We Are All Mentally Ill

we're all delusional
It’s easy to get a diagnosis of mental illness today, especially with the release of the American Psychiatric Association’s new manual, the DSM 5, which pretty much labels all human behavior as maladjusted. The DSM 5 has been subject to massive criticism because of this, but the thing is, maybe this manual gets closer to the truth than those of us who maintain that most people are sane.

The fact is, we are all suffering from a massive delusion. Collectively, we seem to be under the impression that violence is a solution to violence, for example. We have taken this idea to such an extreme that we are willing to risk the annihilation of the entire species (and several others, certainly) because of this belief.

We’re very quick to label mass shooters and someone who drowns her baby as crazy, and rightly so, but what about the rest of us? How are we any different? Going into a school and shooting fewer than 40 people is small change when compared to the carnage that our culture endorses on a regular basis.

We do psychological and theological flips to justify our behavior. After all, we reason, they might get us first if we don’t do something. They might take away our freedom. They might hurt us, somehow. They.

Earlier today I was trying to figure out what, exactly, the message of the Kingdom of God was that Jesus preached. I think I finally figured out just a bit of it. I think this is what Jesus was basically saying:

I’m the Messiah.

I will transform this earth.

You will be born again into the Kingdom.

I will transform your mind.

Do not sin. (Do not commit acts that are unloving, exploitative and dehumanizing.)

I am what God looks like.

The message of the Kingdom has been lost today. Jesus didn’t go around preaching that he had risen from the dead and was a sacrifice for our sins. He showed us how to be born again — transformed into a being that transcends the cycle of violence and retribution.

You hear a lot of stuff in church about accepting Jesus as Lord. What does this mean? I don’t think it is supposed to mean that we should think, “Well, okay, I’ll believe what you say so I can avoid pain later on.”

No way. Jesus as Lord means that we treat him as our Lord. A Lord is someone you respect and obey. You follow his rules.

So if Jesus is my Lord, that means I must obey the Sermon on the Mount, for example.

If Jesus is my Lord, then I will be a peacemaker. I will be light. I will set aside anger and judgement. I will love my neighbor. I will not put my perceived material or sexual needs above treating others with love. I will pray for my enemies.

And this, right here, is the cure for our collective mental illness. We don’t have to be crazy people who bomb those who don’t agree with us, threaten us or have resources we’d like to have. We don’t have to have violence in our personal lives, either. This is a delusion, and Jesus showed us how to overcome it. He showed us how to be. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard, either. We just have to decide to do it instead of searching for a magical formula that will somehow grant us eternity or blessings without growth.

Getting Called Out as a Hypocrite

faith in jesus touching his robe
My younger son simply can’t stand his new counselor. The last time we went, he asked if I would sit in on the session with him. He wanted me to understand why he was dreading his counseling sessions.

As I sat in the office listening, and listening, and listening to the counselor drone on and on in a guru sort of manner, I understood what my son meant. There was no dialogue, and the guy was using jargon far above an eighth-grader’s understanding.

So he won’t be going to that counselor anymore. But I’m thankful to have met the man, because out of his mouth came the words that God has been trying to get me to understand for the past two years.

I had just finished explaining why I didn’t want my son being taught yogic philosophy*, and was stammering a sort of apology for seeming so “fundamentalist” when he said, “You know, I see so many Christians who don’t practice their faith.”

I felt smug for a moment, thinking of course I wasn’t THAT kind of Christian.

“These people don’t trust in God like they tell other people to do. They don’t hand it all over to Him,” he continued.

The comfortable feeling I had quickly went away and was replaced with unease. The next day, after letting his words simmer for a while, I realized that he had been talking about me, whether he knew it or not.

Psalm 40:4 points out my error.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

This verse hit home in three ways.

First of all, I have not been trusting God. During the past three years, I have read at least 1,000 studies, articles and abstracts about the S disease trying to find answers. I enrolled in a counseling program trying to find answers. I’ve emailed countless experts trying to find answers.

No answers from these sources have been forthcoming.

Second, I have been looking to the proud. Smug people who are 100 percent certain that their education has provided them with all of the knowledge they need to deal with an illness, if not cure it. If there was a picture next to the word “smug” in the dictionary, it would be of the counselor we saw last week.

