Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Don’t Walk That Impossible Road Alone

While listening, empathy, and caring make things better, they don’t guarantee a comfortable journey.

They say it’s darkest before the dawn.  In our marriage, that was true.  Ann and I made it through our dark night, but the dawn that followed lit up a winding, rocky road much different than what we’d hoped for…
Mental illness would forever plague our family.
Chaos in our home would kill most of our ‘couples’ relationships.
Fatigue from explaining and fear of judgment would stifle most other relationships.
The all-encompassing world of raising special needs children would crowd out even simple pleasures.

We cried from deep inside: “How will we be able to walk this road?”

Realistically, there’s only one way.  Now, some might tell you that you can do it on your own, while others predict you’ll never make it.  Even more will say that Ann and I are weak, that we’ve given up, and that we use religion as a crutch.  But after decades of walking this path, still enjoying a satisfying marriage, and somehow helping others from the pain of our past, we can testify from the trenches: “We know!”

That way?  Faith.  Faith in, and faith that.

Faith.  “Faith is being sure of what’s hoped for and certain of what’s not seen.”  Would you bet everything that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow?  Faith is that level of confidence, but about things like healing and restoration that are far beyond the horizon you can barely see today.

Faith in.  “Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  Few can argue anymore that Jesus didn’t exist; there’s too much historical evidence proving he did.  The question now is whether there’s enough reason to trust him for everything, including our current situations.  But consider this…

Faith that.  “He’s risen!”  “I’m with you always!”  “I’m coming soon!”  “In this world, you’ll have trouble.  But take heart!  I’ve overcome the world!”  Jesus—the one who rose from the dead, stays with us, will come back, and already won—walks this path with us!

And because of our common faith, Ann and I can walk our seemingly impossible, trouble-filled road and…
See all our children as blessings, despite attacks and deception and scars and loss.
Understand and not judge, empathize and not pity.
Accept our lot, even when it’s not pleasant.
Help others through our love and service.
Praise God for it all and through it all.

Now, your path is different and likely more difficult than ours, and I honestly feel for you.  But I know from first-hand experience that faith in Jesus makes all the difference.  He never disappoints.

I also know that faith isn’t a couple’s walk.  While a common faith will bring you closer to each other, you must still walk your own ‘faith’ path while walking your ‘marriage’ path together.  Grace and patience will need to flourish in that situation, but your faithful walk may be the thing that prompts your spouse to put their faith in Jesus, too.  At that point, your marriage, your family, and the world will be blessed in so many more ways!

Trust in him who’s overcome.  Trust that he can and will do all he’s promised.  While your situation might not change this side of eternity, keep trekking with him.  Remember, change isn’t the goal.  Making the most of your journey is the goal.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Will you listen to just one more voice?

Can I add anything to all the voices speaking out this week, to the hundreds of articles written during this year’s “Mental Illness Awareness Week”?  I’m no PhD.  I’m no author of mental health books.  I’m no keynote speaker charging thousands per engagement.

Who am I that you should listen to me?  This is who I am…
I’m a father of six, most of whom have some kind of brain disorder.
I’m one who mourns the death of a child who lost his fight with mental illness.
I’m the husband of one who’s persevered with me even when the night grew so dark we could feel it.
And I’m a Jesus follower, convinced that the Bible is true, the Resurrection happened, and Jesus will return.

The first three facts above give me at least some credibility.  The last one gives me reason to think that I can add some valuable insights.  And here they are:

Mental illness is one of many consequences of the Fall.  Mankind was cursed when we chose our way over our Creator’s, and so we deal with autism and angina, bipolar and bronchitis, depression and diabetes and death.  Mental illness is now part of the human condition that we, in part, caused.  That doesn’t make it our fault, though, it just is.

And it’s important that we understand and accept this, because it helps us answer these and many other questions…
Did my diet cause my daughter’s depression?
Will pills cure my son of his schizophrenia?
Can I “pray away” my wife’s anxiety?
Did my parenting cause my child’s OCD?
Can I move someplace where I know that my future children won’t have autism?
Will my addictive tendencies ever really go away?

Because we’re cursed, the answer to all these questions is, unfortunately, “No.”  But there’s hope!  It’s called…

The Resurrection.  In a nutshell, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proved that he was who he said he was, and that he has power over all things, including death.  And, yes, mental illness, too.  But while he has power over mental illness, he unfortunately hasn’t yet vanquished it, nor physical illness, nor death.  But there’s hope!  It’s called…

The Second Coming.  Since Jesus is who he said he was, he’s powerful enough to do what he said he’ll do, which includes wiping away every tear, eliminating death and mourning and crying and pain, and (my assertion) curing mental illness.  Unfortunately, we probably have many, many years of dealing with mental illness before he comes again.

So, what do we do ‘til then?

Live.  Love.  Forgive.  Repeat.