Whenever the phrase mental illness is used (unless a “professional”) we conjure up our own definition of “mental” and “illness” – and the two are not necessarily connected.
He is mad, is nuts, has lost the plot, is weird, is weak, is dangerous, cannot be trusted, should be sectioned, shouldn’t have children, needs sorting out, shouldn’t be allowed out on his own!
Just as they are the “diagnoses” we often make, we usually self-prescribe: say nothing to their face, gossip behind their back, never be alone with them.
“Madness” is not an illness we wish attributed to ourselves. Illness is something we cure, something that lays us low, something that might be infectious. Yet one in three (the last time I heard these stats) will suffer a period of mental illness. One in Three. That’s a lot. Far too many for us to be self-diagnosing each other, self-prescribing for ourselves, ring-fencing each other, alienating each other.
But it is what we do.
Now let me ask you this …
When was the last time you went and told everyone you were possessed? That you had this wonderful imaginary friend living inside of you? That you had given your life to this friend, that you would do whatever this friend told you, that you would live however this “imaginary friend” guides you?
Two things happen: firstly your life, living and everything is almost identical to theirs, and secondly – if what you were saying was true – they would be able to tell. And they can’t. So they diagnose: Nutter alert!
I was coming back from work in London on Friday night. And as we all trooped down into the bowels of the underground tube system, there was a chap at the top. Small speaker, a microphone, big banner. God Squad. The end is nigh. Repent or God will send you to Hell. Nutter alert!
Years ago I was a student for a short time. And as students do, I had a busy social life. One Friday night – under pressure to get the disco kit working, saying rude words to various plugs and cables under my breath. Hot, tired, under pressure, and not very “sociable” right then – out of the blue, two students appeared and asked whether I had let God into my life yet. Nutter alert!
UK national news report: some off the beaten track USA local minister/pastor “churchy leader” is declaring a “burn the Koran day” – lots of pictures, few details, and BIG headlines. This is God? Really!!! Nutter alert!
Valentines Day: millions (I suspect) spent on flowers, chocolate, cards, jewellery, lingerie, restaurant meals, treats and indulgences. Normal. Perfectly normal.
The problem with love?
It’s all about relationship.
And we cannot control relationships. Not if it’s all about love. But we can talk about love – instead of hell. We can show love – instead of division. We can live love – instead of teaching it. We can get involved – instead of distancing ourselves from others (and others from God our Father).
My own small experience with young adults and teenagers? My own memories of being a young adult and teenager?
They are seeking Love and what Love means and how Love affects living and how living affects Loving. They know about God, they are happy to use that word, they have questions, and they have thoughts – and they really enjoy being listened to. They really enjoy conversation. And they have no intention of going to church to have that conversation.
Because church is not full of God and Love – not in their eyes. Church does not allow questions and conversation. Church will not hear them – or even want to hear them. Church will tell them. And that is not Love. Church, therefore, is full of nutters and/or hypocrites.
And they are not looking for (another) mental illness. No one is.
God our Father?
It must be about love and relationship. Always and only.
Or is that not in the bible?
“A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. Mark 1:40-45