Little did I realize what was in store when this phrase swept into my mind a few Sundays ago
--and how it would both flatten me and leave me bare-boned, clinging to desperate hope once again.
Yup. It happened again. Mental illness came to call 'cuz that's what it likes to do. It slinks around in the shadows, waiting for an opening. Then, just like that, it barges in unannounced, like an unwanted visitor at the dinner table. It steals a chair, and begins to hoard and devour everything in sight.
Angry. Ugly. NO thought or care for anyone seated at the table--but especially for its host. As a parent, that's what hurts the most of all.
Hope. Can I still hope?
When it comes to mental illness, I've got MUCH to learn.
But there are a few things I've learned and they all lead to hope.
Number one is first and foremost:
1. HOPE IN GOD is the only thing I've got!
As I said in Part I, hoping means trusting--trusting in a God who is merciful and kind. Trusting in a God who cares for my child more deeply than I ever could. Trusting in a God who has left me promises in His Word. Trusting in a God whose Spirit lives in my child just as He lives in me. This quote from Brennan Manning in his book Ruthless Trust comes to mind:
"Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God."
2. JUST SHOW UP--in love!
This isn't an easy lesson to execute. Sometimes it takes every ounce of energy and perseverance that only God can give. BUT, it is what God calls us to--Jesus showed up and loved us. We need to show up and love in the same way. No. It's not easy. Yes. It sets us up, as parents, for pain and hurt. BUT GOD!!!!!
Acting upon this lesson has made me vulnerable to judgement, ridicule, and accusation.
I've heard it all:
"You're not doing enough."
"If you'd just done this..."
"If you'd not done this..."
"I've got the answer for you..."
...and on and on.
I listen. But I've learned that I just need to do what God tells me to do. Listening to every other voice doesn't help me OR my child. And God tells me to JUST SHOW UP in love.
And so I try. Not without failure. But in hope, I try.
3. I NEED OTHERS!
We can't do this alone. Just like those in the Christmas story that relied on others for help and hope, so I've learned to rely on others to hold us up, not to judge, but to walk alongside us. Yes I know, Jesus does that. But sometimes we need to make ourselves vulnerable to others in our deep despair. Just like Lazarus needed his friends to unwrap his grave clothes in John 11:44, so we too need to help each other.
Yes, it's scary to be vulnerable and ask for help, but it's worth it! Believe me! There've been times I no longer knew how to pray. That's when others came alongside me and prayed for me, for our child, and for the situation. Beautiful and powerful prayers. In my vulnerability, I was encouraged and strengthened.
I found hope!
4. SEE JESUS and GIVE THANKS!
I know answered prayer, both in big ways and in small ways. I haven't always been faithful in thanking God for these answers. But I've learned that Jesus is always, ALWAYS, in the situation--I just need to see Him there. And when I see Him, I need to give thanks because thanks is a powerful weapon:
Psalms 8:2 says, "You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you."
Also, giving thanks helps me remember.
And in remembering, there is hope.
Psalm 33: 18-22:
"But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you."
HOPE IS A VULNERABLE ACT!