Finally, I have been giving import to the sayings of a false god. The field of psychiatry has become a false god in our culture. We look to it for answers, but diagnoses are more forthcoming than cures.

Don’t think that I’m the only one who thinks that psychiatry is a god. A few months ago, I received a copy of Counseling Today, the publication of the American Counseling Association. I had become a member of this organization when I was in the counseling program.

One of the articles said that “counselors are the new priests.” In other words, people turn to counseling for their problems instead of God. The writer seemed perfectly okay with this idea, and gave advice on how to counsel people from religious backgrounds that counselors might feel uncomfortable with, like Christianity.

God's eyeGod is big. The S disease is not. [/caption]All of those articles I read were the equivalent of praying to our society’s version of Baal for help. Why should I be surprised that help never came?

Here is the thing I have been having a hard time wrapping my head around, and I’m not sure why.

God is the creator of the universe. He made us. He can handle the S disease.

I don’t get to choose the outcome of the S disease — God does. But I can trust that He knows what he’s doing. I can pray. I can live my life in a manner that Jesus tells us will get results when we ask for things in His name. (More on that later.)

I know that the whole thing is confusing and controversial. But I’m trusting God to give me the eyes to see clearly.

Amazing colorful artwork is over here.

*I have very, very good reasons for being mistrustful of Indian religious teachings and practices, including yoga. If you are wondering why, feel free to contact me and ask.

Come, and You Will See

Today, the doctor sat down on the couch where my son was sitting, held his hand and looked at him with utter compassion.

“You’re going to have to deal with this the rest of your life,” he said. “I’m sorry. We will help you learn how to manage.”

The words sounded like a curse. I wanted to jump out of my chair and scream, “No! He will not have this problem the rest of his life! Your words have power! Don’t speak this curse!”

All sorts of things were whirling around in my head. The power of life and death are in the tongue. What does that mean? Will saying it out loud make it true? God can heal him. But will He? Where is my faith? What am I supposed to think, do, believe?

God felt so far away.

He wasn’t, of course. But it felt that way.

I felt so alone. Because no one knows the answers to this. Except for God. And at that moment, the doctor’s voice was my only reality.

following JesusIt doesn’t have to be that way, though. I create a different reality when I choose to follow Jesus. To immerse myself in His presence. I don’t always make that choice, though. Today, I mostly chose to follow several design blogs in Google Reader. I spent most of the day looking at Scandinavian furniture and modern art. It was escapism, only it didn’t help me to escape a thing.

If I don’t make a daily choice to follow Him, I won’t get to where I need to be. Reading the Gospel of John tonight, these verses spoke to me:

They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” John 1:38-39

I find it interesting that Jesus did not say to these two disciples, “The last house on the right before you get to the market. Why don’t you stop by later if you have the time?”

If I want to know where Jesus is, I have to follow him. Not later. Right now.

I want to see.

The world behind me,
the cross before me.
No turning back,
no turning back.

Photo credit: Naria Nadal

Telling the Truth Is Scary

throwing Jesus off a cliff

Many people didn’t want to hear things that challenged their worldview.

Jesus always told the truth. People really didn’t like it. The very day He gave a sermon in His hometown, the people tried to drive him off a cliff.

We say that we want to be like Jesus, but do we really?

Do we really want to say the uncomfortable truths that people don’t want to hear? The truths that make people wish you’d just go away and not disturb their comfort?

 

 

 

Here’s one “unpopular” thing Jesus said:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

I don’t think most people want to go there. I know I’m scared to say things that might cause people to dislike me or not take me seriously. But my challenge is to do so anyway. When I think about my purpose in life, what comes to mind is sharing what I’ve learned from experiences that I hope most of you never have.

I’m aware that people like me better when I talk about the designer top I found on sale for $20, share uplifting Bible verses or compliment them on their hair. And those things certainly have a place in life. But there’s so much more. And a lot of it is painful, scary and paradigm-shifting.

So some of the people who read this blog will think I’m crazy. Negative. Too serious.

Some people will enjoy reading what may sound like a particularly bloody train wreck.

And that doesn’t feel good. But it is what it is.