From Despair to Delight: Stories that Cultivate Compassion for Those with Mental Illness
I agonized about a title of my upcoming book for over two weeks, then settled on it over a couple of beers. The creative process sometimes looks like that.
I’ve now written just about 1/3 of the book and I’ve outlined where it seems to be going. This title reflects both the content and the flow.
From Despair –
The book begins with a scene in the psych hospital where I receive my diagnosis. My prognosis was stark; the outlook was bleak.
In that moment, I felt God was not a loving Father but a malicious dictator, emasculating me on a divine whim. (from chapter one)
The odds are stacked against those of us with serious mental illness. Disability. Divorce. Death. The statistics are alarming, but stories offer hope.
to Delight –
Stories that convey a sure and certain path to victory over mental illness are demons from the darkest hell. There is hope, but it is hard won. It has taken me over two decades, dozens of pills, hundreds of therapy sessions, and thousands upon thousands of prayer. And I am only beginning to delight in the Lord.
When people asked Jesus what they must do to be saved, he told stories.
The kingdom of God is like… a woman finding a precious pearl… a father throwing a lavish party for his lost son… an outsider lifting a wounded man out of the ditch and providing for his care.
“Rabbi Jesus, how shall we do mental health ministry?”
“Let me tell you a story.” (from the Introduction)
that Cultivate Compassion –
Compassion may not be exclusive to Christianity, but it is certainly a distinctive. The Bible says if we do not love others, we do not love God. That simple. And not just a select few, but strangers, enemies, the “least of these.”
Those of us with mental illness can fall into all of these camps. We are shoved aside on the streets, in institutions, jails, and prisons. We are strangers not only because of how we think, but where we are placed. We become enemies when we are villified for violence very few of us commit. We may be viewed as “the least of these,” but often for purposes of a hand-out rather than a hand in fellowship.
Evidence-based programs may produce proposals for getting grants, but if faith communities are going to carry out our God-given mission we need to get to know persons with mental illness, to invite and involve them in kingdom work. (from the Introduction).
for Those with Mental Illness –
For Mental Health Ministry to be faithful and effective, it need be mutual. Those who are impacted by mental illness and those who seek to serve Christ need become one (as they already are in cases like my own). Perhaps a title to better represent this would be — “with Those who have Mental Illness,” but the English major in me wanted to trim a word for brevity’s sake. What do you think?
I have set a release date for both electronic and print books. May 31, 2020. Pentecost. The time when many voices are heard and understood.