Stigma Sucks

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Mental illness doesn’t mean exotic or strange– but it does mean different. It doesn’t make one bizarre, or odd. Coming to faith in Christ really settles this issue for most. While our mental illness is flaring up, yet we are still being changed by the Holy Spirit.

We can’t really nullify the work of God. It takes as much grace to change a “normal” man as a mentally challenged one. God does not have to work any harder; there are no lost causes or last chances. All require the same grace.

Since I’m bipolar I’ve become aware of BP throughout history. Many painters and poets, inventors and doctors have come from the ranks of bipolar disorder. Many of those with manic depression and sufferers of depression have excelled; we would not have harnessed electricity if it wasn’t because a bipolar/ADHD created the light bulb.

But we are different. But we also can bring a giftedness that is necessary. We are not pariahs or leeches, but rather we are unique. Typically we may be passionate and sensitive. We are touched by something creative. Some have called bipolar disorder as those “touched by fire.”

Mental illness should be more of a mental difference than a liability. We are not crazy or lunatics running amok. Sometimes others pity us; often when they do they shut us off and seal us into a weird sense of extreme wariness. This should not be.

13 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Psalm 139:13-14, NLT

God has created each one. We are all “knit together” by the hand of God. There are no second rates– prototypes, not quite His best work. The blood of Christ works in spite of handicaps and personality quirks.

Some may hesitate about this. But it is essentially an act of faith. The treasures of the Church are unique. They are the blind and the lame, the ones not always stable. What others consider marginal, or lacking are really the valuable ones. It’s these that the Church should glory in.

I encourage you to broaden your thinking on this. To stigmatize others is never a healthy or God honoring attitude. It indicates a small heart.

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What Are the Treasures of the Church?

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An Archbishop was given an ultimatum by the Huns who surrounded his cathedral. “You have 24 hours to bring your wealth to these steps”, the war-leader declared. The next morning the Archbishop came out leading the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lunatics. “Where is your treasure? Why have you brought out these, people?” The Archbishop calmly replied, “These are the treasures of the Church— these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”

As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness: ADHD,  depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life. Physical illnesses like fibromyalgia, migraines, diabetes and epilepsy are denied. So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and our doctors appointments. We change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. The pressure to hide is very strong.

But I would suggest to you that it is perhaps we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and lostness, than whole people can. We understand we have needs; a sound mind, a healthy body and we know it. We have no illusions of wellness, nothing can convince us that we are well. We are not. We are broken and only our loving creator can mend us.

You might say that the Church needs us.

But I am afraid the the Western Church no longer sees its “treasures” like it should. In our pride and self-centeredness we have operated our churches like successful businesses. We value giftedness more than weakness. We definitely have no room for the desperately sick or weak. Maybe it’s time for the Church to begin to act like Jesus?

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church should be a verb.  Church is who you are. Church is the human out-working of the person of Jesus Christ. 

Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.

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Limits of Mental Illness

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Mental illness is so limited,

It cannot cripple love, 

It cannot shatter hope.

It cannot corrode our faith.

It will never destroy peace.

It cannot.

It will never kill friendship, 

It cannot suppress memories. 

It cannot invade the soul.

It cannot steal eternal life.

It cannot conquer eternal life.

It cannot conquer your spirit.

Amen.

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 P.S. I have received some criticism over the contents of this post. The argument is that mental illness is very destructive, and that I’m misleading others by suggesting it isn’t. The thinking is that we dwell on the past and how it effects the present moment. I believe we have a mental illness. But I also believe more strongly so that Christ redeems us completely. “Because he lives,” goes the old hymn, “I can face tomorrow.”

In the “heat of the moment” the situation can seem overwhelming. Our illness can be completely devastating. However the Holy Spirit is yet to fully redeem us, yet we still must view this coming event as something triumphant and total. This life is not the end. What a relief to shed this mortal darkness!

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

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