To be a Christian, Or to be Crazy? That is the Question.

To be a Christian, Or to be Crazy? That is the Question. September 18, 2016

Anxiety has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember. For several years, I lived under a cloud of shame because of it. I believed I would never find true belonging if anyone knew the real issues I faced on a daily basis.

To be a Christian, or to be Crazy...That is the Question
Source: Pexels.com

Until I could no longer hide.

A failed suicide attempt forced me to face myself. At first, all I wanted to do was disconnect from anyone and anything that seemed more “normal” than me. And everyone seems more normal than you feel when you’ve just been discharged from the psych ward. I didn’t want anyone to know my story, or the details of the journey that eventually landed me in an ICU. I didn’t want my family to know, and I certainly didn’t want to face the Church.

Like so many others, I thought life came with two choices: be a normal Christian guy, or be “crazy”. I felt stuck. Lost.

I wonder if the Prodigal Son was feeling like me. The parable certainly implies he was humiliated. If the Prodigal Son had been able to work through the smothering lies that come with shame, would he have come home sooner? I’ve heard others ask it this way: “If the Prodigal Son had Xanax, would he have ever come home?”

Early in recovery, my biggest struggle with returning to the Church was getting past that sense of not being good enough. My fear of being compared to all the other “normal” Christians made it very hard to believe in a Father who was inherently good, patient, and kind.

The Church had been my home for nearly three decades, but after such a massive personal failure, I wasn’t sure how I fit into it anymore. From my own experience, the Church knows how to deal with addiction, adultery, and anger. But mental illness dumbfounds them.

I am from a spirit-filled church, where we believe in anointing oils and prayers of faith. In this world, medication for emotional issues is not really accepted. I can talk about addiction, but if I mention medication for mental illness, a team of people preps to cast out a demon.

Four years into recovery, I often wonder if we would have the same response to a Christian with cancer? Sweet older women think they’re being encouraging when they tell you the freedom that Jesus can bring, so you’ll no longer be dependent on medication. But their message just causes our shame to simmer even more.

With both mental illness and cancer, you can’t see the disease. But, while it is perfectly ok for a cancer patient to have chemo, it is not always acceptable for someone with a mental illness to take a prescription to address the chemical imbalance that dramatically affects their life. I long for the day when I can comfortably say, my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and good prescription drugs.

As it stands, the Church’s response ostracizes people who need faith and community the most. Even well-meaning pastors, offering a prayer of faith at an altar call, will say God can “heal the minds” of those with anxiety and depression. Even if God can, this kind of talk just makes us want to slink back into the shadows and disappear. Healing sounds so great, but comfort and inclusion sound even better. The Church’s attempts to encourage or heal are actually causing even more shame for a person who already feels they are not enough.

I want the Church to do more. That might include some research, definitely some reaching out. What would happen if the Church said to those with mental illness: you are different, but not less? What if the Church could break down walls of shame and begin a healthy dialogue? Isn’t that what every person wants – to be heard and respected? To feel as though we belong

In my experience, mental illness causes a person to look at a certain point in time thru a zoom lens. As emotions go up, rational thinking goes down. As the Church, this is the perfect opportunity to offer some of that “peace that passes understanding” to someone who feels the constriction of anxiety around their throat. Helping someone who is panicked to slow down, look at the larger picture, find God in the ordinary moments, and see all they do have to be thankful for just might save a life.

If the Prodigal Son had had Xanax, would he have come back home?

If the Prodigal Son had Xanax
Source: Pexels
Maybe so, maybe not. Or maybe he would have never left at all. Maybe he would have been able to steady his mind long enough to recognize how good his life already was. Maybe he would have thrown his arms around his dad and joined him in work, rather than floundering and acting so impulsively. Maybe he would have taken a nap that day, instead of packing his bags.
It is impossible to think about a hopeful future and a caring support system when we feel ostracized and defensive. The Father is standing, arms wide open, waiting to embrace all of His children who are burdened, weary, and anxious. It’s time for the Church to stop acting like the older brother, and instead, embrace those who have wandered home after a long journey.
*Originally published on Morgan Guyton’s blog.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • ehaaron

    Steve, I love to read you writing. I may not 100% agree with everything, but I do not agreec100% with lots of things. I respect that you have the courage to speak from your heart. Do not let others discourage you. I have been reading about condition vs unconditional love. Your place in my heart is in that unconditional section. You challenge me to think deeply sometimes. Like my views on church. Sitting here alone, cause R is out on pain meds most of the time, I thought of the level of involvement I have had in the church structure, times I was disillusioned with the church politics, change of congregations, personal service within the church. I determined that I have several families: my biological & selected personal family, my church family, my ADK family and my TMS family. Each one serves a different function in my life and each one is necessary in my life and fulfills a different function. I have discovered that sometimes I get get too busy with one family that I miss out on a blessing from another one. I need many areas to keep me balanced. But I also know that it is OK to step back some from one area if it begins to take over my entire life. Wow I have rambled enough. Love ya #2

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • #2!

      You’re in the unconditional portion of my heart too! I love all the different “families” I have, but you’ll always be one of my favorites.

      I’m so glad we don’t agree on 100% of everything. Can you imagine how boring that would be? I’m just glad we can disagree amicably.

      I’m sorry R still isn’t feeling well. Going to come see you soon. Will text you this afternoon.

      LOVE YOU MUCHO!!

  • ehaaron

    Steve, I love to read you writing. I may not 100% agree with everything, but I do not agreec100% with lots of things. I respect that you have the courage to speak from your heart. Do not let others discourage you. I have been reading about condition vs unconditional love. Your place in my heart is in that unconditional section. You challenge me to think deeply sometimes. Like my views on church. Sitting here alone, cause R is out on pain meds most of the time, I thought of the level of involvement I have had in the church structure, times I was disillusioned with the church politics, change of congregations, personal service within the church. I determined that I have several families: my biological & selected personal family, my church family, my ADK family and my TMS family. Each one serves a different function in my life and each one is necessary in my life and fulfills a different function. I have discovered that sometimes I get get too busy with one family that I miss out on a blessing from another one. I need many areas to keep me balanced. But I also know that it is OK to step back some from one area if it begins to take over my entire life. Wow I have rambled enough. Love ya #2

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • #2!

      You’re in the unconditional portion of my heart too! I love all the different “families” I have, but you’ll always be one of my favorites.

      I’m so glad we don’t agree on 100% of everything. Can you imagine how boring that would be? I’m just glad we can disagree amicably.

      I’m sorry R still isn’t feeling well. Going to come see you soon. Will text you this afternoon.

      LOVE YOU MUCHO!!

  • I always enjoy reading what you write and can very much relate to what you are saying through your writing. Thanks for sharing your heart bro.

    • I appreciate you commenting and always being such an encourager! Keep it up! You bless me!

  • I always enjoy reading what you write and can very much relate to what you are saying through your writing. Thanks for sharing your heart bro.

    • I appreciate you commenting and always being such an encourager! Keep it up! You bless me!

  • Reblogged this on God's Zone.

  • Reblogged this on God's Zone.

  • Your sharing hit so close to home. I am sad that most people don’t know how to love as Jesus loves. His love is unconditional in His acceptance of us. I pray that we wake up the body of believers so instead of people being more hurt they would be drawn to the savior by our acceptance of them. By us loving like He does. Instead they are drawn away from our Lord. This really makes my heart hurt. I thank you for sharing. Trauma caused by the church is too real. To too many of his children. God bless you for shining His light …

    • Thank you, my friend. It makes me sad too, but we press on and keep exposing the pain to the Light of His Love.

      Peace to you today.

  • Your sharing hit so close to home. I am sad that most people don’t know how to love as Jesus loves. His love is unconditional in His acceptance of us. I pray that we wake up the body of believers so instead of people being more hurt they would be drawn to the savior by our acceptance of them. By us loving like He does. Instead they are drawn away from our Lord. This really makes my heart hurt. I thank you for sharing. Trauma caused by the church is too real. To too many of his children. God bless you for shining His light …

    • Thank you, my friend. It makes me sad too, but we press on and keep exposing the pain to the Light of His Love.

      Peace to you today.

  • jjlandis

    Well, well. Still calling yourself a Christian, huh? (smile)
    As a medicated Christian with depression and anxiety, I say AMEN.

  • jjlandis

    Well, well. Still calling yourself a Christian, huh? (smile)
    As a medicated Christian with depression and anxiety, I say AMEN.