Who Needs a Doctor?

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.

Comments to Commentary

I had originally said some things only in a comment last week, and then Sunday my experience confirmed this was more than just something a comment can hold.  I try to be shy of over-spiritualizing, after all I’m possessed of the same nature as anyone else, or worse.  But today, “hold on to your lug nuts, it’s time for an overhaul!”

The comments I made were about how frustrating it is, me being a really bad Christ follower but really trying, and watching other people who claim the title making it hard for people to join me in following, or worse, make them so mad they don’t WANT to join me in following.  And there’s a disclaimer:  if you think I’m full of shit, move on to the next blog.  And if, by the end of the article you think I’m just a pain in your ass, let me know and I’ll pay the proctologist’s bill.  If you want to see the original article and conversation, click here, at the risk of seeing the same ideas in my blog today.

People are so FUCKING JUDGEMENTAL, they’re MENTAL.  Not just people, I used to be, a lot, and then I went on a journey called Everybody goes through shit in their lives and nobody is any  better than anybody else no matter how superior they feel about themselves, and you, Deon, are just as big a fuck-up as anyone else so you have no room to tell anyone how much better you are than them.  I can’t even judge the judgemental, because I used to be a bigger idiot.  Now I’m proud to say, I’m just an idiot.

If the discovery that I’m cyclothymic has been worth anything, it’s the discovery that everybody with bipolar that I’ve met so far (except of course, me) are beautiful (more on that later this week if I can blog) awesome wonderful people, they’re nice, they’re friendly, and they’re supportive (except of course, me- I have a foul mouth and an foul temper and a bad attitude about everything.  Because when black holes suck by their nature and gravity sucks by its nature and life sucks when you’re riding a random wave, and mean people suck on fucking purpose and just add to the general suckage, fuck all that and fuck them.  “But I try.  I try.”)  And add to that the thought that we all have our things- habits, choices, stuff we do that makes us wonder if we even still have a conscience, or, makes us want to just give up on ourselves.  I see a tremendous amount of surrender to the suckage among my fellow blogospherians.  We see how it should be, we see how it could be, we try and try to make it better and it still sucks, we pray, we fight, we wrestle, we work, and it all goes to shit in spite of our best efforts.  That SUCKS.  And then we turn to whatever else we might turn to for help, and the worst offenders in my opinion are me and the rest of the Christ followers.  What we do is we make grace (free gift offered to everyone by God, forgiveness and freedom from sin and hell) something hard to get.  We tell people they can come when they turn away from whatever sin we don’t like that they do like.  As if we didn’t have sin of our own that we still commit.  Like judgement.  Like hypocrisy.  Like hatred.  We pretend we’re better than regular normal non-Christ-Following people and everyone else is beneath us.

Fuck that.  Fuck ME, whenever I act like that, I’m lower than whatever’s beneath the station of shit.  That is the fucking diametric OPPOSITE of “grace.”  It’s an epic failure to correctly represent Jesus.  Why?  Several reasons.

What I have discovered along my own journey of life (I didn’t call it fucking “normal,” now, did I?) is that this community does well supporting its’ injured.  When we go through a low or a mixed episode that sucks, everyone else including people who are going through that at the same time, rallies around the person who’s suffering the suckage, and says words of encouragement and love.  We don’t blame, we don’t judge, we don’t hate, we aren’t mean.  That’s doing community right.

Outsiders point fingers.  They don’t understand shit about shit.  And they’re doing it wrong.  Sadly, I believe that’s the human condition.  The religious leaders did it, since the time when religious leaders came to lead.  In the Old Testament the priests weren’t all always the most pure people you could meet, but the Israelites were supposed to go to them for spiritual guidance.  In the New Testament the priests, scribes, pharisees and saducees were supposed to be all holy and guiding the people to God and they weren’t any better.  And now we come to the modern era and you think it’s any better?

Sorry.

Disappointing but true, if I were called to be a pastor back when I was still an idiot about grace, I’d have been right up there with the pharisees, a big asshole.  Shutting the doors of the kingdom of heaven right in your faces with my judgements and my expectations of how you ought to be.  And I know there are pastors and so-called Christ followers who still do the same thing.  I had to realize what the truth was before I could say any of these things, and now the respectable church wouldn’t want me to be their pastor because they’re looking for someone pious who looks like they think Jesus wants a pastor to look.

In the Old Testament, occasionally prophets would call those religious leaders out, or God just ended them. (See also I Samuel 2-4 for a few who were ended on a smaller scale). In the New Testament, Jesus and John the Baptist called them out, (as SNAKES) and later Stephen and Peter, in the book of Acts.  (See Matthew 3 where John the Baptist tells it like it is, and later Matthew 23, where Jesus does it) If God ended evil “followers” like Korah and Eli’s kids, in the modern era, I’d be gone.  Because I used to be like that.

