I chatted with the church ushers in the sanctuary while they handed out bulletins before worship. We joked that I’d keep my eyes on them to get the signal for when to stop preaching. A gentleman in his eighties smiled and said, “Please don’t babble on because then we start squirming in our seats.” I promised to keep my message on point.
The main point of my visit was to open conversations about mental illness, based on my first book Blessed are the Crazy. I’ve learned that when I share about how my family is impacted by mental illness, it gives other people permission to share their stories.
On this Sunday, my sermon invited people to “leave shame, stigma and silence at the foot of the cross.” For too long, I carried my shame, and its heavy burden crushed my spirit.
After worship I stood in the back of the sanctuary by the exit. I felt vulnerable, preaching as I did, speaking from my heart. Yet God’s Spirit must have been ministering through me. The usher, in tears, hugged me. I looked into his eyes and our shared tears were a communion.
Others shed tears that day, and as the tears fell, I whispered, “These are God’s tears, healing tears, and they are signs that you are healing. Thank you for sharing them with me.”
My father, whose death was caused by severe and untreated mental illness, shed tears often when we were together toward the end of his life. He didn’t have words for the pain of a family torn apart, for the missing decades of togetherness, but his tears spoke of his desire for wholeness.
In Jesus we see both the brokenness of this world and the promise of wholeness. In my journey through the valley of the shadow of mental illness, I know that it is there at the intersection of suffering and healing that we experience grace.