I'm starting a new blog series for the next week or so about things that I wish the church knew. The more and more that I work with young people and the people that I talk to through this organization, I realize more and more that the church has left a bad taste with a lot of people. Now let me make one thing clear: I love the church and I love working in the church and being part of something bigger than myself. I count myself blessed to be a part of such a wonderful church family. And I am in no way bashing the church in this post. I could and would never do that. But I'm also not so naive to think that there aren't people that have been significantly hurt by the church.
So often I get asked my thoughts on why the church does this or why it does that or why it thinks certain ways about things. And I most certainly don't have all the answers. I don't think I ever will. But what I do know is that there are some things that I wish the church knew and those are the things that I hope to address within this series.
This week I want to talk about what I wish the church knew about mental illness. And trust me, there is plenty that I wish the church knew. I also know that if I ever want to be a part of the change and help churches understand mental illness better.
I wish the church knew that mental illnesses didn't have to be swept under the rug. I wish they knew how to be more open and loving to the people in their congregation or the public in general that suffer, often in silence because fear of making someone uncomfortable. I wish that I didn't have to be so silent about the fact that I've been diagnosed with a mental illness or the fact that I take medication for it.
I wish they knew that struggling doesn't mean regressing or relapsing. That some days just suck and I want to just cry or shut out the world. It doesn't mean that I'm not reliable or can't be counted on. It just means that some days are harder than others and I could really use some of that grace that you so famously preach on.
I wish that they didn't automatically assume that I must not have enough faith and that if only I was "more spiritual" or "prayed more" or "studied the word more" that I would feel the way I do and therefore wouldn't have a diagnosed illness.
If you ever feel like telling me that I don't have enough faith or anything along those lines, then please be prepared for me to inform you how incredibly wrong you are. You bury both of your parents by age 25 with so many things left unfinished and words left unspoken and try and figure out how to live your life on your own and try and find the desire to even continue your life. And then to find those reasons to keep going, the desire to live a life that would honor them and one that they would be proud of, that takes faith. A lot of it. A lot more than I ever thought I had.
So no, my friend, I have plenty of faith. It's my faith that has sustained me. It's my faith that has seen me through my darkest days. It's not my lack of faith that causes me to feel the things I feel at times. But I think it's your lack of empathy that causes you to feel what you do.
I wish that the church was more open to talking about mental illness. The ugliness behind it. The really hard and uncomfortable details. The crippling depression. The overwhelming anxiety. The thoughts of suicide. Those are all real things that so many people feel. But they assume that they are the only ones who feel that way because not even the church can provide them a safe place to have those conversations.
Now please understand, I'm not saying that every church is like this. Mine most certainly isn't. And for that I am so eternally thankful. But I know for many of you, this is the reality that you face when you walk through those doors on Sunday mornings. Maybe it's even led you to no longer walking through those doors at all anymore. And for that, I am so sorry. As someone who is an active member in the church and a leader in the church, I'm sorry that you were so drastically let down by the one place that should have offered you a safe haven.
But please know, that even in those moments, that we are all human, and that we will most certainly fail people in our lives. I have failed people and people have failed me. But I know the One who has never failed me. I know that the same people that have left you feeling broken, are broken themselves. They are in desperate need of repairing as well. And I know that we don't have the ability to repair ourselves. But I know the One who can.
The church can be and is a beautiful place. And I hope that you find the courage to try again. I hope that you know that you are still incredibly loved. Things won't always be this way. There is light at the end of the tunnel. And I fully believe that one day, we won't have to be so hush hush about our illnesses in the one place we should be able to go for healing.
As always you can keep up with me over at ohhaiiitsbrandii.wordpress.com
Until next time,