I’ve learned a little bit about myself, about addiction, about my own potential to do evil, and I’ll let this be the limit of my self-confession for now: I know some of the things I do are wrong, but I still choose to do them.  Through my struggle against my habits, I’ve learned to be more gracious, because I need more grace.  And while I wouldn’t wish my experience of life on anyone, I do wish people would learn more about Jesus’ grace, how to talk about it with normal people, and what grace means to people who aren’t following.

I’d like to be more gracious to everyone, even to the hypocritical idiots who are deaf to Jesus’ words of grace, because they think they’re fine.  Mark chapter 2 and Matthew chapter 9(:13) speaks to them, through a bullhorn, and they’re deaf.  I bet it breaks God’s heart.  They suck, and unless they wake up like I was awakened, they’re going to continue to suck.  So being human, I just want to say, fuck them.

And finally the confirmation that I’m on a fucked up trajectory but in a relatively ok direction came Sunday, when I heard Hosea 6:6 that Jesus was preaching from.

“Learn what it means, where it says, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'”

It means, show a little grace.  Be merciful.  Offer the promise of forgiveness.  Don’t kill the sinners for their sins, because, remember your own resumé.  Not the one you show everyone. The one maybe only God knows about.

The opposite of grace is in Isaiah 65. These pompous, pious people live in the first part of the chapter.  No, you can’t join my church (wait, I thought it was God’s church, built by Jesus (Matthew 16:18) out of us normal human people- until you get your life right with God, then you can come in.  That’s ass backward.  People go to a hospital when they’re sick, people come to church when they know they’re sinners and need a saviour.

It’s a contemporary demonstration of Isaiah 65:1-5.  These people think they’re following God the right way- they’re hyper righteous and they know it.   They’re the “good” people and they look around and see that everyone else is “bad” by comparison.  In passing their judgement onto these who need grace, they’ve officially lost sight of their failure- failure to offer grace to anyone else, oblivious to the judgement coming to them in verses 6-15 and the penitent’s (our) acceptance by God in verses 16-25.

And I used to walk in that path, I know how easy it is to do.  It’s on my old resumé, the one I’d rather throw out.  For that old path, for my previous judgemental attitude, for the way I used to be so unloving, I am sorry.

And for any of you who are turned off to Christ because of people who say they’re following but they make it so hard to follow Him that you don’t want to bother trying, I’m sorry again.  If any of you have ever been turned off by the self-righteous, high holy piety of the self-proclaimed saints, I want to express to you that if they stepped on your toes because you were or are some kind of sinner, without ever acknowledging or admitting that they are too, they did it wrong.  The Good News is that grace isn’t for people who say they’re all righteous before God, it’s for us, the sinners who know we’re sinners in need of Jesus.

Today I read about how Jesus is building his church on the legacy of Peter (Matthew 16:18), and how Peter explained it, and I wanted to shout.  It’s on people like me and you. And that made me celebrate.  I don’t think I’m manic, but here- you have a look:

I Peter 2:2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.”

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”

and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Who’s the church?  People who need mercy and grace, and who accept it.  Only a hypocrite will shut the doors of grace and mercy in your faces, and if that’s happened to you, let me fucking OPEN IT TO YOU AGAIN.  And I’m holding it open.  Because God loves you.  Sure, he wants us to resist sin, turn away from it, confess it, and so on.  YES.  I won’t deny that. Jesus’ first message, and his message to the woman at the well, and his message to us, is to turn away from sin and follow him.  But those who understand addiction will know that’s a daily process, not something we can rid ourselves from, quitting “cold turkey.”   Mostly I want to express that God knows we’re human and he knows we fail and he STILL wants us all to come to him (I Peter 2:4)  (II Peter 3:9).

I’m not ashamed of the message.  I’m ashamed of myself, and how I am sometimes, and really ashamed of how I used to be.  I look at myself, present and historical, realistically, and I think, “really, what the fuck, God?  I’m the one you sent?  There are far better people out there you could have sent.”  But in spite of myself I want you to know that God’s offer of mercy is to you.

I didn’t choose you, but I’m glad we were introduced.  You are my kind of people.  You already understand community.  You already understand ministering to the sick.  You already understand we’re all flawed.  Like Jesus when he met Matthew (Levi) the tax collector, anyone sneering judgementally down their perfectly pious noses at me (or you) for hanging out together can either go fuck themselves, or learn what it means, when it says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  If they think they’re all right, they don’t really need Jesus, and from what I read, until they really repent, he doesn’t much need them either.  They’re pretending and some of them have pretended so long they don’t know they’re pretending.  They only hear what they want to hear, the way they want to hear it.  They’re deaf to the message God has for their hearts.  So He wants you instead, because you’re real.

There.  God has called you.  Obviously He has a sense of humour because I’m the fucked up idiot he chose to send to offer the message.  You think maybe differently of me, but if you do, that might be only because it’s on the publicly visible resume, not the one God and I know about.  But then, he also sent the very judgemental Jonah once, and those people listened.  If God cried when holier-than-thou Jonah wanted the people of Nineveh to still be wiped out even though they repented, He’s laughing now.

“…the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”