It’s coming out more and more, but not at a level that I can say I’m content with.
Churches dealing with those in the congregation that have forms of mental illness.
During my almost week stay inpatient, I was surrounded by those who were struggling like me. We had a natural bond, protected each other and comforted when we could. We all had labels (depression, suicidal, PTSD, bipolar, etc.) but it didn’t matter because we were somewhere safe and not going to be excluded by our labels, but embraced because of them.
Then I got out into this real world and it’s scary. I’m pushed to hide my true struggles and have my “soccer mom smile on big and bright with a pan of brownies” (which I have never been good at…I have a natural ticked off resting face…and my brownies always suck….take it up with God for creating me.) We have to play by the rules deemed by who decided “normal” was (that person is a jerk) and hope nobody sees we are breaking violently from the inside out. Nobody wants to embrace a label too much. We are just too much to handle.
If I dare say that I feel sad, depressed, hopeless, helpless, lost, suicidal, maniac….I just might lose my Christian punch card. The one that keeps score of how many times I’ve attended, took notes and smiled to greet my neighbor. But if we use our mental illness as our testimony, we have a unique perspective and ability to speak about grace, love and of self-acceptance, with some authority.
Those of us in the church who have our sufferings out in the open have been placed there with a strategic purpose. Our voice tells those there is grace, forgiveness and hope, more so than Faithful Fanny and her life of no bumps or hiccups.
This is our time to be that light leading others to God. Our “unspoken hush-hush mental quirks” screams there is a grace in weakness that we aren’t talking about. Those who receive us in the body, are receiving God and those who mumble and point….well, you aren’t exactly God’s favorite, are you!
It is time for those of us with our mental afflictions to shout out about it, illuminate it and to be transparent so that we can show our God of open arms, love and mercy. Because what you call weakness is really major strength.
9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (HCSB)