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March 8th, 2009 at 9:03 am

We’re All Cracked and Crumbling

I wrote this years ago in defense of friends who were suffering in various ways. I came across it again today and thought I’d replublish it. Little did I realize it might one day apply more directly to me.

A while back I made a comment one Sunday morning to the effect that if someone was thinking they could hear God talking to them that they needed to be on medication. Obviously the point I was trying to make was that God speaks to us primarily through his Word and not through direct audible language. I was being cute putting it the way I did in order to underline my point.

However, I was subsequently convicted that morning, and have been much since, that this was not a fruitful way of making the point I wanted and needed to make. I was suggesting, yes, that such a person who was hearing God speak audibly to them was crazy, and since in the common unkind worldly parlance we speak of crazy people needing to see shrinks and be on medication, thus this person needed to be on medication. Unfortunately this also implies the reverse, that those people who are on medication are crazy.

Well, those of you who know me know that I think we’re all “crazy” to one degree or another, which I will explain below. So when I say such a thing I am also laughing to some degree at myself and our common predicament, messed up as we all are. But it stills comes off as insensitive to say such things, because, well, it is.

So, I wanted to take opportunity to address the general issue of emotional or mental or physical struggles that do often require that folks take medicines of various types. I want to address this in order to state some general principles about the Christian life and our ministry as “wounded healers.”

With regard to our physical and mental and emotional selves, the truth is that we are all “cracked and crumbling,” and that at multiple levels. In no respect are we (yet) everything we were made to be. The fall of mankind into sin and the subsequent curse upon us has impacted us at every conceivable level. Amazingly, our creator God has loved us, cracked and crumbling as we are. He has showered us with dignity and blessing and honor. We are made in His very image, though it be clouded in many ways. And in Christ, we are being remade, bit by bit, evermore into His image. His Spirit dwells within us, yes, even us cracked and crumbling ones. Yes, the cracks are being filled in, and the crumbling is being slowed, or even reversed, but until we get our new bodies we will not yet be who we are to be, we will not yet be whole, we will not yet be healed.

We are all born with physical and psychic “cracks.” This is part of our genetic heritage. As we grow up, due to sinful and broken environments starting often in the womb itself, and due often to our own rebellion and alienation as we grow up, these physical or psychic cracks may widen and deepen, or new cracks may form, new conditions may arise. Sometimes by God’s grace, growing up in healthy environments and by his grace with less severe rebellion, some of these cracks heal. This healing can be substantial, but it is never total, not in these bodies, not even for the Christian.

I get migraines. It is possible I directly inherited the condition from my mother. It is possible I inherited merely a predisposition to develop migraines given other certain environmental factors coming into play. It is possible I developed migraines due to multiple concussions I experienced as a child and teenager. The science of migraine is unclear. Something happens to alter the brain chemistry. This may or may not be triggered by some internal or external factor. Something causes (among other things) brain blood vessels to dilate and put pressure on nerves, pressure which then creates many phenomena such as an aura, hyper sensitivity to sound and light, nausea, and intense pain. It runs its course and goes away – until the next one. There is medicine now that constricts the blood vessels and which can, if the migraine is caught early enough, take away many or most of the symptoms. It’s pure chemistry. And as one friend says, “better life through chemistry!”

There are many physical as well as psychic conditions which we can inherit directly, for which we have either a genetic predisposition, or which can develop due only to other life factors such as injury or trauma or unhealthy environmental influences or unhealthy personal behavioral issues, or all of the above.

I think a natural human predisposition toward dread was exacerbated in me by my father’s binge alcoholism. Many times he disappeared for days. Many times he almost died. I cannot imagine that that did not impact me in some way.

It seems also that our affluent western sedentary lifestyles make us more prone both to certain physical conditions as well as mental or emotional conditions.

At the same time living in the affluent west makes certain medications or therapies more available. Without the advancement in medicine of the last century many people in our congregation would be dead today. They are kept alive by medications that keep their body chemistries in balance.

With regard to emotional or mental issues, there is no more or less shame in taking medications for depression or anxiety than there is in taking medication for migraines or diabetes.

At the same time we live in a self indulgent narcissistic culture where we as human beings have come to value feeling good and feeling better above all other values and virtues. This type of society creates its own kinds of mental and emotional and physical problems, but more than that it creates a hyper focus on ourselves. It is said that we are a “therapeutic” society, bent on doing whatever needs to be done to feel better, and that we are therapeutic church, bent on the same while dressing it up in Christian jargon.

What if anything is the relationship between sin and these various issues?

