Sorry, pastor, your sermon was great, but blah blah blah. The whole worship service made me think about my friends here in the blogging community. There they stood, playing and singing and celebrating, but the songs made me cry, remembering Ulla and her early departure, and my other friends who suffer chronic depression or bipolar or cyclothymia or other mental health issues or chronic pain. And maybe I was worshipping God, but more I was praying for my friends and wishing that my heart’s cry for my friends would be answered. Healing. Relief.
Then you started talking. There you were, properly preaching a sermon about something something something, time management, life management, making sure our lives are spiritually centered, yeahwhatever, and all I got was upset because one of the texts you chose didn’t translate clearly and didn’t make sense to me until I figured out the crop that was being planted. It was about plowing, but you don’t plow unless you’re ready to plant. Took me a while to realize that what was being planted (in Proverbs 20:4) was a grain, like wheat, that gets planted in the Fall and harvested after the Winter. So that’s all I got from your sermon, sorry. That verse in Proverbs, if it was properly translated about plowing in Autumn, was probably about a farmer planting grain for bread or toasting. All my brain thought of until I figured it out was that crops are planted in Spring for a Fall harvest, arrrggghhh, we lose so much understanding of texts when we don’t live that way. I’m suburban and I work in the city. I never even detasseled the corn, whatever that is. Thank God I’m a curious baker, or I’d never have known about winter wheat. ::Warning: Detour Ahead:: Wheat grows harder, with more protein, in the cold northern winters, and it makes excellent bread. Wheat grows softer, with less protein, in the milder southern winters, and it makes excellent biscuits. One plants it in the Fall, hopes for one or two really hard frosts or snows, and harvests it in the Spring. ::End Detour::
All I’m saying is if I had half the brain everyone else thinks I have, I’d have remembered it and moved on before the end of the message.
After the message was over, you started talking about the girl who tried to commit suicide, and we prayed. I have no idea what you prayed about. Did you pray for her, or for her parents? Not a clue. I wept again. For the girl. For my friends here who suffer. And last, for me. And I prayed, while everyone else was praying for either the girl or the family or whatever-the-fuck treatment place they’re sending her after she gets out of the hospital to all be successful, because we love success stories.
And if they weren’t just praying for the girl and the parents, fuck them. Fuck EVERYONE who just wants the success. It isn’t about SUC-FUCKING-CESS. It’s about really understanding that girl. I wept because NO ONE UNDERSTANDS UNLESS THEY LIVE IT. I can’t think of a really good comparison or a nice pat allegory that fits. The closest thing is a bird trying to help a fish out of water. The fish is smothering, can’t breathe, and the bird is doing everything: therapy, giving it medication, right up to ECT, I mean defibrillation, and the whole time the fish is still dying the bird doctor and all the other birds don’t understand that the fish can’t fucking breathe because the environment isn’t conducive to their life. Except I don’t really know if it’s the environment that’s hurting us, or if it’s the birds trying to peck us fish back to life. Or eat our wallets… I mean eat us alive. I think maybe if the allegory fits, wing it.
That poor girl. And they’re shipping her off to somewhere for treatment because there’s money coming from somewhere, and I just think, my GOD, what if they didn’t have money, like me? What if it were MY kid? I mean, sure, I can empathize with the fucking depression, but really? And then, what does the treatment consist of? That’s kind of the scariest thing to me, because it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll have any good effect. She may learn to pretend better, like I do, but is that really success, or is it just teaching her to hide and deny the symptoms so people can go back to ignoring her?
In all of the bird’s attempts to understand and fix the fish, there’s something missing: no understanding. To really understand, there’s something else needed here. When you don’t need something, it’s hard to understand when someone else needs that. It’s like an unmet addiction. Like, I’m addicted to breathing and I’m sure you’ll all agree that air is a healthy thing to crave. Shove me in an ocean without any scuba gear and you’ll learn that I really did need the air to survive, after I’m dead. What we need to do is figure out the need and make sure it’s met, to insure full health.
I was fixated on a verse, and a passage the pastor never spoke about: Mark 2:
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus knew the hearts of his audience, then, and now, when He spoke. I think if the pious, holier than thou crowd of rich people at my church, and the doctors who get rich fucking TREATING depression and other mental illnesses and never cure their patients, read it carefully, they’d realize what I realized this morning. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Sick people do.” It’s all tied into us, at a physical level, at a chemical level, at a spiritual level. We need something, and the people who don’t need it have no concept of what we need, nor do they understand why we need it because they don’t. If we get a close substitute we might live longer and be healthy, but whatever it is that we need, the medical profession hasn’t figured it out, and I’m not going to think or suggest in any way that the religious professionals know any better.
While I WILL assert that I need Jesus just as much as, or maybe more than, you all do, [insert lame-ass meme or video here] I will NOT assert that Jesus will heal you here on the earth. Nor will I accept the denial of the birds asserting that we fish who assert we have a mental health problem don’t really have a mental health problem and we just need to worship Jesus Chicken. At least you didn’t expect that one, did you? Bet you spewed your corn flakes and had milk shoot out of your nose. I hope so. Because if I were in a laughing mood your laugh would be matched by mine, and although I’m not, you laughing is better than anything else to me. The healing? It’s not necessarily going to happen. I will continue to pray for us, but we’re not promised perfection this side of eternity. Whenever Jesus did a miracle there was a purpose. And when He didn’t, there was a purpose. I won’t even assert that I think I know what those purposes might be. Fucked if I know. He might help, and that’s why I’ll keep on praying- because you never know.
I think Jesus helps, truly. If I didn’t, why bother to follow? That guy on the mat needed healing, but he also needed forgiveness. And he knew it, even if he never told anyone. Matthew (Levi) needed to know he was accepted by Jesus, and then reassured that he was doing the right thing, a good thing, by inviting the real people he knew, with real problems and real habits and real sins to his house to meet Jesus. Those proud, holier-than-thou ass hole Pharisee fuckers needed what so many pastors and doctors need today: A lesson in humility, a lesson in real love, and a lesson in how to do ministry and healing- you do ministry and real healing by meeting people where they are and helping them get the thing they need the most, not just meeting the spiritual needs, which are real, but meeting the psychological and chemical and practical physical needs too.
There are some very pious, very self-righteous people who claim to know what people need [insert your favorite well-hated celebrity “Doctor” here]. They don’t know shit. They may have common sense, or horse sense, but that doesn’t always fix the problem. Problems aren’t always relatively simple or easy to figure out and reach a resolution on a half-hour edit for television or an hour after school special presentation.
I’ll keep on praying for my friends and wishing that my heart’s cry for my friends would be answered. Healing. Relief. Peace. Forgiveness. Love. Acceptance. I shouldn’t just give up on those “normal” people I guess, even if they are ass holes. They think they know what we need because they’re blind to their own frailties, and the control we allow them to assert over us gives them God complexes. Maybe they can learn to understand a bit more. Empathy. Love. How to be genuine and helpful. But mostly I want to pray for those who truly need “a doctor,” or Jesus, or both rolled into one. One of Jesus’ nicknames was “The Great Physician.” I don’t want to waste too much time praying for smug ass holes who don’t realize that their humanity leaves them just as much in need of Jesus as me. My weakness fairly screams out “Jesus!! Son of David!! Have mercy on me!”
I pray you find the air you need before the birds peck you to death.