Dark Devotional: Remain in the Flesh

Life, death, time. That about covers it.
Life, death, time. That about covers it.

 

Recently I attended a mental health conference at a local non-denominational church. It was encouraging and reviving. I’m in a masters program for marriage and family therapy, but after my last two hospitalizations, I became very discouraged. Who am I, I thought, to hold the title therapist? With a mind and moods as unstable as mine, who am I to offer an ear? After four hospitalizations, a total of 58 days in a year, I figured I was more likely to cause harm than facilitate any level of healing.

“Brothers and sisters:

Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.

If I go on living in the flesh,

that means fruitful labor for me.

And I do not know which I shall choose.

I am caught between the two.

I long to depart this life and be with Christ,

for that is far better.

Yet that I remain in the flesh

is more necessary for your benefit.”

If “life is Christ, and death is gain,” yet I never feel Christ in this life, does that make death a better option? It’s probably for the better I didn’t have this passage at hand when I held a bottle’s worth of pills in one hand and water in the other in fall 2014, or when I bought and hid alcohol for the purpose of consuming it with all of the benzodiazepines I’d squirreled away May 2017, because, believe me, it would have pushed me over the edge.

 

Reading it today after the mental health conference, two and a half months out of the hospital, one severely hypomanic episode behind me, I saw a peer who spoke at the conference. A peer who lost ten years to debilitating schizophrenia. A peer who still experiences symptoms but lives a productive life: attending school, sharing his story, and working with NAMI (the National Alliance for Mental Illness). And that gives me hope.

“I long to depart this life and be with Christ,

for that is far better.

Yet that I remain in the flesh

is more necessary for your benefit.”

 

I feel a little grandiose saying my life is necessary for anyone’s benefit, but the truth is, all of our lives are necessary to another.

 

“If I go on living in the flesh,

that means fruitful labor for me.”

 

If I go on living in the flesh, like Paul, who with God’s grace meant something to others, and like my peer at the mental health conference, who means so much to the suffering and voiceless, who gives hope to so many, maybe I too will find a place where I can say, “to me life is Christ,” life is love.

 

Annie Williams lives in Mount Hermon, California, is a graduate of Calvin College’s English program, and a barista at Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company. She hopes to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. In the meantime, she enjoys the company of a talented psychiatrist, the lovely people at the pharmacy, her brilliant therapist, and an irreplaceable support group of friends and family, all of whom play inextricably important roles in her life with bipolar II. Annie writes honestly about her struggles with mental health and faith at honestmemoir.blogspot.com

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sickpilgrim/2016/12/dark-devotional-second-sunday-of-advent-waiting-on-hope/#F2pyBiArgqkyoWoh.99

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