Category Archives: Mental Health

Topics related to mental health awareness, depression suicide, and mental wellness.

The Lies of Suicide

F6C44347-CD36-4D8E-923D-14CB181AEF89Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain.

Two in one week. Add them to that terribly long, horrific list of people who have taken their own lives— people we have known or knew from a distance.

What scares me is that a report published just this week indicates that suicide rates are climbing all over the country. It’s evident of a medical system unable to adequately treat the number of people who have mental illness, the numbers of people who go undiagnosed, and especially this: the growing cultural acceptability of suicide. It’s glamorized and even rewarded when we say things like, “I’m glad his suffering is over. She’s in a better place now. He’s free. She’s flown away.”

Suicide seems to have an increasingly seductive allure as a final act of escape. In a culture that promotes and celebrates distraction, diversions and get-aways from reality, suicide lurches more prominently within the darker recesses of our shadowy selves. In our compulsive, overly anxious, self-obsessed natures in which we fear and glamorize death with a “who cares” kind of apathy, is it any wonder that more of us are tempted to listen to the “like sucks” “I just want to die” “screw it all” “forget you, world” voices in our heads? Listen to it enough, own it enough, and then we begin to find reasons to act out on it in highly destructive ways. Suicide is ranking higher as a mode of self-destruction.

But suicide is a devilish liar of the worst kind. I should know.
I’ve written before about my own struggles through suicidal thinking. Having climbed through that darkness by God’s grace and presence along with the presence of some loved ones, I know how powerfully seductive suicidal thinking can be.

“Nothing matters.” “I don’t matter anymore.” “If people really knew me, they wouldn’t love me.” “I’m a failure and a disappointment to everyone.” “Everyone will be better off without me.” “Sure, people might be hurt when I’m gone, but they’ll get over it, especially me. They always do. They always have.”

Lies and more lies. Suicide doesn’t take just one life. It drains the life out of everyone else that one life touched. It’s a violent, most awful way to die, no matter how it is carried out. And suicide never delivers on its promises. No one is ever better off dead, and the world becomes a far lesser place without us suddenly not in it, not a better one. Suicide leaves nothing but death and tragedy in its wake. When we accept that reality, we can choose love and life over lies and death.

It could be said that suicide prevention revolves around the choices we all make. We either lovingly choose to make life-giving and saving connections, or we choose death. That is true for the one contemplating suicide and everyone else around him or her.

As I did in my most recent post on mental illness, I’d like to offer some essential ideas for those who might be considering suicide and for their loved ones:

1) As hard as it is, make the choice to reach out. Many of us know how it feels to be so bottomed out that the effort it takes to reach out for help can seem unbearably difficult. We don’t want to bother anyone. Apathy paralyzes us. When that happens— Just. Do. It. Call someone. Text or message someone. If it’s dire enough, Google “suicide” and there you’ll find the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Get yourself to an Emergency Room. Take one step at a time away from the edge and towards life. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. Your loved ones are worth it.

2) Be there. Watch out for the warning signs of suicidal moods in other people- extreme withdrawal, any kind of loose talk of wanting to die or wanting everything to end, or sudden, unexplainable mood shifts. Don’t just say, “Call me if you need anything.” Go there and make the connection. Listen to your gut, and remember that accidental overstepping is better than careful sidestepping, especially if someone’s life is on the line. If you feel someone is in imminent danger, offer to make a phone call or to take them to the hospital. But don’t leave.

3) Make time. At any moment with anyone, making time to slow down and deeply listen to the lives and stories of our neighbors, to hear and non-judgmentally receive their thoughts and feelings, good or bad, to provide a safe place to talk, explore, and “get stuff out” may be the best mental health medicine and suicide prevention we could offer to each other. Many of us suffer from loneliness, real or perceived. The best cure for that I know is the connection of deep listening. It’s been said that the gift of listening is a gift of pure, unconditional love. You don’t have to be a therapist. You’re not there to fix anything or make it better. You’re there simply to be the presence of God who is love.

And love… love is what keeps us alive, healthy, and happy.

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So I Have Mental Illness…

On Sunday morning I shared something with my congregation that I had never publically put to words: “Your pastor has mental illness.”

