The Sorrow in Every Pew

Dear old Joseph Parker, a fervid pulpit orator and fine pastor and author for several decades, said it well three years before he died:

There’s a broken heart in every pew. Preach to the sorrowing and you will never lack for a congregation.

There’s a say about people finding a church… If you find a perfect church, don’t join it or you will spoil it…

That’s a tongue in cheek way of saying:

There are no perfect churches.

There are no perfect pastors.

There are no perfect people.

Everyone has issues… Some are seen physically… Many are not…

The statistics for church going people with mental health issues remains at 25% / one in four / 1 in 4, the same as the rest of the world.

The stigma in churches I’m pretty sure is higher amongst church members than in the world… It’s okay to support some “poor soul” who is new to the church or supported by a church program which runs on Wednesday afternoon…

But if long standing church members were to admit it? That would be seen as a lack of faith! They need to pray more. They haven’t read their Bible enough or gone to enough Bible study groups!

They can’t admit as it or it would seem that Satan is winning!

So instead week upon week they come and play church… They sing during worship, they take notes with the message… They say hi and give hugs…

All the while they are screaming inside!

Recently I looked back on my journalling from 4 years ago and it frightened me… I told of talking to people as appropriate but also thinking they have no idea of what is really happening inside…

I was broken… My sorrow was deep… I had long stopped attending church for financial and other reasons (yes 20/20)… But yet, no one knew how desperate I was inside…

Why am I posting this?

When you greet friends this week… Don’t just hug say how are you? Ask again as you look in their eyes and seek to really know…

Are they part of the 25%

If Only

I’m currently doing the 12-step program Celebrate Recovery offers. It’s actually my third time. Every time I do there’s always something more that God can work on with me.

We’re dealing with the lesson on POWERLESS – an acrostic on how we really need to depend on God and for God’s help with the issue… it looks at the past…

If only…. Only If…

Only if
I had noticed _____ the _____ would/wouldn’t have happened
If only I had known _____ that day I wish I could take back my words
That time spent would have been successful only if _______
If only I had done this or only if I had seen this or only if I had been there or only if somebody had…
You get the idea…

With my mental health… If only I had talked to _____ or done ______ or not done _____ then maybe I wouldn’t have had my mental breakdown.
(see true life confession at the bottom)

Hindsight is 20/20… We all make decisions we regret… A child thinks if only I hadn’t climbed that tree my arm wouldn’t have broken…

So do I how to deal with the “if only’s”

It’s simple but incredibly hard…

  • I repent
  • I talk to God… prayer…
  • I listen to God through Bible studying
  • Learn from them my if only or only if”
  • Ask God to help me to avoid doing it again
  • I talk to my sponsor accountability partners
  • I make amends

There will be consequences… (not judgements – boy tree > broken arm)
But also peace with God from spending time with God… Be still, and know that I am God Psalm 46:10
Phil 4:4-8 …Peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart in Christ Jesus…

Back to POWERLESS (CR acrostic)

P is pride yah… I had lots of pride… which lead to many “if only”

O Only if… It’s really easy for me to play the self-bashing game… Instead,  I confess to God, He already knows what I did so what’s the benefit of hiding it, He can help me understand why and guides me to what I should do next time or to make amends with those who were affected by my actions…

Worry… Both backwards and forwards… Back… I can stay trapped in the past… Forward… Is God involved? So I just need to trust His plan (it’s called faith)

In going to end the acrostic here… Want to learn more? Find a Celebrate Recovery

Battling the if only or only if is better done with support…

Thinking about doing it does seem easy… It’s the application that is soooo hard…

*****************************************************************************

Okay that above is a battle plan… seems easy simple steps… I know the application is hard and I need the Holy Spirit to give me a nudge or a kick in the butt when I need to use it…

Honestly – it is what I want to do with my heart… that’s the God part of my life – but there is a carnal part of me that just SCREAMS to ignore it – excuse it away (excuse = the skin of truth stuffed with a lie), the self I have inside will distract me… I will think of ways to “justify” my reasoning to ______

The New Testament talks a lot about the sinful person I have inside… It can block the butt kicks… I might feel them or I have not listened long enough to the Spirit in me that I don’t feel them…

This was pretty much what happened in my life… I stopped listening to God… could I have avoided the mental health crisis? I don’t know that what I am dealing with is VERY physical – my brain is literally changed  – why or how or ??? I’m not 100% sure… it’s a disease… why does someone end up being a diabetic? Was it one too many cookies or cakes? Could they have prevented it? Regardless…
Regardless – I am where I am… it wasn’t sudden – there were clues it was happening… it started early on in my life… it’s where I am… This is where God and I try hard to keep moving forward…

Besides…. 