As human beings we are born rebels. This is our inheritance in Adam. When we add our propensity to rebellion against God to the psychic or physical cracks we inherit or which we otherwise develop, we see that these – our rebellion and these psychic or physical issues – can merge, and the “cracks” can feed or become tools of our rebellion. That is, the rebellion can find channel of expression in and through our weaknesses, or take advantage of our weaknesses, or even use the weaknesses to advance or rationalize its own cause. For example, I have I believe a tendency to feel grumpy and be short tempered. In rebellion against God who has made me to be patient and kind, and desiring in my autonomy not to be told what to do, and unchecked by the Spirit or conscience, this “tendency” could result in rage or violence or unbridled negativism.

We see this merging of rebellion and physical/psychic weakness in addictive behaviors. Alcoholism for example is not simply disease and it is not simply rebellion – it is both.

Sometimes in the complexities of our minds and hearts the rebellious self “uses” the psychic/physical weakness as a tool to justify, rationalize, or excuse the rebellious tendency. This is all extraordinarily complex and gets at the root of the mystery of the human person, and I do not claim to understand it.

But we have seen in recent years the tendency for the rebellious self to wear psychic cracks as badges of honor or pride, and in principled ways use the psychic issues to rationalize or even indulge the rebellious desires of the self or to bully others.

Take migraine. I am apparently no longer simply a guy who gets migraines – I am a “migraineur.” I am special. I am a in a special class. I am part of the migraine community. I have my issues, and I demand you be sensitive to them. If you are not I will suffer terribly and it will be your fault. I might even have a stroke. I will not allow that. I demand all lights be out, that there be no noise, that everyone accommodate me. I am special. I cannot do anything or be in any environment that might give me a migraine. I cannot be held to ordinary expectations. I cannot be held to the command to love others. Others give me migraines. Others are not sensitive to my issues. Others need to love me. I am special.

When I put it this way we can see how my rebellion can “use” my condition for its own purposes of autonomy and independence.

But we can also imagine that if I were a severe migraine sufferer, that my condition could cloud the way I look at life in every way. It could make my life so difficult, and lead to such relational alienation and life trouble, that it could exacerbate my deeper inner alienation and darkness and leave me even more lost and alone and autonomous than otherwise.

So how does the Christian look at the issues in himself or herself in light of the very high calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

There are other things that happen in the brain and body chemistry which can cause emotional or mental symptoms such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, delusions, moodiness, addiction, grumpiness, or which can cause more purely physical symptoms, such as headache, lack of coordination, metabolism problems, blood chemistry imbalances, etc.

My point ultimately is that we as Christians need to accept and acknowledge the fact that we’re all messed up one way or another, and that in Christ we’re all in the process of getting better, one way or another. There should be no stigmas associated with having and taking medicines for any of these conditions.

Many people who are mentally ill are Christians. Their mental illness manifests itself in the context of the church as it does everywhere else. The Church must find a way to accommodate, love, and accept all these brethren. What is the option – a special church for the mentally ill? That is not only ridiculous for obvious reasons, but it fails to acknowledge that all of us are cracked and crumbling in some way. Many of the most difficult people have no apparent mental illnesses of any kind. They don’t take any medicines. Yet they may be sinful or proud in many other respects and cause trouble to no end.

So, we must be accepting and mutually encouraging and helpful one to another with regard to these areas where we are “cracked and crumbling.” There must not be any stigmas, any shame, any dismissal of those who are most severely impacted by mental or psychic disturbance. Any such stigma or shame implicitly amounts to the kind of ungodly favoritism that James spoke about in his epistle. “Love one another” means what it says.

At the same time we must not let mental or psychic illnesses be used as special cards to get a pass on the biblical injunctions which bear upon all Christians. The person who suffers from depression may go through times when it is especially severe, and extra compassion is needed, and he or she may even need to take a few weeks off so to speak. But neither depression nor anxiety nor ADHD nor PTSD nor schizophrenia nor bipolar disorder nor any number of namable illnesses should be “used” to avoid the opportunities, obligations and responsibilities of community.

If there is no shame then there is also no free pass.

Yet the person struggling with these illnesses will require some extra patience, forbearance, and help, particularly in times of special intensity or of psychotic outbreak. And though one does not grant a “pass,” neither does one ignore the practical consequences of many of these syndromes or illnesses. For example, a person with severe claustrophobia may have a hard time being cornered in a part of a room with any exit doors nearby. This needs to be accommodated. Some people due to their illness or situation struggle with being touched physically. A loving caring community that likes to hug and embrace one another in Christ needs to know and understand this. If there is an environment where the knowledge of such things carries no shame, then handling the normal consequences should be taken in stride, and be no more of an issue than the person who does not like to drink ice tea is an issue. In other words, it should not be an issue.