I began a 4-part sermon series on stress, specifically how to transform stress into happiness. I’ve learned quite a bit about stress management and transformation through my battles with major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression. So to offer some ethos and pathos to the subject matter, i.e. Yes, your pastor really does know what he’s talking about and can personally relate to you!, I mentioned to my congregation a disease I have which has been with me through most of my adult life. It’s been my number-one health concern.
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There have been several times that depression took me to the depths of suicidal ideation. Several years ago I was even admitted for a week at an inpatient mental health care hospital for debilitating depression and suicidal intentions. Antidepressants to keep my brain chemistry at good, balanced levels have been a regular part of my wellbeing.

Presently, I’m doing really well. I treat depression with a daily morning dose of antidepressants. I watch for the signs and triggers that pull me down into depression— things like extra stress. I surround myself with plenty of accountability from people like my wife and a handful of close friends. And when life throws a vicious curveball or my brain chemistry somehow gets out of whack, I bring my doctor and therapist into my support network, too.

I mention all this, not to garner sympathy or to create a stir, but to continue my work of casting a luminous light on the most shadowed, closeted, and one of the most prevalent health concerns many of us face. We see the terrible effects of it when someone like Kate Spade takes her own life or when someone violently acts out, causing massive human carnage. We see it in the lives of most of our homeless neighbors. Mental illness affects community and world leaders, celebrities, stay-home parents, teenagers, corporate executives, and yes, clergy like me.  It takes the shape of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, eating disorders, schizophrenia, mood disorders, and a whole host of other diagnoses. For far too long now, mental illness has been badly misunderstood and unfairly scrutinized, resulting in a social environment in which critically needed support for those suffering from mental illness and and their caregivers becomes extremely difficult to find.

That is especially true in the church. In the church, much shame surrounds mental illness.

I’ve often called depression a disease of double shame. There’s the inward shame of worthlessness, hopelessness, apathy, emptiness and nothingness. Then there’s the outward shame, the things explicitly said or subtly  implied that depression is a result of spiritual and moral failure: “Just give it to God in prayer and you’ll feel better.” “True believers always have joy.” “Real Christians don’t get depressed.” “Depression is a separation from God.” “Just be grateful. Just keep your chin up. Trust God.”— implications that I can’t do or haven’t already done those things.

It’s time to come to grips with the truth that mental illness of any kind is not spiritual or moral failure. It doesn’t indicate innate character, moral, spiritual or emotional flaws any more grievous than anyone else’s. It is, quite simply, bad brain chemistry brought on sometimes situationally, most often as a chronic condition, or both.

So how can faith communities and any other forms of human community care for people with mental illness and their loved ones? Several key things come to mind (no pun intended):

1) Put aside your assumptions. Listen and learn. Misinformation has created the stereotypical perceptions we commonly use to frame mental illness. Throw those out, and offer the gift of deep listening and a willingness to learn. What’s it like? What does it mean and not mean? How do we cope and live? Let us, we who have mental illness and our loved ones, show you our world and how we struggle.

2) Abandon judgmentalism. (See #1.) In addition, avoid finger pointing and fault finding.

3) Be a companion on the journey. Attempting to give advice, thinking that the right words will make it better, or coming with any attitude that you’re “here to help” only makes things worse. Think of it as coming alongside as a friend. Deeply listen. Listen to understand. Give us space when needed. Show compassion in simple, practical ways. But remember: we’re not your problem to fix. Only God can do that through a whole network of supportive care. And you may be blessed to be one of those people.

4) Be an advocate. Look out for people with mental illness. When you can, speak up to protect our dignity and correct misperceptions. Help others to understand what mental illness is and isn’t.

The healing balm for mental illness is the persistent, gentle light of understanding love, quality medical care, time and space. I know this full well. I’m here today because of it.

And I can also say that we who have mental illness can live happy, productive, deeply spiritual lives. I’ve learned a lot about light and darkness, life and death, pain and healing, salvation and redemption through my ups and downs with mental illness. Those are lessons I would never give back, and for which I am deeply grateful. These are gifts that can richly bless the world, too. That’s my hope.

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Robin, You Are Never Alone

Robin WilliamsI was at band rehearsal last night when I got a text message from a friend saying that Robin Williams was dead. It about took my breath away. In fact, a few of my band mates had to chide me to get focused on our rehearsal. One of them said, “Jeesh, it’s like you know him or something.”

Strangely enough, I feel like I did. How? It’s not that I knew him as a whole person. Of course not. But somewhere inside me, I knew how he died, even before reading about it. It was depression-related suicide. I knew it because I’ve been there before, far too close to the edge.