If there isn’t a battle going on – there should be and I need to seek God again… life happens – living it is the hard part….

(CR… I have no affiliation with them other than acknowledging how profound a has changed my life)

Just Pause and Say Hi

Drug addicts.. Pot heads… … Alcoholics…

Except infants born to women to a mother listed above… Well…

just pause and say hi…Walk a mile in… You know the rest…

We see them near stores begging…

Yes, they’ve been to detox &/or meeting… Earned a chip… And relapsed (again)

Remember they are humans…

Why did they chose to be where they are? Or BETTER YET why have they have arrived here?

Some are from good homes… They started as just recreational fun, experiments that turned into addiction…

feel safer living out here

Many turn to the street because they feel safer living out here than home… It happens more than you know…

Some are youth who were in the “system” but hit the age of being an “adult”… They are lost… Where do they go? Has the system been good or not… Were they taught enough life skills… (I’m not blaming any person working in the system… Thank you for all you do, we know it’s the system)…

Some street people can’t find a place to live… Singles, teens, adults who can’t afford the rent, single parents with children, elderly who must choose between shelter, food, heat, medications… These are NOT addicts… Oh and the “lucky” ones have cars they can sleep in…

A friend told me a story of when she and her two your girls were walking in an area known to have homeless.. one of her sweet daughters said hello to a man sitting on steps to a door. She just turned her head and said hi… The man reacted… The mom paused… The man was crying as it was the FIRST TIME in 3 YEARS ANYONE had stopped and SPOKEN to him…

My mom once was in LA seeing my brother. He needed to spot in at work for a bit and she came with… While walking he stopped to get a tray full of coffee. As they continued he would pause and pass out the coffee to homeless people with cream and sugar just as they liked it… He knew their names…

These people are somebody’s child, parent, cousin, friend…

I came across a man asking for money, was he hungry? (Hubby and I never leave a person hungry)… He wasn’t so I asked why the money… It was for a pair of shoes from Value Village before winter… It’s not always for drugs… And yes, he got his shoes, but not from.. VV

Why am I so passionate about this? I have some friends with children on the streets with addictions…

But I am so blessed… With my mental break down… If I didn’t have family support or good friends AND Celebrate Recovery I could easily be on the streets…

Any comments might be something that makes the difference between recovery or suicide..

So the take away? Don’t quickly walk past the person sitting alone near the door

just pause and say hi…

One in Four

Humour me and think… You are the bell of the ball, the prince of the land.. the mayor of the city, the richest person on earth!

People see you and smile. Girls want to dress like you, wear their hair like you… Boys pretend to battle and have victories like you (please no stereotyping I’m only making a point).

Life could not be better! You’ve worked hard been honest and climbed the social and corporate ladders to sit where you are. God has blessed you! You not only tithe but you support many programs in your church…

… Then one day you notice a white spot on your hand and you shrug it off… but it won’t go away even with the best of the best treatments.

Another spot shows on your nose… You cover it up with make up for a while… You start to become concerned…

These spots are growing bigger and show in more places… You ask your physician to come to the house…

He confirms your biggest fear… You have the incurable the disease… You panic… What will people think? How will my friends react? Will they think God is punishing me? Did I do something wrong? What is happening?

People with the disease are ostracized… They are moved to a place outside of the city to live. The disease is leprosy and there are strick rules (in the Biblical times)…

Switching back to our time here… What happens when it’s mental health issues? The chances are one in four… 25% of us will or had some sort of mental health issue.

There are mild cases but also more severe.

You remember ______. They were depressed following a family death… They seems to have recovered…

But _____ really changed…. maybe they aren’t praying enough… There must have been signs before this don’t you think? Well, I heard from A who told B……

Now, your world comes crashing down around you… You’re too ill to work… You don’t understand this illness! Doctor’s prescribe medications trying to find the correct doses…

You go to church and your not sure where to sit… You feel overwhelmed and tired out to quickly..

There are ways to cover up most of your illness but people may notice something is different… You look at everybody trying to see if they already know! Is your secret safe? People may know this illness, there may be rumours… you suspect some people know as they have the pity eyes look when you see them…

Other’s make a quick 180’s when they see you coming their way…

Good old Thelma, she’s going to make her famous cake and bring it to you next week… .