Often God uses  to great advantage the extra patience required ministering to people who are more severely impacted by physical or mental (or socio-economic) distress. Often a church is caused to grow together in the more essential things because of people who require certain special attention or sensitivity so to speak. And, lest it be forgotten, these very same dear brethren may themselves be gifted in remarkable ways and contribute greatly to the life and health of the community. Indeed, for many, their own experiences give them special insights, and special abilities to care for others who have similar circumstances.

And, again, it must be said categorically that most of the people who cause substantial trouble, who put churches under the burden of schism and discouragement and trial, are rebellious and prideful people with few if any of these particular mental/psychic issues.

I got the phrase “Cracked and Crumbling” from a line in an amazing song by Bill Malloneee called “Good Luck Charm of the Vigilantes of Love CD Audible Sigh. I leave you with the lyrics to Good Luck Charm:

Good Luck Charm by Bill Mallonee

yeah just where did it start this breaking of your heart

yeah and where did it go south you’re looking down in the mouth

of a ride that had just begun when the lap bar came up

yeah and sweetness it was bone dry at the bottom of the cup

yeah death she wears this strange perfume when you’re traveling the white lines

yeah she stumbles in here under a different name almost every night

we’re all cracked and crumbling just like that old sidewalk

and I suppose this must be the place where the walls went up

you make your smile a different way to cry

when the truth that they’ve been selling you is just another fine lie

yeah the candles on the inside they are flickering out

with the things they don’t tell you about

can you hear the bells can you hear the alarm

can you give away your life like a good luck charm

this is where it started breaking your heart

yeah this is where it started this falling apart

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  • Brenda Bowers
    5:28 pm on March 8th, 2009 1

    Much food for thought Joel. I enjoyed this one very much. Along these same lines I tried for years to explain to myself and those I discussed my beliefs with, just exactly how we “inherit” from our parents and forebears both their physical and spiritual traits. And, of course, then how our souls choose which among these traits, both physical and spiritual, to use.

    I could never explain what I meant effectively until the discovery of DNA gave me a tool of sorts. But still something was missing. Yes, DNA is the code, but just how is it the soul uses DNA? Then I became familiar with the computer and it fell into place for me as a teacher. People understand the computer, they understand programs and that the person using the computer can choose among the programs which to use and those they don’t care to use. The soul then chooses from the DNA “programs” in this lifetime. Some choices are good and some are bad. Some are made to advance the soul towards God, and some are chosen by the immature soul in defiance. Or, perhaps not in defiance, but so as to learn a lesson the soul needs to learn. Alcoholism can be chosen for instance in defiance or so the soul can understand the agony of such an addiction. I have often thought this the case with the closet alcoholics. It is their own private agony and does not harm others. The ones in defiance are open with the addiction and do much harm to other souls of course. The this trait is passed onto the children to deal with.

    (An aside here: I could never agree with the “sins of the fathers are passed onto the sons and on thru the generations” the preachers in my youths Church of Christ seems so fond of. Now I do understand. And I was right in questioning those self righteous fools because they had it all wrong!)

    Now back to inheritances: These chosen programs then interact over our physical lifetimes and shape what “programs” we then pass on to our children. Some programs get little or no use and so after several generations they become weaker and eventually disappear. Some get much use and over generations become stronger, and at the same time each soul’s choices of other programs and these interactions with the stronger program reinforce and “update” the program.

    This explanation seems to work. Isn’t it strange that I struggled for so many years when I felt I was to pass on and explain by beliefs and couldn’t. At one point I got so upset that I screamed at God, ” If you want me to teach this then show me how!!” A few years later I got my first word processor where I could store files. The files then were my first “programs” until I got my first computer and saw that the files were the changes the individual souls make to the original program. He had answered my need, but only answered it when I had enough understanding of my beliefs to use what I had been given and pass it on.

    I sometimes wish I could be more kind and loving and giving. then I realize that I have chosen the ”warrior” and perhaps “teacher” programs for this lifetime. When I finally understood this and why injustice so angered me; why I am outraged by cruelty, brutality, stupidity and deliberate ignorance as I have often said, then I was finally able to accept myself (most of the time anyhow. :) ) BB

  • alice hudson
    3:35 am on March 9th, 2009 2

    awesome! i needed this.

  • gaga ??
    8:38 am on March 10th, 2014 3

    私はシリコンイベントアイラブを好む。 しかし、より多くの私のiPadに多くの重量を出したが、その後、私はPAR投げ下にiPadのいくつかの事実と同

  • Qonita
    12:30 pm on December 27th, 2014 4

    You are so awesome for helping me solve this myrtsey.


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