Like so many other people of my generation, we were raised with Robin Williams- Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, and all those great movies he made. In my childhood home, Robin Williams was staple entertainment… well, at least the cleaner stuff he did. As I grew up, he never ceased to entertain me and later my children… again, sticking to the cleaner stuff.

I also knew about his struggles with depression and addiction, often devilishly dark conjoined twins. The part of me that knew Robin Williams knew that side of him all too well. I’ve never been addicted to any kind of substance or alcohol, but I do come from a family of addicts who struggle with depression. Through genes and upbringing, you could say I inherited my fair share of depression and addictive personality.

Depression is double shame. First there’s depression. It’s a painful, shame-induced inwardly turned anger, hopelessness, crushing low self-esteem, and soul weariness. Add to the shame of depression the shameful social stigma of depression and other illnesses of the mind, and you’ve got the double shame of depression.

It’s no wonder then that a good number of people who suffer depression are also suicidal. When you feel completely isolated from yourself, from God, and from others, why bother going on? When you live utterly alone under the smothering void of depression, what’s left?

Or so we think.

The healing balm of depression is presence- the presence of others and God through others. I keep thinking about Robin Williams. Had he allowed someone to simply be with him, even without saying a word– and actually for those suffering depression, that is preferable– he would still be alive today. Or if someone had noticed his condition and insisted on being with him, even against all of his angry protests or empty apathetic gazes, he might still be here.

I know that’s true because I’ve lived it. Three years ago after donating my left kidney, I suffered a deep depression. Coupled with the enormous physiological changes my body had gone through, I kept suffering from chronic feelings of inadequacy, being a burden and bother to my loved ones and church, feeling helpless and trapped, and more. All of that plunged me into a depression, so bad that I seriously contemplated suicide. I first justified why everyone would be better off without me. I began to say my quiet goodbyes to my wife and kids, and then I began to research ways of dying.

I’m here today because my wife Blairlee noticed a grave shift in my behavior and insisted on knowing what was going on. I said that nothing was wrong (a lie, but easier than talking about the truth). She gently pushed more. And then I spilled it all out. We decided that I would more openly communicate how I was feeling, especially if I had thoughts of hurting myself. Shortly afterwards I underwent a long round of medication and therapy.

I share these things because I’m not alone. So many other people suffer from depression and suicidal ideation, but we never talk about it. It’s a hidden disease. I could have cancer, a heart condition, diabetes, or any other disease of the body, and openly talk about it. But the moment I mention depression, I’m looked at differently as a broken, weak, unstable, even immoral person who obviously can’t manage his life properly.

Here are several facts about depression:

  • It does not indicate character, moral, or spiritual defects.
  • Depression does not indicate weakness. In fact, some of history’s strongest people suffered from depression. I’m in good company with the likes of Abraham Lincoln.
  • Depression is a medical condition to be treated like any other medical condition– therapy, medication, and self-care.
  • Depression does not have to define who a person is, but it can bring about the opportunity for tremendous growth, healing, and strengthening.

I truly hope that Robin Williams’ death will shed some more light on the reality of depression while sweeping away untruths and misconceptions. Robin, you are finally not alone. There are many of us who suffer like you did, and we will choose to live on together in hope, healing, and in God’s love and light. Rest in peace, my friend, and thank you.

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Guns Are Not the Problem– Broken Lives Are

Newton, ConnAs I write this, the horrors of yet another mass shooting are unfolding before our eyes, this time at Sandy Hook Elementary school near Newton, Conn. It happened again. Someone armed himself, entered a public place, and opened fire on innocent people. In a split second, lives were taken, and many more loved ones suddenly lost a child or another loved one in a horrific act of violence. 18 children woke up this morning to go to school. They never got home.

And when this happens, we’re shocked in disbelief. I am sickened at the thought of it. The horror overtakes us. We get angry and we demand an explanation. We need something or someone to blame– some deranged sicko. Society. God. And of course guns. It never fails that when a shooting like this happens, immediately the cry for greater gun control or even gun elimination goes up. I sympathize deeply with all of this.

But as always, I find myself concluding the same thing: guns are not the problem. You can control and regulate guns to the nth degree, and I guarantee you, this kind of thing will still happen, even as regularly.

Now, before you lampoon me as some kind of right-wing, card-carrying NRA nut job who worships the Second Amendment, calm down. I’m none of those things. I think the Second Amendment is a good thing. I support peoples’ right to lawfully possess fire arms, and I believe in reasonable gun control and regulation. At the same time, I do not own a gun, and I probably never will. That’s a personal choice.

