Do you suppose Jesus ever had a bad day? Do you think he ever wanted to say WTH? Do you think his followers ever said, “I don’t want to go and help the poor and sick. I want some me time. I want to go home to my family.” Maybe, maybe not, but I will guarantee most of us have gone through the soul-wrenching process of feeling less than, not up to par, inadequate, and ineffective in our ministry and in our roles as partners, spouses, ministers, friends, employees and more. When I say this I am picturing the monkey from The Lion King saying, “It’s all part of the great circle of life.” And I want to take his stupid stick, snap it in half and tell him, “Well that sucks!”
Our mental health is vital for us to fulfill our roles. If we are to function “normally”, (I use this term carefully and with a caveat that everybody’s normal is different) we need to attend to this aspect of our lives with as much care and attention as we give to our spiritual and physical selves. We cannot and should not compartmentalize these aspects of our lives as being separate and independent of each other. (Even though I do it repeatedly throughout this article.) Our inner selves act upon our outer selves and vice versa. There have been times in my own journey where I have not attended to these issues and they have affected my relationships, my work, and my physical health. Thankfully, I have been able to incorporate many practices into my daily life to deal with pressures and demands on me that otherwise could have lasting negative effects.
As ministers and disciples of Jesus Christ we can identify with being healers. Physical, emotional and spiritual pain can sometimes be laid at our feet in the form of broken and wounded children of God who need us to provide the ministry of Jesus Christ. When we continually become the clearing house for these wounded we are in danger of becoming what Henri Nouwen referred to as “The Wounded Healer.” It is through reading about Henri’s journey and experiences that I was able to allow myself the luxury of being okay with being “less than” and to live with being that wounded healer. I also open myself up to be healed by acknowledging my own brokenness.
The scriptures refer to people who Jesus might have clung to or received ministry from, such as the disciple that Jesus loved, Martha and Mary, and of times spent in solace, being with God. He created the conditions to ensure that as he emptied his cup, provision was made for it to be filled. So too must we attend to those aspects of our beings if we are to honour the Sacredness of All Creation by acknowledging the interconnectedness of the physical, emotional, and spiritual – the wholeness of our beings.
We must also be compassionate to those who suffer, sometimes silently, because of their emotional and mental pain. We must acknowledge that sometimes we are those people. We need to create conditions where people feel safe and accepted. And we need it to become endemic within our Christian tradition. Over the past year I have become aware of the great need to educate ourselves and our institutions about mental health. We need to address issues of marginalization and oppression of those suffering from mental illness. I became acquainted with a wonderful organization from Vancouver, British Columbia called Sanctuary. They work with congregations to provide ministry for, and receive ministry from, people living with mental illness. We hope we are moving toward a more egalitarian society in this world, the creation of the Beloved Community, Zion, and we need to ensure that we are providing that opportunity for everyone.
So if you are one who suffers, please know you are not alone. More importantly, people care about you. They value your contributions to this world and care about your wholeness of health. Find that safe place and person who you can work things through with. Take a mental break. Do something fun every day. Practice some positive affirmations. Find a friend who will be real, but compassionate. If you need to, get to a counselor. Many times an unbiased ear is needed when dealing with issues. Mostly, know that you are a beloved child of God and you are of inestimable worth.
Jesus loves you, and so do I.