Other people just shake your hand and say an awkward hello with their “Christmas card smile”…

Friends don’t call as often…

Then one good friend appears, maybe one more… They give you the “what can I really do to help” face…

Your struggling to even get to work… Then realize and acknowledge the truth… You can’t work right now…the illness has become very evident and consumes you…

Fact: 25% of the members in your church will actually deal with mental health issues… From depression of a loved one lost, the baby blues all the way up to needing to be hospitalized with suicidal thoughts…

Know that Mental Health is a symptom and not a sin

Many people refuse to seek help because of the stigma…

People:

  • Whisper to each other
  • Look and shake their heads
  • Show an indignant face (self-righteous)
  • Ignore &/or avoid you
  • Show you the puppy dog eyes
  • Tell you to walk and pray more
  • Tell you they understand as Aunt Willamina had something similar 40 years ago

ONE OUT OF FOUR

With Borderline Personality Disorder ONE IN TEN will commit suicide (400% higher than other diagnoses…

Stigma… Hey, I was completely ignorant about it…. With the internet there are many sites with great information

My goals are:

  • Education for all to recognize Mental Health Issues for support and understanding
  • Squash stigma… To ease it for Christian’s to seek the help they require
  • Celebrate Recovery – a safe place to find other people who understand and accept you and where to begin healing in God’s way.

Zacchaeus and Hi

Mental Health for many, like me, will be a life long struggle… A lot of it will be a physiological (physical) issue as my brain isn’t wired as I would like it to be…

Let’s look at 3 medical issues and what is the typical response:

Cancer, Disease, Comfort

Diabetes, Insulin, Support

Depression, Issues, Unsure/Confusion/Fear/Unknown

I share my story as a Christian dealing with mental health issues/disease mostly because it is an area many churches and Christians don’t understand… It’s big and ugly, scary… unknown… And the big S word

stigma…

I looked like any woman in church on any Sunday… I looked like any women at work… I eluded to being a successful woman… But inside I wasn’t… I know that many people sit in church Sunday to Sunday…

I was completely ignorant 4 years ago… It’s a taboo subject…

It’s not important HOW someone got there, it’s important to support and learn about it… It is scary… But everyone can be educated…

The church is supposed to be a place for comfort, healing, support… Is it?

It’s like Zacchaeus would be in the tree… Not sure how to join the crowd, desperately trying to… And Jesus notices him…

Sometimes it simply starts with a simple “hi”

Underneath the trappings we’re decaying

My personal Bible study is going through the Book of Revelations. There are 7 church’s addressed each receive praise and instructions. Philadelphia gets a lot of praise but Sardis gets a lot of warnings including that while they seem alive they are really dead.

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. (Rev 3:1)

From my commentary:

We cover up the dead places in ourselves with all sorts of regalia. We fill the emptiness with fine clothing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, or relationships in which the other is set up as god. Underneath the trappings, though, we’re decaying.*

To me at least this soooo takes me to my mental health issues… For years I had been trying to fulfil the void inside that could only be filled by God… instead, I sought my self-worth in what I was performing and trying to show-off how important I was… trying to feel special and acknowledged by those around me….

Underneath the trappings, though, we’re decaying.

I had a huge dead place inside – and for me – the longer I chose to avoid it – the bigger it became… until I finally reached a point where the void was so big, I slipped off the edge and fell into it… and was forced to deal with it… and have God save me… but not before I hit the bottom with my depression, anxiety and BPD to the point of suicidal thoughts that would haunt me daily for months and months… and they still pop-up from out of nowhere still and can leave me quivering – literally, physically inside I feel like a taser or something has hit me…

I’m working the way out of the void with God’s help, however, there are scars… working and battling with God in the void isn’t easy… physically my brain is actually changed… I need – require medications to keep me from returning and falling back into the void…

Is it a case of lack of faith? No… Is a diabetic lacking faith by using insulin?

And just like a diabetic – somedays are better than others… it depends on way too many factors to list…

The good news is – I have God on my side… if I stay close to Him – listen to His spirit whispering to my heart and soul words of wisdom, I’m okay – even on the days which are not so good…

And prayer, but just not alone – I have a support network in place – I can send out a text message and know they are also praying on my behalf…

Growth – I am actively (well hopefully more days than not) seeking God’s will through not only reading my devotions but also in a group with women doing a 12-step from Celebrate Recovery – I do not have any personal gain by mentioning this other than knowing it works. The women in my groups have all different ways we have met – substance abuse, sexual abuse, anger, food addiction, codependency… but the one things we do have – a growing faith in God and building a network to support each other…

 

*Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.