But every time a shooting like this happens, and the gun control cries go out, I think of 9/11. On 9/11 nearly 3,000 people died, and not a single gun was used. What caused those deaths? Box cutters and airplanes. But actually box cutters and airplanes didn’t murder nearly 3000 people, either. People did.

Guns or anything else used as a weapon are not the problem. The people who would use them to commit an act of evil are the problem. We’re seeing an uptick in the kind of desperation, alienation, anger, and depression that lead to these kinds of awful killings. We see desperation, alienation, anger, and depression all around us, don’t we? We see it acted out in a number of ways to varying degrees of ugliness. I saw it at a gas station today. I even see it in good church people.

It’s the human heart that needs healing, and no increase in gun control laws or any other kind of law will cure that ill. Only God can, either through direct intervention or through you into the lives of those around you. That’s the cure.

We’re nearing the Christmas season and the yearly reminder that God has not left us on our own to our own violent ways. God was born to us as our Emmanuel, as Jesus Christ. God is surely among us, and Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us. He promised us the way of peace and joy. God has not forsaken Newton, Conn. God is clearly there now in ways we can see and not see, and that gives me a great deal of solace.

How can we prevent things like this from happening again? The answer: by making sure we love the unlovable. When we know of lonely, difficult people, don’t leave them there. Love and care for them. Let them know they are important to you. Dry their tears. Let them vent their anger. Go out of your way to do intentionally nice things for them. Most of all, let them know they are not alone.

Then maybe, just maybe, we might prevent more of these violent acts of desperation from happening again. God only knows we cannot fathom any more of them.

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Ruminations over Medications, i.e. Me on Meds for ADHD

Last week I finally broke down and did it. I went to see my doctor to get help. This issue had been bothering me to varying degrees all my life, but now I figured it was time to do something about it. And while I desired my doctor’s remedy, I was afraid of it, too.
During all of my adult life I have always poked fun at myself over my ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I can also look back on my childhood and youth years to see I had it then, but because my grades and achievements never seemed to suffer too terribly for it, my condition suffered a deficit of proper attention. (Bad pun intended!) So, I learned to cope with it by working around it. I also surmised that my inability to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes, to leave tasks unfinished, to be ever driven by distraction, or to struggle to keep myself focused for extended periods of time was just an immutable part of my personality. I have always strained for ways to keep centered in a conversation when lots of other sensory distractions are around me. I had learned to tolerate the curse of my insufferably bad short-term memory and disdain for organization.

So, I figured that the whole ADD thing is a quirk to deal with, for better or worse. Sometimes it could be a pain, yes. I also saw it as a benefit to my ministry. It has allowed me to shift gears very quickly (a ministry must!) and to handle sudden changes, even very difficult ones, with agility.
But now that I’m married again, the father of three children, and have numerous, heavy responsibilities as a pastor of a large congregation and a leader in other arenas, the stresses of trying to cope with my condition finally caught up with me. I thank God my ADD didn’t result in losing either my family or my career. However, I did feel like I was losing my grip on my effectiveness and my sanity, bit by bit!

Then one day, it just hit me. I came home after being away for a few days and sat on our family room floor holding Jacob who was being fussy. The TV was on. Blairlee was sitting on the couch talking on the phone. Kathryn was in an adjacent room singing along to music. The dog was barking at something. All of that combined stimuli felt like sharp claws digging into a chalk board. I couldn’t think or focus on anything. Later that evening, Blairlee and I were talking about the usual family stuff– coordinating our schedules, things coming up with Kathryn’s school work, Jacob’s appointments, etc., etc. A few hours later, I couldn’t remember half of the things we had just discussed!

This had been an ongoing pattern that wasn’t getting any better. Finally, I decided that for the first time in my nearly 36 years, it was time to take full ownership of this ADD thing and get some professional help.
So, I called my doctor and asked to be diagnosed and possibly, if necessary… [gulp]… get medication.

The next day, Blairlee, a Maryland state licensed clinical professional counselor, pulled out her DSM-IV, which is a large book that catalogs mental disorders. (I’m sure she was highly anticipating being able to use that book on me one day!) Keeping in mind that neither she nor I am qualified to give psychological assessments, we nevertheless discovered that my behavior and thinking patterns fit almost hand in glove within the diagnosis called ADHD, Inattentive Type. It was as if somebody personally studied my behavioral patterns and created this disorder to describe me.

