Life is easier when you can fly

My friend Ann wrote today what she wished the Church knew about mental health. It was salve for wounds worn dry and dirty from the rub of shame, guilt, disgust. I am perhaps even more saddened by the death of Rick Warren's son Matthew than the general Christian public, having so closely walked that dark path he found himself upon just a week ago. Everyone seems to be talking about it - and I'm thankful for that. Part of me also wonders - what about the thousands upon thousands who have silently slipped away without notice? Did anyone hear their earlier cries for help? Did anyone acknowledge and validate their pain and offer to walk with them through the experience?

We - Aaron and I - refer to our time at Valleybrook Church as our time in the spiritual hospital. This church opened it's arms to us with incredible grace when we were most wounded. A pastor opened her door to welcome me into her office once a week just so I could talk about things I had never told anyone. They hosted a network of small group studies based on the Wounded Heart book by Dan Allender. Through this experience our eyes were open to a different kind of church - one where people walked like Jesus as much as they talked about Him, where you could come for sanctuary. Do you know why we call our worship spaces "sanctuaries" today? Because from the 4th to the 17th century, you could run to a church and be safe as long as you stayed within it's walls - safe from lawmakers and their police, anyone wishing to harm you, safety from legal prosecution and even the death penalty. Back then, if someone violated the Right of Sanctuary, hassling or hurting the fugitive in any way, the perpetrator went free, and the punisher took his penalty.
Life - and by extension, faith - is so much easier when you're soaring. Clear blue skies and a sweet summer breeze are what we Northerners think about and long for the better part of the year. But this type of weather rarely comes - and so it may be with the mind, too. For me, it is like the undertow of a river, or trying to carry something heavy through water. I remember that time back in 2011, when I was drowning, and a few who were soaring above noticed and joined me on the water. By the flapping of their wings beside me, I was comforted in the reminder that I, too, have wings, and someday would soar again. Since the healing that came to me last year, I've had long stretches of few symptoms - and yet, here I am in the middle of a relapse of sorts.
What you may not realize, when you see me bleeding all over the church floor, is that I've confessed each sin a thousand times if I've confessed it once. A thousand times I have not felt that relief of release that should accompany confession. My heart and soul were so torn by the break that came with childhood abuse that it still feels black and muddy and shameful. It is the weight of that millstone around my neck that I cannot break free from - yet. The time may be coming, but for now, I'm still bleeding and it's still a mess all over my church's floor, the floors of my home. Dragging around wounds everywhere you go messes life up all over again.
Is someone in your life struggling with mental health issues? Won't you be the one who sits down beside them, or takes them on a walk, or offers them a space in which to heal every now and then? Can your church be a hospital for the wounded? Are you willing to bind up wounds and bear the stink of surgery and the long, slow road to recovery?
When we say YES - personally and corporately as the Body of Christ - then, truly, we are the hands and feet of Jesus' love for His people. In Galatians 6, in a section of the Bible titled by English translators "Bear and Share the Burdens", God says it this way:
...let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.


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Still counting gifts...
2008 Snuggling my son
2009 A moment of pure joy in a rainstorm with my Aaron
2010 those caring, willing hands of my family
2011 the rescue and release that is confession comes for a moment
2012 a true conversation with my own mama