Their enthusiasm is soooo contagious and soooo persuasive — soooo I did it! I don’t know who was more surprised I stayed upright – me or them.
Then, being the experienced skier I still am (in my head, if nowhere else), I knew to let go of the rope if I wanted any chance to sink semi-gracefully, while I was ahead, so to speak – not wanting to be tails up.
That wake was not the only one I crossed this week, and if you are reading this, chances are you are crossing a few yourself. I crossed one Tues, then again Wed, as I went first to a counseling appt then a psychiatrist appt with my struggling husband. Thurs brought another wake. I’ve been skiing behind my husband’s emotional boat for almost 3 decades now, crossing back and forth over the wake of his moods, in and out of his paranoia, his denial, his attention….
I know he wishes it were different for me, for the kids. He has a picture in his mind of what it should be like, could be like, what he WANTS it to be like … we both imagine smoother waters behind his super powered jet boat. We both PRAY for that.
Have you noticed, there aren’t many road signs on waterways? “No Wake Zone” is one of the few. I’m here to tell you it applies to life and emotions, not just waterways. There are some places where you must slow down the boat until it creates no wake. Period. If it does, there will be problems. Every mama learns this: Slow Down so there is no wake behind their lives for their children to tumble over.
If I were in charge of Life’s Regulatory Signs (which I am not) I would put a “No Wake Zone” smack dab behind every husband’s boat. Let all that strength, authority, and weight be put to good use … smoothing out the water for the women and children behind him.
That day on the lake, I saw a totally new way to ski – in fact, the way I have to ski life. A dad zoomed past us, wakeboarding — WITH his little 3 year old girl standing on his big board, tucked safely (as safe as can be, going behind a boat) between her daddy’s knees. Her chubby little arms wrapped tightly around his strong legs. Her safety was completely dependent on her daddy’s strength and skill to navigate the waves.
Now to Him Who is able
to keep you from stumbling (over wakes in life),
and to make you stand (on His wakeboard)
in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,
To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,
before all time and now and forever.
Jude 1: 24-25
Holding tightly, standing between His knees,
Matt 14:24 But the boat was already many stadia away from land (i.e. not near the dock, or shore), battered (tormented) by the waves; for the wind was contrary.
Living down here, the wind is contrary. Contrary to living. Contrary to peace. Contrary to being stable. Contrary to bonding. Bipolar and BPD are contrary winds. They batter and torment any and all boats trying to stay upright on life’s waters.
V.25 And in the 3-6 am watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.
Jesus, You came TO them. You did not require that they somehow get their battered boat TO You. How impossible is that, for us to “get” our boats anywhere. To steer them. If we could do that, we wouldn’t need You in the first place. If we were such good sailors. Or if we were powerful enough, to overcome contrary winds. But we are neither good nor powerful. NO match for the wind when it is contrary. When the winds are cooperative, I sometimes think I am a good sailor. Ha.
I see people leaning into hurricane winds (on the news) but when the gale gets high enough, NOBODY is standing or leaning, period.
I LOVE it that You come. You initiate. You use Your power, stability, ability, and find us, coming to us.
And of course we are afraid…
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Take courage…from where? Is courage something You hand out, like a bowl of food or something?
I don’t know, but I think the heart of it is not the “take courage”…it is the “it is I”…. Immanuel, “God WITH us”.
Last week one of my children was severely battered by contrary winds. They had felt God’s peace, then their peace just left, and they felt God left them too. I understand that feeling. It’s hard to learn peace, find peace, in a home with hidden disabilities. Fear rocks our boats.
There’s something about the “it is I” that makes it possible, reasonable, doable to “do not fear”. If there is no “it is I” there can be no “do not be afraid.” In fact, if there’s no “it is I”, then BE afraid! because none of us can face, cope, hope, float, endure, discern, survive, mend, love, forgive, alone.
So, the bottom line is…are You with us, or not?
If You are with us, then it’s not all up to us. If You are with us, then You will help us face what comes – You will make it right or worth it, or bearable. You will dominate, overtake, subdue enemies. You will comfort, heal, soothe. You will reassure. You will guide. You will direct, protect. Me, my husband, and my children.
Thank you Jesus.
“You number my wanderings;”
I wonder which number I am on, God … 140? or more like 2,589,380? Why number them?
“put my tears into Your bottle …” Psalm 56:8
Do You have separate bottles for each cause of my tears?
