Saturday, November 25, 2006

I believe

I was going to tell you about how amazing Living Room was yesterday. I was going to tell you about how at peace I felt when I came home and how I felt God so close. He is really at work in this group. There were 12 of us and we connected so well. It was hard getting everyone to go home so I could lock the church.

I was going to write a whole bunch about this until I read Misha's post tonight. It got me all riled up - though not in a bad way. The fiery determination welled up again, to continue working at what I believe so strongly in: better support by the church for people with mental disorders.

The Living Room group is an example of how the church can provide tangible support for people with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders. I believe our group is a germ of something, something I hope will spread to other churches (even many?).

A snapshot of our meeting: At our group we start out by helping ourselves to lunch - all finger foods - and we sit around a big table, covered with a tablecloth with a sunflower pattern. Usually we have a flower arrangement in the center. Yesterday we had candles. For extra nibbling, there were cookies, grapes and, as always, a couple of dishes of chocolates on the table. We gradually get into the meeting. The atmosphere is so good.

But I'm describing. And that wasn't my intention. I wanted to talk about how I believe that the body of Christ, the church, will eventually learn how to help those of us who struggle with mental health issues. God is so much at work in Living Room. I know this is the kind of thing God wants us - and all Christians - to be doing. Calls are trickling in every week from people who are interested in receiving faith-based support. There have been others showing an interest in starting groups at their own churches.

This would be such a wonderful way to reduce stigma.

Guidelines for a group: The groups need to be facilitated by someone who has a mood disorder himself. When the group leader shows his vulnerability, talking briefly about his own struggles and how God works in his life, others are encouraged to open up. This kind of facilitator is the key to a good group. Churches need people with these problems to work with the pastor in organizing such a group.

And there should be a connection with a secular mental health agency which would make sure the medical angles are appreciated. This is to discourage totally spiritualizing the problems members face. There has to be an appreciation of the medical AND spiritual. This is of UTMOST importance.

I believe we're onto something. And I pray for God's continued guidance. It's He who helps me want to persevere. I know it's Christ who taught us to love each other unconditionally and I believe that Christians want to do that. They only need to learn HOW to give the support we so desperately need.

So...I've ended up describing Living Room after all. I'm glad I did, because I feel good about my group...and maybe this will inspire others.


Anonymous said...


Your Living Room sounds so amazing!! I wish I had access to that!!!

I have even thought of trying to implement it here (I remember you saying that another church has modeled after you)...but, my tiny town (and I) am not quite to that stage yet...maybe in the future, it sounds so incredible!

I am glad that you are feeling strong. I just read your comment. That made me smile--I felt really impressed to write that, about the freefall---God is so cool, the way that He knows what will speak to each of us.

I have never talked to anyone about the freefall analogy before...

He has big plans for you!!! :-)

I am still sitting here, smiling.


Anonymous said...

dont suppose any multiples are in taht group ? But despite what you feel the group sounds like it is needed and wanted and its what the church needs as well, just keep striving marja


Anonymous said...

marja, i've gone to church nearly all my life and i've just heard about mental illnesses mentioned once, and just in passing. when i was hospitalized, some people came from the church, but they just prayed for the devil to leave me.

i don't know if i'd have the nerve to step out and turn #3s into #2s in the church community. for one, my mood would swing radically. one day i'd be gung ho and the other, i'd writhe in embarrassment.

anyway, keep writing. your efforts will be worth it.

marja said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Misha, What you said in your first paragraph needs to be heard. I sent it on to my pastor, someone who is very much onboard in trying to help change come about in how the church addresses the problem of mental illness.

The topic of mental illness NEEDS to be brought up in church. If Christians are going to support mentally ill people, they need to know that it's not the devil causing it. They would never visit a friend with a heart attack, or a stroke, or Alzheimer's and pray for the devil to leave him.

Anonymous said...

Ironically- I was raised in the Catholic church...where Exorcisms are still done to this day in some diocese- I don't really think that such a traditional church would be into that. Secondly- I live in a horribly small southern town where the women are famous for talking about everyone behind their back. I'm still trying to get the nursing profession to be more compassionate.

Don't get me wrong- I am still a religious person- its just I'm struggling to find a place where members won't judge me. Its difficult- because once your raised a kinda stay one. I don't go to mass anymore- and I don't think they would understand...but for some reason I can't call myself anything other than a Catholic. Its almost an identity thing.

I am glad that you find comfort in that support group. For now- I guess I am still coming to terms with my diagnosis- and communicating with those that I know won't pass judgment, get me kicked out of school or fired from the hospital is what works best for me.

marja said...

You know, I understand that what I'm calling for people to do is TERRIFICALLY difficult. And it's only in the past year that my confidence and courage have risen to the point that I can do what I'm doing to the degree I'm doing it.

It has taken tremendous support from my church family and my faith in God that has given me the courage I have today.

I know it takes time for this kind of courage to grow amongst people who suffer as we do. But I have hope that, with better church support more of us will get to the point I've come to.

I hope this post wasn't too strong and too much pressure.

I love you all.

steve g said...

I am very interested in the differing views on the cause of mental illness. Please talk some more about your insights. What about demonic possession and spiritual bondage. What about deliverance ministry. What do you make of the scriptural references ie legion.
Why is the church quiet and divided on these pressing matters.

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