Several days later, sitting in my doctor’s examination room, I described for her my symptoms, and she heard enough to agree that yes, I’ve got ADHD, Inattentive Type.  Then she prescribed Adderall XR, a drug commonly used to treat ADHD. Ironically, my daughter Kathryn, who has my same condition, took that drug for about a year and it worked wonders on her.
Now here’s the funny part: part of me felt truly relieved to finally have some help with this ADHD, for my sake and for those around me. But another part of me deeply dreaded the prospect of living on a medication like this.

It’s not that I have a problem taking medicines. I mean, I take Tylenol for headaches and other over-the-counter drugs for short-term issues. I take antibiotic prescriptions for the occasional sinus or bronchial infections.

Yet there’s part of me that despises the notion of having to take a medication on a long-term or even lifetime basis in order to function properly. It’s like I’m hinging my mental health on a chemical concoction.
Seven years ago, I had to take antidepressants for the only depression I’ve ever suffered, and while I was glad the medication got me to function again, there was something about having to take those pills that I hated. They drove my blood pressure up requiring a medication for hypertension. If I missed a dose of my antidepressant, my life became hell for those few hours until I was able to take it again. Coming off of them was sheer torture.
So, perhaps my fear is now somewhat based on that experience. It’s irrational, of course. I’ll admit that.

And yes, I know that millions of people live everyday taking necessary medications in order to function or even to survive! They take them, do just fine, and whine a lot less than I do about it. And yes, I feel blessed to have gotten this far having had only one other major experience of taking medication long-term.

Maybe my deep reservations are rooted in anxious fears. What if this medicine doesn’t work? What if I’m expecting it to do more than it’s capable of? What if it creates other side effects? What if I somehow get hooked on it? If it doesn’t work or creates too many other problems, are there other remedies that would work? On and on these anxious questions flow. The night before I began taking the medicine, I didn’t sleep well because I was so nervous about having to start it.

Well, I should know in a month’s time whether or not the Adderall will do the trick and also to see what other kinds of helps are out there to help contain the ADHD I have. So far, I have noticed some definite differences and improvements, and that’s been encouraging.

All in all, this is yet another way that Jesus is teaching me to live life one day at a time, not worrying about things that are outside of my control. And hey, if this remedy will help me be more effective in his service, then all the better!

I’m also grateful for having the means and access to excellent medical care and medicine. At the same time,  I’ve been increasingly mindful of those who don’t and have conditions far worse than mine that beg for treatment. Their plight far outweighs my own rumination over medication.

So, periodically, I’ll keep you updated on how things go and what I learn. In the mean time, follow doctors orders, especially the Great Physician’s. As always, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings!

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Working through Anger

anger-management-posterI’ve been contemplating a series of Sunday messages that talk about anger issues. How do we follow the Holy Spirit’s direction in identifying anger, processing it, and using it constructively to bring about positive change?

When I observe other people, circumstances, and even myself, I see too much unchecked, unacknowledged anger, and that’s not only unhealthy, but dangerous. I’m convinced that much of the “acting out” we hear about in news stories and the destructive life decisions people make have their roots in anger and resentment.

Living in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, I live in a high-stress area, and so I see visible signs of anger mismanagement on a daily basis. It’s a growing, congested, fast-paced, politically and economically powerful, expensive, transient area where many people work in high-stress professional jobs they attempt to balance with family and personal life.

Many of us live in constant tension. In a post-9/11 world filled much political and economic turbulence, all these factors only seem to intensify. I’ve often said that it’s no wonder we have two world-class cardiac hospitals and the best cancer treatment facilities money can buy. It’s a taxing area to live, work, and play.

So, put all of that together, and we’ve got the perfect fiery cauldron for anger leading to often severe mental and physical health issues. No matter our economic class or race, I see many of the same health issues: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, domestic violence, addiction, insomnia, sexual issues, hypertension, heart issues, obesity, cancer, and so much more. So much of this, I believe, finds its roots in thorny depths of unchecked, unresolved stress-induced resentment and anger.

Of course, people bring what they’re feeling and experiencing into the Church. Therefore, a much-needed aspect of our discipleship must include learning how Jesus navigates us through the stormy waters of high-stress induced anger, not just for our sakes, but to be a light to the world around us, modeling peace and wholeness through the indwelling love and peace of Jesus Christ within us.

