You’ll see that this blog is very memoir like.
Years ago just after college I started selling area rugs and upholstery fabric at The Salvage Store on 3rd Avenue South in Nashville. It’s now the Johnny Cash Museum. We had different stacks of rugs two of us would flip back for customers to see the different rugs they could choose from. This repetitive action did something to my right arm that makes it difficult to write longhand.
Isn’t it interesting the rush we get into about things we want to do? I was a janitor at the Madison Church of Christ at the time, and I hastily wanted that job at the Salvage Store, not knowing that the trade-off would pretty much take my ability to write with a pen away. Hindsight is always 20/20, and when you’re in your early twenties this concept is foreign because you don’t have enough experience to see it. You may have a college degree, but college degrees are one in a million. Book learning is important, but there’s no education like experience.
Fast forward a few years to the time my wife and I were student ministry volunteers with an amazing student ministry here in Nashville. The corporate worship the praise band led us in week after week and at camp changed my life forever. I never replace Jesus when my semantic goes in this direction. The youth pastor was influenced by the Hillsong church in Australia, and the Hillsong music made it onto the set list the praise band created every week. We even went as a youth group to see a Hillsong movie. God is using Hillsong mightily in bringing unbelievers to Jesus. I will never forget those four years with that student ministry, and the connections I still have because of it. God was glorified.
It truly gave me a new state of consciousness, and I’ve never viewed corporate worship the same since then. I don’t think a week goes by when I don’t think about that four year period of my life. It was such a Godsend, and it was on the tail-end of the darkest moment of our marriage. I’m thankful my daughter was young enough that she doesn’t remember it, but I dare say she remembers daddy crying uncontrollably in the middle of the food court at Opry Mills. Depression is a relentless demon that doesn’t care where you are or who you are around to rear its ugly head. I can actually sit here calmly remembering everything about that dark soul period. No wonder the music of Hillsong washed over me the way it did.
None of us is given an easy road to travel it seems to me. We aren’t strengthened through times of ease even though we long for them when we go through the fire. I can’t build muscle if I’m not willing to work out. I can’t improve my basketball shooting ability by watching games. I can’t improve as a husband if I’m not with my wife, and I certainly can’t improve my parenting skills if I don’t engage my daughter. Love is that way. It shows up when it doesn’t want to, and when things go south it refuses to give up.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase that time heals all wounds. I’m sure you know now that it doesn’t. But time certainly makes things more bearable. I’ve never doubted God’s existence in my life, but I’ve vented my anger at His creation too many times. I’ve never been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, but I think there is some of that in my depression. I have a tendency sometimes of being really up and really down. The meds I consume on a regular basis have made the past decade much better than they would have been had I not been prescribed them years ago by my psychiatrist at the time.
When you are practicing the ministry of presence with someone in your life who fights a mental illness please keep in the back of your mind that God uses a varied array of resources to help us cope. Opinions are like navels – everyone has one. Leave healthcare to those who have studied long and hard about it. Pastoral care can be done by any Jesus follower because the power of the Holy Spirit is nothing to be mocked or made fun of in the heart and mind of followers.
God is so vast and loving that you have no idea sometimes how He is shepherding His flock. And with 7 billion people on the planet I think He can give you insight to your circle of influence. Listen to Him.
Listening is hard work. Most people are thinking of what they’re going to say next, and if you’re doing this then you can’t be listening. He gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. The plethora of scriptures on the power of the tongue should have us approach with caution anytime we open our pie holes. What an appropriate time to remember that as we approach the holidays.
Be kind. It is a fruit of the Spirit. Be gentle when you deliver your message. And most of all make sure it’s rooted in love. This habit can take years to develop. Be patient with yourself as you’ll fail many times. We learn more from failure than we do success. Read Scott Hamilton’s latest book on this subject. Forgive yourself. Show yourself mercy and love. You cannot give what you do not possess, so if you’ve never been shown mercy and love know that God is showing you both right now to give to others. It’s never too late to begin again.
We have to be convinced of this. Jesus had a set three-year period to accomplish His to-do list, and He was successful. We have set days on this planet to accomplish our “to-do list.” We will fight depression, cancer, dementia and a mural of other things we haven’t even thought of, but God in His amazing patience never throws in the towel on any of us.
Mondays are tough for many of us. Mondays have a bad reputation for being bad because so many of us hate what we do week after week. If at all possible slow down and contemplate why this is. Is there something different I can do to make my world a better place on Monday? Can I leave earlier so I won’t have to drive so fast? Does that mean I need to go to bed a bit earlier? Maybe I can cut out that extra hour of television or surfing Facebook?
God doesn’t take pleasure in our suffering. He sent His only Son to conquer the greatest suffering of all – death. It hasn’t been completely abolished because we wait for Jesus to reveal Himself again, but there are powerful ways still that He is revealing Himself now even through this blog. We hurt every day. Pain and suffering is the result of our fallen world, but time and again we see good win over evil.
This happens when we come together in love for each other, not for what we can get from each other, but from what we can give. A servant attitude is one of the best ways we can go about that. We’ve got to get good sufficient sleep. We need to eat well. We need to forgive those who have hurt us, and we need to draw boundaries around situations and people that bring out the worst in us.
My God is a good God. He’s the only God living, and even though there are a multitude of things that distract us from Him He keeps pursuing us no matter what. He doesn’t force Himself on anybody, and even though He could He never demands our attention. He’s the perfect Parent.
Parent may be a bad word to you because yours were terrible. You can substitute a bad person you know or knew with the Father of love. If you don’t have a local church to call home find one. I can guarantee you there are some good people there who will show you God’s love.
There’s nothing like it.