The most difficult thing a person can do is reflect on moments that were not the best. It causes us to have to get honest about the reality of our strengths, weaknesses, failings, triumphs, and lessons. I have to admit that years ago my theology informed me that the best way to handle mental and emotional hurt was through diligence and suppression.
For years, the culture around never supported the idea of working through my emotional baggage and pain. “Fake it until you make it”. “You will always be leading while bleeding”. “Depression is a demon”. I learn over time that my life, behavior, struggles, and challenges were finally becoming way to big to handle alone. While waiting on God to rescue me from my pain with a touch, a word, or an instant moment, the weight increased. I couldn’t take anymore.
While I was living in Springfield, IL, I experienced so many changes in my life. I was serving in a church that had extreme potential. I was a new father and trying to grow as a husband. Yet, I was finding myself at moments feeling the walls closing in. I kept hearing people grumble about everything. I watched people criticize my wife for not being the “typical First Lady”. Every move I made was judged. My desire to serve God in a unique way was called trash.
I was in a complete funk. I was preaching through it. I was teaching through it. I gained a doctorate through it. However, I had no outlet. I had no one to trust outside of my wife. She was going through so much hurt and anger that I felt I couldn’t tell her I was dying inside. I was trying to reach out to anyone that would listen, but no one would hear me.
I became more and more isolated. Who wanted to hear my problems? Who wanted to be concerned with my feelings? It was a waste of time to tell people that cared about me that I was tired and hurting. All I heard in my head was, “you are going to be fine; you are being to dramatic; you don’t have enough faith.” I kept believing that the lies. I kept seeing the truth of others. I saw people who looked my family in the eye and said they would look out for me, run me down in public.
My wife was right, “Jesus died for the people you don’t have to.” Yet, I was ready to go because I felt like the worst type of failure. I wasn’t accomplishing the mission that God planted in me. I was not being a good husband. I tried to lean on others rather than my partner in life. I was not being a good father. I was not giving my all to CJ. I was giving leftovers.
My desire to make everyone come together caused me to deny my uniqueness, divinity, and purpose. I began to subject my surroundings to a false view of who I thought I was supposed to be. I was trying to be this stereotypical pastor. I was trying to hold on for dear life to maintain. I was dying.
One Tuesday afternoon at the dining room table, I sat at the head of the table with a pen and paper. I was hearing the thoughts in my head. “Now I got you. I didn’t get you at 14. I didn’t get you at 30. Oh, but you won’t get through this. You are going to lose it all anyway. You are better off dead.” So I began to write. I was going to tell Myrissa that I was sorry for how I failed as a man. I was going to tell her that I was better off to her in a box. I was going to tell CJ that I loved him enough to not be around as a broken man. I never wanted my son to ever see his hero with kryptonite.
Something in me really didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to die. However, I felt that it was the only option. The fight was on. My last ditch effort was calling anyone to convince me not to give up. I ran down my list of close brothers. It’s only a few. I just called until I ran out of options. I called. I left messages. Nobody was picking up. There I sat. Trying to figure out how to end everything without making a mess. I wanted to found at least peaceful. Then the phone rang….
Jonathan picked up the phone. He listened to the voicemail. He called. He didn’t give me a speech about me going to hell for the thoughts of suicide. He didn’t call me demon possessed for being depressed. My brother let me pour out my soul. I never got the opportunity to ever have a no judgment zone to pour out my anguish. In that moment, my world stopped and depression and suicide had to retreat.
When Myrissa came home and saw me on the side of the bed, I couldn’t form my words to tell her what transpired while she and the baby were away from me. She then saw the letter that I left on the table. She wept uncontrollably. She sat with me and made sure that I got the help I needed to reset. My pain became real. It was now at the forefront. Even though my life did not end that day, I did die.
For the first time in my life, I had to choose. Was I going to live for the first time ever, or would I continue to let the walls close in without a real chance for healing? It was time to live. It was time to change the structure of my existence. I needed to finally assess my circle. I needed to prioritize and finally live the abundant life God promised me. I could no longer subscribe to the theology of the anointed but rejecting help. I could no longer align myself with individuals that perceived weakness in confessing mental and emotional health challenges. It was time to have Jesus “spit on my eyes” and give me a second touch.
This defining moment is the reason why I have completely changed my approach to ministry and life. I can no longer engage in conversation with people that reduce God’s movement of healing and deliverance to one method. I cannot take people serious who have a theology that passes the issues of people to a hotline. I cannot embrace a thought pattern that is willing to crucify pastors, leaders, and parishioners in parking lots through gossip, yet attempt to absolve their willing role in the assassination of character and personality.
The game has changed. I am living in a way that I never have before. The moment I “got my life”, I finally was able to begin processing my emotions, my challenges, my baggage. I realize that I was living for too many entities and not for the people and God who loved me best. I have detached from people who have meant me nothing but harm. I have recognized the people that were good to me as long as the blessing train flowed. I saw the people that only cared enough to call or reach me when they needed me.
I know clearly more than ever that being known does not mean everyone cares. I no longer bleed in public. I recognize that this season of my life is to use my witness and story as an opportunity to tell others a few facts. God made you special for this time in life. You have a destiny and a purpose. Everyone can’t go with you. Everyone is not meant to embrace you.
However, you are the most important vessel to your world. If you are not well, you can’t help anyone. If you cannot experience grace that God offers, you will not witness healing that you may need. God is ready to deliver and give you life, but you can receive it from counseling, safe spaces,, and healthy outlets. You are necessary even when life tries to tell you otherwise.
Take it from me. I still cry thinking about how close I was to others who completed the work of ending their lives. I do not judge them. I understand all too well. I recognize the pressure. I believe that the burden was heavier than could be imagined. So, I share with you today this final thought. If you have any idea that anyone you love is struggling, don’t give them a number to call. Do not dismiss their pain as just an emotional response. Listen. Hear. Embrace. Love on them. You might be the conduit to a resurrection.
God help me to reach the one. God use me as a conduit to help others truly live. Help me to affirm the humanity of my brother and sister in joy and struggle. Help me see them for who they are and not what life attempts to tell them. God help me to share every element of your healing that you offer. Amen