Mental illness is one of the most overlooked problems in the community from which I come and through which most of my theology has been formed. I’m talking about the black community. There’s probably not much difference in other communities either, especially faith communities. I’ve learned in a multicultural church that mental illness is more understood but still less discussed. It is accepted intellectually more quickly, but I rarely hear the community holding and loving through the rough times which decorate the lives of those struggling with illness.
When I was growing up, I heard nothing about mental illness. I heard about people being crazy. Met some of them too, but that’s another post. I heard of demons and about demonic possession from time to time. But nothing about mental illness. I’m glad I’ve learned more. I’m glad I’m been able to see and notice and respond to spiritual matters when appropriate and to mental and emotional matters when necessary.
Of course, I’m cut from the cloth that stitches the mental and emotional and spiritual. I connect or integrate them. I am not interested in slicing them apart but in seeing their interconnections. I’m a pastor and conversationalist about divine things. Divine things come forward in human things. So, for me, these things overlap and interlace.
I’ve learned along the way that the complexities inside the minds, hearts, and souls of people are all reasons to be believe in the beauty of God and the pain of sin. And I’ve come to believe that the complexities which are beautiful people are reasons to try hard to listen really well and to tell people about hope. This is, in part, something that Paul Prusyer talks about–in my reading of him–as coming to terms with the implications of my office. Prusyer said theology doesn’t deal with a slice of life, “a slice of reality but with all of it, always.”
I’m told that October is one of the awareness months where we point to depression and to mental illness. So, here’s my quick attempt to point to it, like other days and months of my work, but to point to hope as well.
Hope is light in dimness. It is the sparkling smile of a stranger who looks at you long enough to communicate that you matter. It is a meal with a good friend you haven’t seen in a while, his ability to remember things with you and to turn you easily to tomorrow.
Hope is the crack of splendor in the middle of all that dreariness. It is a plate-sized piece of pie shared with someone you love. A walk in the cool afternoon, watching once brown leaves falling like little pieces of the sun.
Hope is the ability to notice health even when it comes as a confusing picture of someone’s yesterday. It is the staying hand of belief when you worry that the future looks dismal. It is the power that tells the truth that all our tomorrows can be brighter because the clouds will roll in another direction.
Hope is the enduring mercy that all of reality is wonderful even if sometimes difficult and that the next breath is miraculous. It is the way we keep at a thing in the midst of its sharp cuts and crippling cracks.
I know you folks aren’t into making comments, so this is an invitation: How do you describe hope?