Category Archives: Kingdom Life
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.
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 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:
Distractions of mindless entertainment,
Self-concern, the Siren call of mammon,
Busyness, worry, self-rejection,
(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
I catch occasional glimpses of him far above my head
As I climb, step after weary step
My heart yearns for