- What is most difficult about befriending the mentally-ill who are homeless is suddenly never seeing them again. I keep a litany of faces and names that remain in my prayers. Friends, I hope all is well.
Another almost-a-snow-day. In a house with three young boys, these false alarms can be catastrophic. Imagine eager children standing outside looking skyward with sleds in their arms…in the rain. We work hard on attitude correction during the slow drive to school. Serious business indeed.
But there is something to it. It’s called SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Clinically, SAD is only diagnosed as a factor of major depression, but many more experience the “winter blues.” When the nights get longer, we are stuck indoors without sunlight and are less active, feelings of detachment and hopelessness are not uncommon. In 2007 the New York Times reported that residents of New Hampshire were seven times more likely to have SAD than residents of Florida. You and I may not be suffering from clinically diagnosed mental illness, but we all deal with bouts of sadness, anxiety and phobias. Welcome to the human race.
It is not uncommon to have homeless people visit our church. In some cases, these people are suffering from mental illness. We have become their church home despite their erratic attendance and difficulty relating with our church members. Yet they know they will be treated kindly and graciously. On one occasion, I was speaking with a woman who I first met when I noticed her sleeping on one of the benches behind our church building. We developed a friendship. Weeks later, she was telling me about her participation in alien abductions and Civil War battles. I changed the subject and spoke to her about a family member of mine who was dying. From that confused mind came these words: “She needs to know that you know how much she loves you.” As you can imagine, I was stunned. And deeply grateful.
Are any of us in perfect physical health? Of course not. Are any of us in perfect mental health? No. Aging, grief, health problems, substance abuse and genetic predispositions are some of the factors that can bring us mild or even severe mental health issues. My concern is the stigma we place on less-than-perfect mental health. Ignoring these realities can increase our own suffering, damage our relationships with loved ones and even keep us from seeing the beauty and value in those with serious emotional problems.
During a recent offertory by our very gifted pianist, we projected the lyrics while she played. As the poignant melody softly filled the room, we pondered these words…
What heights of love,
what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled,
when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.
It was an intentional ‘mental health moment,’ which we occasionally include in our worship services. Even if your thoughts and feelings don’t always make sense, God still loves you and his embrace awaits you. Grace means come as you are – even if you are sad. And thank God for that.