I never imagined I would work in the Mental Health field. As a teen and into my twenties I thought I was destined to be a rock star. No kidding. I was going to be the next Amy Grant (I’m dating myself here…). So I moved to Nashville and had a big showcase and crashed and burned and then felt like a big, fat, nobody. A zero, as I would often say at Girls of Grace events.
It took a while for me to begin to learn why I felt like such a zero, not just after the devastating showcase, but pretty much always. Always feeling on the edge of being found out, that I don’t really matter, that I’m just a burden, that someone’s going to figure it out and cancel an upcoming speaking date, or book, or… something.
Why the zero?
My mom had an eating disorder when I was growing up. She moved out when I was around nine or ten, leaving a big hole in my heart – and psyche – which I wouldn’t discover until much later. Dad did his best to hold it all together but, by his own admission, thought he was going to lose his mind a few times in the process. After juggling work and single-parenting three young kids, not to mention his ministry involvement at church, there wasn’t much left for him to pour love into me during my formative years.
During this season of turmoil, my inability to manage the loneliness and distress led me to fracture internally a little, and then a little more. Without realizing what I was doing, I slowly fashioned a new, better self who learned how to walk through life giving off the aura of having it together, separated from my true, internal self who was hurting and dying and who no one seemed to see or care about. The better I got at projecting the new self, the less possible it became for my true, internal self to even be known, much less loved.
We all do this a little. It’s a natural – God-designed, some would say – defense mechanism. When we feel rejected, it can be overwhelmingly tempting to hide the part of us that experienced the hurt, until we no longer have a good connection between the different aspects of who God created us to be.
The problem is that when we fracture internally, we lose the benefit of operating from a central core of wholeness, which means that we are making decisions that may help one aspect of our self (most often, the aspect we think will win the approval of others), at the expense of truly loving our core self.
In my own life, I focused so intently on building up the “external” part of who I was that I battered my internal self through food addiction, sex addiction, and approval addiction. It was only through investing in healthy counsel/therapy that I began to see just how fractured I had become, and to understand how high the stakes were, not just for me, but for so many people who have managed pain in similar ways.
And here’s the bottom line: When we live disconnected and dis-integrated as whole persons, it not only impacts our physical, relational and spiritual health, but it hinders our ability to walk out in God’s ultimate purpose for our lives. Mental Health matters because LIFE matters, and God has a purpose for your life that is so much bigger than your own. To walk fully in it, you need a strong mind that can help you operate from a position of wholeness and wellness. A mind that has been loved and healed and given the ability to once again guide you as God originally designed.
Satan knows this, and so he is intent on attacking the integrity of our minds – our mental health – as soon as he possibly can. But he’s not bigger than the One who created us – and our minds – in the first place.
God knows your mind. He knows the wounds you have borne, and the fracturing that has occurred as you’ve tried your hardest to heal them on your own. He knows what you need right now, much more than any person possibly could. Yet he will likely use people – flawed as we all are – as part of his healing work in your life. And, because his ways are higher than our ways, he will probably even use YOU to help bring healing to others. Because he designed us to walk in community. And to BE a healing community toward each other.
The key to it all is love. Which is a lot easier to extend once you have understanding. In October, I am proud to be a part of Saddleback’s 2nd Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, a three-day event designed to increase understanding, compassion and love for those impacted by mental health issues. Attending this event – whether in person or via the web – will equip you to find more healing for yourself, or to be a part of healing community for others. You can learn more about it here:
Even though I never imagined I would work in this field (it’s far less sexy than being a rockstar…), I am grateful today for the opportunity to walk out my God-given purpose and to be a part of a growing body of believers who are passionate about being a part of the healing God wants to bring to so many who need to know that his love extends even – and especially – to them.
In these crazy times in which we live, it is critical that we band together to help facilitate the healing that God wants to bring to our minds, hearts and souls. Lives are on the line.
Including our own.