If so, one is definitely labeled Sibling Sorrows. It should be about full by now, holding my tears for the sorrow I feel whenever I watch pain between my children.
We have amazing children. We don’t deserve them, and can’t thank God enough for their lives. Personally, I admire how they valiantly wade through life muddied by hidden disabilities without giving up. Just this spring they proved themselves again, as young adults, playing crucial roles on the search and rescue team for my husband’s lost mind. I wish you knew them. (If you’re reading this site, then you know something of what they have weathered.)
But they are human too. And you better believe this journey has wounded them. Some of the defenses they formed, against their confusion and pain, has caused and continues to cause pain to each other. It hurts me to witness it. When they were young, many times I should’ve intervened long before I did. Now I want to fix it (of course) but can’t. Jesus has brought us a long way, but we’ve far to go. I want each one to really BE there for each other (in healthy ways) so they can experience family the way they deeply long for, and God intended … but
anger at the injustices,
confusion about the causes,
mistrust and fear of speaking up,
disappointments over dashed dreams,
pain seeking a blame,
shame and sins …
all these can trigger them. Then, like an armed heat seeking missile with no target to lock on, the closest target within range often is a………SIBLING, who is dealing with their own pain, and cannot absorb more.
Some don’t rant and rave. They retreat … hiding way inside themselves (or others) seeking safety, til there’s no finding them. I miss them, when they do that.
When I cry out to You
THEN my enemies will turn back,
This I know because
God is FOR me.
As for me, I will call upon God, and the LORD shall save me.
Evening and morning and at noon I will pray,
and cry aloud,
He shall hear my voice.
Just had a comforting thought … (thankyou, Father).
Jesus is also their sibling. So technically, spiritually and family-wise (stick with me here) it’s our kids plus one more. Jesus shoulders being Firstborn for my firstborn, He’s the I’ll-defend-you Brother, their enthusiastic-I-want-to-spend-time-with-you-sibling. AND He is completely healthy emotionally and spiritually — so He can take whatever they give Him without hurting them in return. In short, He is everything they can’t find in each other. He’s the perfect brother, who can and will always show up (no excuses), invest (no matter the cost), listen (with undivided attention), inspire (by example), be patient and kind (in attitude and word), pour life giving words into them when they lose hope, serve (their smallest needs) — and do it all because He is so overwhelmed with LOVE for them (not because He must)….
Thankyou, Jesus. We really need You.
When my baby was two, my 5 yr old was diagnosed with cancer. It’s fair to say I was way beyond sad and stressed. I was sad because I could not prevent or protect my 3 three little ones from the suffering that slammed into their lives that year. I was stressed because, in addition to the cancer, I had NO idea what to expect from my husband who had become unstable on the home front. He was taking Lithium, which had worked well enough to keep him out of the hospital and employed, but it no longer gave us enough coverage at home. (It would be much longer before he was willing to try new medication blends.) To top things off, we were in a relatively new city, and unlike before (in our old city), or now (2 decades later), no one really knew about his bipolar diagnosis. Not that they would’ve known what to do if they had, but let me tell you – that particular “secret” quadrupled the weight of uncertainty I felt.
Despite everything that was going on, our 2 yr old was developmentally RIGHT on schedule, which means the favorite word was “my” – as in, “MY daddy” “MY juice” “MY do it.” Since MY mama flew in to care for MY baby while I was gone to chemo, she heard this A lot. So when she came across this verse, she sent it to me, of course, because it clearly belonged to MY baby!
I love You, O Lord,
The LORD is
MY Rock (“crag” – hiding place) and
MY Fortress, and
MY Rock, in whom I take refuge;
MY Shield and the horn of
I kept it above MY sink for years. It became one well-used, faded and wrinkled piece of truth.
I remembered all this last night because that little 2 yr old is leaving for college once again…and I want this precious young adult to cling to these truths, in order to survive this year’s uphill climb of academics and a learning disability.
I wonder what are you facing today in your life with hidden disabilities? I am at least one witness to the truth that MY God longs to be
YOUR God – when others want to rule you
your Strength – when you are tired or weak
your Rock – when important things are unstable
your Fortress – when you need strong walls protecting you
your Deliverer – when you need a refuge
your Shield – when you are attacked
your Salvation – when you need rescuing
your Stronghold – when you need defending and safety.
From MY heart,