To engage my congregation in anger issues, I’m piecing together a 4-part sermon series. Here’s a rough outline:
1) Part 1: Working through Anger with Ourselves
2) Part 2: Working through Anger with Others
3) Part 3: Working through Anger with God
4) Part 4: Working through Anger with Uncontrollable Circumstances

Right now, I’m researching possible Scriptures to guide the conversation each week. I’m also looking for resources and perspectives. I’d truly appreciate any thoughts and feedback from any of you as well as your prayers. I’m not naive enough to think that I’ll solve all the world’s anger problems with a sermon series, but perhaps addressing these issues head-on will serve as a catalyst to acknowledge our anger and discover a path to healing.

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Learning How to Vacation

As I write this, I’m in the first half of a much needed two-week vacation here in sunny Florida. My family and I drive down this way every summer to stay with my mother and step-father who both work for Walt Disney World and live almost right next to the Magic Kingdom. (We can hear the train whistles blowing from the Walt Disney Railroad and fireworks exploding at night.) Of course, with family who work for Disney World, we have the added perks of getting into all the parks for free!

Having been been to Disney World numerous times over the past nine years, I’ve moved beyond a wide-eyed fascination with Disney magic to enjoy some things that first-timers might ordinarily miss, things like people-watching and tuning in to the finer aspects of Disney’s creative and marketing genius. There really is so much to see, take in, and enjoy. But being a people person, I’ve learned to enjoy watching how people behave when roaming around the parks and resorts.

As for the people here,  if you haven’t been to Disney World before, you might think that Disney’s guests all beam with smiles and merriment. At least that’s what you see in pictures and commercials. You do see some of that, yes. But I also see a lot of tension. People come here with great expectations and a desire to “do it all.” So I see people eagerly rushing around and even arguing with one another and with their kids. (My sister, a Disney World call center employee who has spent her last several years dealing with guests, calls Disney “the fight capital of the world.”) Or, I see flat, tired looks on peoples’ faces.  After their stay, many folks return home exhausted, feeling the need for another vacation to recover from the one they just had.

Why is that? I’ve found that there are two sides of a coin to Disney World. On the one side, Disney offers a complete escape from reality. From the moment guests arrive to their resort or a theme park, they enter an alternative reality, an exquisitely orchestrated fantasy world of play. It removes its guests from the outside world into an all-encompassing Disney-style imagination world. Disney weaves together everything guests see, hear, touch, smell, or taste to create this new dimension of happiness.

Caught up in the created euphoria, I see Disney’s guests stretching themselves to the limit in order to be fully immersed in the happiness Disney promises. That’s the flip-side of the coin. Unrealistic expectations slam against the reality that even Disney cannot satisfy the insatiable hunger guests bring with them to lose themselves in Neverland. Walt Disney World, for all of its wonder and fun, isn’t heaven… It doesn’t soothe the longings people bring with them– not by a long shot.

So for my family, we’ve decided to do things a little differently. En lieu of going out every day, we’ve taken plenty of time simply to relax. Instead of the normal running around non-stop from here to there, we’ve taken a much slower, leisurely place. I’ve gotten over the guilt of feeling lazy and non-productive to enjoy just sitting around. I read or work on some fun projects, help my parents around the house, play with the kids, or if I feel like it, hop on the computer to blog about it. I’ve resisted the temptation to worry about work or answer e-mails. It will all be there when I get back. World War III doesn’t appear to be breaking out. So why worry myself about things instead of taking advantage of the precious opportunity I have right now to rest?

I’m re-learning that vacation is a form of Sabbath, not an escape from reality. If I or anyone else needs vacation to escape reality, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate, re-prioritize, or make adjustments to that reality. Sabbath, on the other hand, has a plain purpose: it is God’s gift of rest, re-creation, and reflection. Sabbath offers new life and a deepened perspective to those who take it.

I haven’t come to Florida to escape the world. The inner issues I had when I left are still with me. The conflicts back home will still be there when I get back. But in seeking Sabbath, God has offered me the rest and renewed strength I’ll need to handle all those fires within and without.

So will my family and I be running around in Disney World? You bet! But for me it’s not an escape. I’m using the time to remember what’s most imporant in my life, specifically my relationships with my wife and children, and of course with my God. Can I see God in new ways throught the people I meet and the experiences I have? I pray so. Can my family develop some deeper bonds to sustain us through the stresses of everyday life back home? I pray for that, too. All of this is Sabbath.

And so, I’m going to get off the computer now and enjoy the Sabbath time God has offered me. I hope and pray for each of you that when you have those rare moments of time to enjoy vacation, that it truly becomes a time of Sabbath and not a cheap escape from reality. In reality, there is no such escape!

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