There is no room for Grace in the way we think. There is room for God’s “stupidity” but we can’t even credit Him with the ability to love and bless us despite our unworthiness. Somehow WE have to be in control. WE have to hold the cards. WE have to be the smart ones. Even if it IS only “street smarts.” Who cares if we can’t form matter out of nothing? We know the REAL deal. Can’t put one over on US. At least I’m not stupid enough to love someone who doesn’t really deserve it. (Tongue is planted in cheek here).
This resounds with all kinds of truth to me as a mentally ill person. True, there are times when I'm doing so obviously badly when I'm in church or other social settings, that there is no hiding and no denying it. (But even so, I still hide and I still deny!) But there are many times when I'm struggling...or scared, because I see myself losing ground and it affects my faith-life, it affects my emotions and how I live and participate within the living Church organism, and I just CAN'T be honest about it. I still answer, "I'm fine" when people ask. I still try to laugh and smile on cue.... Maybe some of the people are perceptive enough to see my falsity and maybe even to call me on it....but many more are just oblivious...they let it slide. Or else, they don't even WANT to know the answers to their questions, so they don't look at my answer or lack of one.
But, here's a tough one. One time, during an extremely bad struggle with myself, I went forward at the Pastor's invitation at the end of the service to get someone to pray for me. Just doing that took a great battle in my heart...and when I got there, a member of the prayer team saw my face and came up to me and said, "Are you all right?" I looked her straight in the eye (eye contact is something incredibly hard for me on days like that) and I said firmly and clearly, "NO, I-am-NOT-okay." She paused, dropped her hands from my shoulders, went on, and prayed with someone else. No one else approached me. I stood there for an agonizing number of minutes...and then left.
If that were a one-time incident, I would maybe chalk it up to...just that one woman's failure on that one day. But it has happened (not as dramatically usually) many, many times over again. So what can I conclude from this?
- The Church really doesn't give a flying hoo-haa about what I'm really thinking or feeling
- If they do, they are too busy to try and find out
- They are scared that, if they find out they won't know what to do with that information
- All of the above
- number two and three
I think that the answer is really number 5. People are scared that if they take the time to really find out how this struggling person is feeling, it will commit them to a greater expenditure of time and energy than they care to or can make. They are scared that they will in some way be morally or legally responsible for my safety after I fill them in on the truth. They are frightened that they really will have NO CLUE what to do if they were to find out how I am, in truth, doing
You know what Church? There are three things you need to know...
- You, as a child of God, with the Love God gives you; need to LOVE THIS PERSON
- You, as their brother or sister in Christ, WILL PRAY FOR THIS PERSON
- and you, as a citizen of the USA (at least) should know that if the person confides to you that they have any plans of hurting theirself or someone else, then you MUST ALERT THE AUTHORITIES. call the police, or call 911, or call a mental health suicide hotline...but at this point, you do not have any decision to make. Do not tell yourself that you will "stick close" to them and help them through. If they have PLANS to hurt themselves, they need to be in the hospital and in the hands of professionally trained people.
Note that this does not mean, if someone says: "I'm depressed and I think about suicide"....That is part of depression. Question them further here. Do they have any intentions of carrying them out? Is suicide a large part of their thoughts? If you are uncertain about your conclusion, call that mental health crisis number...and speak to a professional about your conversation. Or better yet, offer to take the person to a hospital or clinic to be assessed. Go with them.
This has really strayed into a whole other blog post than the one I began with.
But let me address answer number 3 in the 5 listed above.
I'd like to give you some ideas about things you can do if you really are of a mind to help a person with mental illness or who is depressed:
- Grant them the gift of yourself. This can involve as little or as much time as you determine to commit. But be HONEST about what you can and can't do. For every encounter you choose to have with them, tell them in the beginning what your time limitations are and stick to them. If you let yourself be drawn into their neediness too deeply, then you will end up being angry (really with yourself) and resenting them.
- Pray for and with them. Do not put any pressure on them to pray aloud, but be open to it if it happens. Ask them what their needs and prayer requests are. And let the Spirit guide you as you pray (Important: avoid the temptation here to voice your own opinions cloaked in the guise of prayer. This is not a sermon time! You are talking to GOD and not to the individual!! Give God the freedom to act in their lives as He wants and plans to do; don't tell Him how YOU want Him to answer.)
- Rather than trying to play the role that their therapist should really be playing, just offer to spend some time with them...
- Take them to your house (do you have a pool? for the summer);
- Bake cookies; make soup...
- Do a craft if that's your hobby...scrapbooking or stamping for example
- Take them to a store or a produce center or to a mall;
- Let them come with you on some errands;
- Invite them to your house for coffee or tea....you don't have to organize anything elaborate. In fact, the more simple and the less demands it places on them the better.
- They may just enjoy your company in your house while you do your chores and they watch a movie on DVD or cable.
- One of the nicest things you can do, is to encourage the person to take a walk with you...perhaps meet for daily walks and pray together as you walk, after you talk a while. I've had friends who did this with me and it formed deep friendships and we saw God do great things consequently. Not to mention that it got me out of bed and into God's creation...
There are endless possiblities, but hopefully these have given you some ideas. Try to keep an open mind about what to expect and let the Lord lead ....you never know but you may form a lasting friendship that will be as important to you as it is to the other person.
I will have to continue this topic of Santa Theology in another post. Somehow, I've hidden myself again....this time in my advice to you, rather than talking about the ways in which I hide from or mislead people...I promise to try to be more honest with you in that post. Actually, though, this post was a way of revealing my heart. It hurts Church, when you ignore us and our needs. It hurts when you pretend not to see or not to hear us. It hurts that you preach your ideas and don't listen to our needs. It hurts to be alone when you are hurting.
Invite us in.