Saturday, April 6, 2013

who writes the song of your heart?

I'm prompted to write a post tonight given recent events related to mental illness. Since the gun violence across the country has sparked a major conversation and spotlight on gun control as well as mental illness, I've found myself in deep reflection since my career is based deep in the mental health field. I also saw today that Pastor Rick Warren's son struggled with mental illness most of his life and unfortunately took his own life last night.

Many people like to believe that Christians don't suffer from mental illness. I strongly disagree. Some will point out the unsettling fact that a well-known pastor lost his son to suicide and think that this shouldn't... couldn't... happen to that family, or any family who believes in God.

The truth is, mental illness is just another glimpse into the very human nature we all carry in us. We are human and fallen. Some experience physical sickness, addiction, jealousy, performance based lifestyles/perfectionism, greed... Others experience mental illness. It's only a facet in the big picture of what humanity deals with. For some reason, possibly the negative publicity from the media or unknown/unwillingness to learn about mental illness, mental illness becomes different, heightened problem than others we face or observe.

From my experience with working with clients who have severe, chronic mental illness, those who voice belief in God seem to understand and know Him more than me. They are strong because they rely more on Him than themselves. They acknowledge their weaknesses because they find them very apparent when attempting to perform daily tasks that others see as effortless. During discussions about what "mental illness" really means, I often tell my clients that everyone has problems and that their problems just have a name. They are people just like you and I... And they are loved by God just as much as He loves us.

I wholeheartedly believe that God can choose those with mental illness to be His own. Though they may suffer on this Earth for a lifetime with mental issues and turmoil, eternity in heaven provides a new body and a new mind. Salvation is worth that if nothing else... even with a lifetime of mental illness on this Earth.

I'm reminded of a story of a man in an insane asylum who wrote a verse on the wall of his room in the early 1900's. This was later added to the hymn, The Love of God. The composer said this:

"One day, during short intervals of inattention to our work, we picked up a scrap of paper and, seated upon an empty lemon box pushed against the wall, with a stub pencil, added the (first) two stanzas and chorus of the song…Since the lines (3rd stanza from the Jewish poem) had been found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave, the general opinion was that this inmate had written the epic in moments of sanity."

Frederick M. Lehman, “History of the Song, The Love of God,” 1948

A man who was struggled with mental illness to the point of permanent placement in an insane asylum... who died in that same place... was able in some moments of his life to write such beautiful and pure words about God. I believe God wrote and kept that song in that man's heart. We are blessed to see a glimpse of that purity in the midst of a difficult life.

I get the honor of sitting across from those who are hurting and struggling everyday. I'm blessed to see those glimpses of God's love and purity in the midst of my client's turmoil and grief. I hope that if you or someone you love, care about, or know struggles with mental illness, you find hope and peace from knowing that God can write the song of your heart and theirs as well. I hope that if you also have the honor of sitting across from hurting people, that you choose to look and listen for God's provision and redemption in each of your clients' lives. I said a special prayer tonight for anyone who reads this post who has contact with mental illness in any way, whether therapist or client, family member or friend. My prayers are with you tonight.

I leave you with the words this man wrote on the wall of his room. I hope you can envision his situation, his struggle, and his hope in God above all of it... no matter the condition of his mind.

im thankful.
carrie anne


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