God's Steadfast Love: Psalm 103

What Would the Church Look Like if we Actually Did this Stuff? James chapter 5

Who Me? Hostile to God? James chapter 4

So, Where Was God During the Holocaust & On the Trail of Tears? Psalm 116

It’s OK not to be OK

Nonprofit Sip of Hope (https://sipofhope.com/) in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago is the world’s first coffee shop that gives 100% of it profits to support proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. Their motto, which I wear on a band around my wrist, is “It’s OK not to be OK, Have Hope.” Indeed, it is. 

I think of Greg Boyd, renowned Princeton educated theologian, prolific author, speaker, and pastor-teacher who is quite up front about his adult attention deficit disorder and his period manic episodes, as well as his abusive childhood.

I think of John Green, a phenomenally successful blogger, educator, YouTube sensation, and author of books for young adults, who is up front talking about his deep irrational anxieties and obsessive compulsive disorder.

And, historically, figures like Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther suffered from what today would clearly be called a form of deep, chronic, major clinical depression. The list could go on.

The point, though, is that one can have a significant mental disorder and live a full, flourishing, meaningful life that impacts others for good. No shame. No judgment. Life beats us up. Genes get out of whack

Yes, we need help. Sure, there are medications which, when used in conjunction with talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral intervention guided by a trained psychologist, can be of help. 

But the truth is, all of us need help regularly, whether from a physician, surgeon, mechanic, IT professional, spouse, neighbor, or psychologist. We’re in this boat called life together. It really does take a village to raise a child.  

 My maternal grandfather committed suicide when my mother was seven. My paternal grandfather died in his 30s leaving my 12-year-old future father in charge of providing for a family. My oldest son committed suicide. On my birthday. 

And when Elliott died by suicide, a genetically weakened link deep inside me snapped. I have off and on battled against major depression ever since.

It’s lonely, just like grief is lonely. No one is you but you. No one feels exactly like what you feel. No one has had your identical life experiences. No one has your exact genetic makeup. And, because most people are not diagnosable with a mental disorder, most people do not really understand. Well-meaning people give really unhelpful advice. No one but God can truly empathize. 

I have had massive panic attacks that lasted for hours. I have spiraled into deepening anxiety, felt out of control, thought I was dying. I have at times felt like an astronaut drifting untethered in a vacuum of dark space. I have at times felt like I was locked in a one-person submarine that lost its power and is drifting slowly into utter darkness and the certainty of being crushed out of existence. 

But, you know what? It’s OK not to be OK.

Have Hope.

It’s OK because there are people who love me.

It’s OK because there are professionals to help me.

It’s OK because there are people who have experienced something similar and can begin to relate. 

It’s OK because God loves me and will never leave me. He walks with me in the darkness.

The Coronation of the King and His Queen (with some lessons in black history): Psalm 45

Wisdom from Above: James chapter 3

Ever upward

The lighthouse is massively tall

Tall beyond imagination almost

As it reaches up through the clouds

And from its summit (I’m told)

One can see not only all 

The oceans of the earth but indeed

The entire cosmos – nova, nebulae, 

Quasars as well as rainbow reefs, 

Soaring terns, and breaching humpbacks

Internally, the lighthouse is like a narrow silo

Stone steps wind around, twisting upward

Pressing against the towering walls 

Periodically, randomly, there are external

Doors along the way – doors that offer escape

Relief, that open to warm sunlight and thrilling,

Exhilarating invigorating slides which

Elicit squeals of laughter and delight until

Each invariably terminates 

Into cold filth

Stench, despair, darkness

Door after door bids me stop climbing

Along the way

On my left is a shear drop into darkness

Enticing doors to my right

Steep steps beneath my feet, presenting

Three choices, no four – not to climb at all

(The path most choose, for no one must make the ascent)

To leap with impulsive stupidity from one of the many external doors

(Which, alas, I have done many times)

To become disoriented, dizzy, hopeless and

Fall off into the darkness to my left

(I wonder with grace and gratitude what prevents this)

Or, (help me, O, Lord)

To climb upward, ever upward

More often than I can admit

I have opened one of those doors 

Of deceptive escape – They are numerous:

Immediate satisfaction,

Distractions of mindless entertainment,

Self-concern, the Siren call of mammon,

Busyness, worry, self-rejection,

Judgmentalism 

(to name a few – there are many doors) 

Laughing with false joy on the decent

The thrilling plunge into

Regret and despair, yet

Each time, every time,

Angelic arms have lifted me by

Silken ropes, showered me clean

Clothed me afresh, and I found myself

Miraculously ascending once more

Not, as one would expect, from

The bottom, but picking up 

Nearly where I left off

As when I by grace climb step after steep narrow step

There are not only enticing doors 

To my right, but also

Periodic windows from which I can gaze

At the beauty of the clouds and sea

Through which I can feel cool breezes on my face

Windows of love that invite me to catch my 

Breath and refresh my soul

There are occasional soft benches 

To rest weary bodies and rub sore muscles

Before resuming the upward climb

Not infrequently, as I round the upward

Spiral, I reach others, some in need,

Some determined, some in despair

Some I can perhaps help – the 

One with the sprained ankle, the 

Little girl I can carry, the one about to

Leap from an enticing doorway, the

One too tired to go on

Others help me

Closer now (yet never close enough)

New vigor, pressing on the upward 

Way where there are encouragements,

Along with windows of grace and 

Benches of shalom, I find

Bubbling fountains of fresh clear pure spring 

Water here, a bowl of steaming

Clam chowder there, a soft chair in which

To rest, virtual goggles filled with visions,

Smells, sounds of mountain streams, singing

Wrens, and pileateds flashing red, chickadees

Chasing sapsuckers around sugar maples

The journey itself is wholeness, succor 

Renewed, refreshed, I climb

And what draws me upward?

Why keep climbing?

Few do, many mock and call me fool

What is it above that bids me on?

Far above is the multifaceted lens

The rotating light

The promise of a view that cannot be elsewhere found

Yes, all of that

But more so, he is there,

Next to the lens, tending the light on

The culminating platform

From which he surveys and guides

The stars and conducts the 

Hymn of the universe

I hear him call, reassure, he knows

My name

I catch occasional glimpses of him far above my head 

As I climb, step after weary step

Jesus awaits

My heart yearns for

His smile

His embrace

His welcome

His friendship

Faith Without Works, or What is Salvation, Really? James 2:14-26

Wisdom: How, not Why — Psalm 37

%d bloggers like this: