I was inspired by Dr. Charles F. Stanley of InTouch.org today. He got me thinking: Are my choices getting me what I want? Are my choices delivering on the promises they make? Dr. Stanley talked about the two choices we have as outlined in the sermon on the mount (start in Matthew 5 in the Bible). One way is narrow, hard, and few are traveling on it. The other way is easy, wide, and many are traveling on it. Yet both promise something we want.
The easy way promises fame, fortune, power and pleasure. And promises that when these are delivered I will have achieved happiness. This is the path I started out traveling. This fueled my high school and college academic achievement with the hopes of someday being rich and famous (and my highest goal of someday being able to afford a maid because I hate cleaning:-).
The hard way involves – not achieving – but surrendering. Surrendering my hopes and dreams – my life – in exchange for finding true life, true love and true meaning and purpose – by following Jesus. Surrendering is hard. I only did it because God took away almost every other option from me: the ability to think and act, the ability to earn money and live the life I had dreamed. I surrendered because I had nothing to lose. God had made the choice as easy as possible for me.
But what about you? You may have a career that you may have to give up, family who don’t understand and friends that will reject someone who openly loves Jesus. The good news is that Jesus said that anyone who gives up careers, family, and friends for Him will receive many times more in this life and eternal life in the life to come.
Jesus does not leave us as orphans. He takes care of us, better than we can ourselves. And by following Jesus we can pray for and serve the very ones who reject us because of Jesus. And possibly they may come to know true life in Jesus for themselves because God’s love is shown through our efforts.
I have heard enough testimonies of those who have “made it” and found it “wasn’t worth it” to be convinced that the easy way doesn’t deliver on its promise of happiness. And God has filled my life with good things: a job I love, a wife I love, two sons I love, friends I love; to know God comes through on His promise of an abundant life for those who love and follow Him.
I was reading Crucial Conversations (an extremely good book) when I got to thinking about my difficulty in forgiveness. I realized that my son had emotionally wounded me the first night he stayed with us when we adopted him and his brother. I had been carrying around that hurt for seventeen years. As I tried to re-experience him dismissing me in disgust and the resulting worthless feeling I had about myself I wondered how I could resolve this hole in my heart.
I prayed about it and I realized that my son, through his attacks, was actually telling me what he needed from me to heal him.
He felt worthless (a result of being abused and neglected for five and one-half years in his birth home before we adopted him) and he was trying to make me feel how he felt so I would know how to help him. (I don’t believe he wasn’t doing any of this consciously, though).
Once I saw this I explained to him what I was thinking and apologized for not understanding him, for seeing only the surface attacks and feeling their pain and not understanding the communication of a physically and emotionally traumatized little boy.
He accepted my apology but I don’t think he understood fully what I was talking about. Then unexpectedly, I noticed my heart changed. I didn’t have an undercurrent of resentment toward him that I had been unknowingly carrying around. I finally felt free to more completely accept and love him. Which is what his near constant attacks had been asking of me all along.
I only wish I’d understood this seventeen years ago.
I am grateful to God for the mental illness He gave me. (But I would never want to repeat it). Looking back I was “crazier” when I was “sane” and sane now that I’m mentally ill.
Let me unpack that.
Before mental illness I wanted to be a aerospace engineer. I wanted to impress people with how smart I was. I wanted fame, fortune, power and pleasure. I had bought the whole commercial-driven American media world-view.
Most of the girls in my high school graduation class wanted to be social workers it seemed. I thought they were crazy. Helping people seemed like a colossal, boring, unrewarding waste of time.
It was at this point that God publicly invaded my private world. God told me I was a sinner, but I didn’t believe Him. What I didn’t know was that I was in love with myself, looked down on everyone else, and thought the world should serve me. That’s when God gave me mental illness. And my life and the lies I told myself, about myself, fell with a great crash. God humbled me. I couldn’t get much “lower” in superficial stereo-typed status than being intermittently locked up in mental hospitals.
For the next ten years I fought God and the meds. At the end of ten years God gave me the wisdom to take the meds. Then He sent Bonnie, who knew and loved Jesus, to tell me Jesus loved me. I wasn’t interested. Then Bonnie told me that if I rejected the love of Jesus, the only thing left for me was hell.
That got my attention.
I chose to turn around and follow Jesus.
He forgave me, loved me and gave me a heart that cared about other people. Now I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist working with others who themselves deal with mental illness. I encourage, give hope, and care. And I love it. It took most of my life to discover my life’s work. And it took going “crazy” to discover what real sanity is.