She didn’t have to die

•December 1, 2009 • 81 Comments

She didn’t say a word at first. She just placed a photograph into my hands. I looked at the face of an attractive women I took to be in her late thirties. “This was my daughter,” she said. “She took her life seven months ago.” I held her as she sobbed and waited  for her words to come. They came like pain-filled rifle fire. “She was struggling with depression-on the staff of a large church-asked for time off to get help-told they don’t believe in that-she should pray, she should pray! Now she is dead.” I wept too for I have heard these stories before. I have been featured in these stories before.

I was hospitalized in 1992 with severe clinical depression. I went from being co-host of the 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network one morning to being in the locked ward of a psychiatric hospital that night. I felt as if I had gone to hell. My father died in a psych hospital when he was in his thirties and for me they are the place of nightmares. In truth, God took me to a prison to set me free. He showed me that even if I make my bed in hell nothing can separate me from his love. I believe I met an angel that first night. I pulled the covers off the little bed and sat in the corner of the room so afraid, so alone. At about 3AM a young women walked into my room and placed a small, soft toy into my hands. It was a lamb. As she turned to leave she said to me, “Sheila, the Shepherd knows where to find you.” I never saw her again.

I learned so much about depression and other mental illness during my month stay. I learned that I was struggling not because of a lack of faith but a lack of Serotonin, a chemical needed for proper brain function that some of us do not produce enough of. I learned too that there is still such ignorance about such illnesses and crippling stigma within the church. I have no desire to be the poster child for depression or medication but I still take my pill every morning with a prayer of thanksgiving that God had made this help available for those of us who need it. My hope is this, you may not understand this illness then find out what you can so that we, as the church can be a place of healing and hope not shame and judgement. As I think of the young women whose photograph I held I know this, she didn’t have to die, she just needed help. I want to be part of that army

•November 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Thank you so much for your responses. I can see that I will learn much from this community who are open to speak the truth and open to listen too

When did we stop listening?

•November 30, 2009 • 62 Comments

Listening is in danger of becoming a lost art, particularly in the Church. It seems to me that we have an internal set of scales that weighs words, ignoring the heart that the words spill from. Let me give you an example. Two years ago I made a commitment to my son, Christian that on each Tuesday evening we would shoot hoops in our yard. He had joined a basketball team and felt that his shooting skills didn’t match up to some of the other boys on the team. So it was a date. Every Tuesday he would come home from school and after he had tackled his homework and we had eaten the game was on. I loved every minute of  it. I learned so much about what was going on in his heart and mind during those months as we stood side by side as opposed to face to face, a style more familiar to me as a woman.

One evening a neighbor of mine came over to ask me if I would be willing to host a bible study in my home. I told her I’d be happy to if the timing worked. She said that she had checked with other women in the neighborhood and the only time that worked was Tuesday evening. I told her that I was sorry but I wasn’t free then. She asked why. I told her that was the time I had a hot date with a ten-year old. She said, “Are you telling me that shooting hoops with your son is more important that teaching the word of God?” I replied, “On that night, yes.” She left, very offended.

I thought about that encounter for a while. I was neither surprised or offended, nor did I feel I had done the wrong thing. What was clear to me was that she had stopped listening. When I hit one of her non-negotiables she became deaf. The Word of God was on one side of her internal scales of justice and basketball on the other and the crime was clear. Since then I have sought her out and we have talked. I have explained that keeping my word to my son is about as close as you get to my heart without drawing blood. She listened to me but we have decided to die on separate hills, we agreed to disagree.

My point is simply this, I want my only non-negotiable to be the love of God. Some things matter to you that will never matter to me but that does not reduce their weight. Some things I believed to be very important ten years ago now seem trivial. Jesus said what really matters is that we love God with all we have and are and love one another as we love ourselves. To do that, we have to listen. Sometimes we have to listen beyond words to a heart that is battered and broken and may use words as a shield. Today I treasure the gift of listening and my hope is that if we bump into each other somewhere along the line I will listen to you more than I will talk.

Hello world!

•November 29, 2009 • 1 Comment

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