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.

Rambling Angry Stuff That May or May Not Have a Point

homeless
Sometimes the pain is so great I feel as though I can’t speak.

Yesterday we endured another visit to the psychiatrist, where once again the S word was tossed about liberally. There were also words like “lifelong,” “chronic” and “disability.”

I am ashamed to say that I have been feeling sorry for myself. I know it is like holding the door open so that the long-toothed depression beast can stroll right on in and make himself good and comfortable. I struggle to maintain a sense of reality.

People do not like to think about the S word. I’m one of them, since I don’t even like typing it. My own parents don’t call and ask how my son is doing or how I’m holding up. I suppose it is painful for them, so they, like almost everyone else, pretend it is not happening, that it does’t exist.

I’m so angry I could spit. Obviously, I’m angry that both of my sons, as well as my brother, have fallen victim to this disease or whatever it is.

I’m angry because I asked for support and didn’t get it. Well, not from the people I asked, anyway. The thing is, I’m well aware that I have no right to my anger because no one owes me — or my son — a thing. And I am blessed because God sent someone into my life who personifies His love, and that person also loves my son and played an instrumental role in our not going to the ER a few days ago for a psych eval.

I don’t know what to do with the anger, though. I want to say hurtful things. I want to blame someone else for this pain.

I feel like I could just explode, I really do. I’d like to see the fake constructs of our society made into visible strips of paper so I could tear them apart and the truth would lie there naked for all to see — and deal with.

We are all like blah, blah, blah. Love others. Love people with mental illness. Love unlovely people. Behind the words “Jesus loves you” are often “but I don’t, not really.” I think this has made it easy for people to mock my savior, this hypocrisy he’s so often associated with. And we all know how Jesus felt about hypocrites. That’s one thing I love about Jesus. He was not fake at all. He lived what he preached.

There was a catalyst to this anger.

My good friend Gen and I were at Starbucks a few days ago, sipping coffee on the patio. There was a man restlessly pacing the sidewalk, muttering to himself. Gen went up to him and asked him if he was okay. I followed.

It turned out he wasn’t okay, which was no surprise. He had suffered the loss of three family members in the space of two months. He was either manic, on drugs or both. We prayed with him.

I have to say that two months ago, this would have been completely outside my comfort zone. I’ll never forget the time Gen and I were in Java Jacks and she said, “Well, let’s pray about that.”

I was thinking, “Here? Now? In front of people?” but kept my mouth shut as I furtively looked around the room to see if anyone was watching.

I’m over that now.

At any rate, this guy was surprised. He said that he wanted to attend church, but didn’t know of one where he wouldn’t be judged. This was a valid concern. I figured some folks wouldn’t be able to get past his wearing swim trunks in public in January.

I realized that I didn’t know of a church I could invite him to, although some Facebook friends had some ideas. I thought about how my son doesn’t fit into most churches and how I couldn’t go to a church that couldn’t embrace people with the S disease, drug addicts, and even criminal histories, even though most probably have good intentions.

Sometimes things are messy.

Sometimes things aren’t safe. That’s okay. Jesus never says that we are supposed to stay safe. He says this instead.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. — Luke 14:32

I interpret this verse to mean that we may be called to literally give up everything — up to and including personal safety and even our lives, especially in light of this verse:

Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. Luke 17:33

What a hard teaching. To me it is clear, though, that hanging onto socially respectable behaviors and ideas about the lifestyle we feel we are entitled to is the wrong path.

I don’t want to attempt to fit the gospel into the lifestyle that I want to have.

Anyway, so Gen and I got into the car and I started to cry. Our encounter with this guy just hurt my heart so much. So many people are lonely and have such awful lives. We have to show them love, we just have to! Love in action is it, it is everything. It is the only way to defeat the devil that I can see.

And I’m thinking, what if there were more people like Gen who were willing to put whatever they are doing on hold to comfort a stranger, to cheer a friend’s son out of suicidal ideation, to randomly warm people’s hearts for no reason other than to lift them up?

Can you imagine the type of world we’d live in??

We’d all see the kingdom of God every day.

Not Knowing

I don’t like not knowing things. If I have a problem I don’t know the answer to, I Google it. This worked very well when I discovered that banana peel would work to rid my younger son of warts when nothing the doctors did was at all effective. Lately, though, I’ve found myself doing bizarre things like Googling “why the voices my child hears are always mean.”

Trust me, Google does not have the answers to these sort of questions.

I’m sad. I’m confused. I’m searching under the bed, looking inside cabinets, dumping out my purse — searching for my joy. I am a person who finds a measure of security in having information, and there are some situations that no amount of human knowledge can touch. This bothers me. Becoming a snowflake is difficult.

There are so many things we just don’t know. This verse comes to mind:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25

uncertainty god universeWe are like the blind men arguing about the elephant. Remember? One guy is holding the elephant’s tail, and swears up and down that the elephant is a skinny, sorta hairy creature — somewhat like a rope. Another has a hold of one of the elephant’s legs, and vehemently disagrees. The elephant, he says, is like a tree trunk. And so on.

I think we have less knowledge of God and how the universe works than these deluded guys did of the elephant. But most people tend to think like me. They like to have the facts so they can feel secure. So they grab onto what they think they know and defend it relentlessly, refusing to consider what other information — mysteries — might exist.

When I took my younger son to the psychiatrist, the good doctor asked to speak to me alone. Once the door was closed, he scooted his chair closer to mine, fixed his eyes fiercely on mine and said, “Now do you believe me? This is real. He needs to take the medicine.”

But what he thinks is real and what I think are real are two different things. The truth, though, likely lies somewhere in the middle.

I intend to keep searching for it.

And Unto Us, a Savior Is Born — Really!

Note: This post is not cheery.  It was either write the truth or not write at all.

Having a savior feels different than it used to.

The word “savior” just used to sound like any other word. Jesus our savior. Born in a manger. Sheep and donkeys came to mind.

nativity

I’ve known the reality of having a savior for a couple of years now, but perhaps never more than this Christmas.

My older son, my sweet boy who took off into the depths of LSD and never desired to fully resurface, well, a few days ago he changed his email address to an auto-forwarded message that sounds an awful lot like a suicide note. He’s somewhere in Guatemala. He was waiting for a cosmic change on the 21st. It was no joke to him. No one has heard from him.

Maybe my son is dead. I don’t know.

My younger son is getting inpatient treatment for a stigma-producing condition. It’s the kind of thing where people don’t send flowers, offer much support or even really want to talk to you much at all. We are in Shreveport this holiday season because that’s where the hospital is. Christmas will be the same as every other day this past week — getting into an overcrowded elevator and visiting him from 5:30 to 6:30.

It would be so easy to fall into the trap of self-pity. It would be easy to completely fall apart, actually.

But in one respect Christmas is not at all the same as any other day. It’s the day we celebrate that we have a savior. A SAVIOR.

This means the world to me, now that I know what it means.

My merciful savior stands between me and hopelessness. He grabs the demons of despair by their necks and casts them away from me. He is good he is love he is everything to me.

I tried to cover up my pain by shopping. However, the world’s solutions don’t work. I have maxed out my credit cards and now despise the mere sight of another sweater marked 50 percent off. The only cure for pain is turning to our savior. The pain doesn’t necessarily go away, but it sure as heck becomes easier to carry. Here’s why:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

He arrived!! They worshiped him! He saved us! He saved us.

My savior. I love you.