My husband and I stared out the window at the mound in the snow. It shifted.
“I’m never coming in,” the mound shrieked, “I’ll lie here until I die.”
A few hours later the mound rose to her feet and came inside, stomped past our dormitory apartment and trudged upstairs. This shivering woman tested our love and acceptance.
She had been testing us from the moment she had wandered off the streets and into our lives. It was a learning experience.
We learned that she desperately needed
- Social workers.
- A faith-based community where she belonged.
Eventually, this same woman grew in her faith. She reached out to other people on the street. In time, she moved out on her own and worked in coffee house that ministered to people with addictions. One day, I read a short paragraph in the local paper about a body found in a ditch. The body of a slight woman in her thirties.
And, I knew.
The woman who walked off the streets and into our hearts was gone.
Many people suffer much like the woman my family and church had learned to love.
- Brain injuries
- Emotional challenges
- Cognitive disabilities
Mental distress transforms the mind into a prison with no key, a bright future into a lonly path that disappears into the unknown. The biggest blessing for those who struggle is a family who cares. But, families can grow as weary as the one they try to help. Financial and emotional strain pulls families apart.
No one wants to walk alone.
Can churches make a difference? Dr. Diana Garland, dean of Baylor’s School of Social Work said,
“Mental illness is not only prevalent in church communities, but is accompanied by significant distress that often goes unnoticed”.
Unnoticed, even by the body of Christ.
No wonder so many families just fall apart.
I’ve felt the isolation, the gut wrenching realization that nobody really understands.
Sometimes a few people see through the fake smiles, the pretending that everything is fine. They listen. Cry with us. Share their own journey through the mental illness maze. Still, it is never easy. It never will be.
There is no quick fix.
Garland didn’t stop with an observation that mental illness goes unnoticed in the church.
“Partnerships between mental health providers and congregations may help to raise awareness,” she continued, “in the church community and simultaneously offer assistance to struggling families.”
Just knowing you’re not alone can give hope.
That’s a start.