Rich Nathan, senior pastor at Vineyard Columbus, taught a remarkable sermon this weekend called "When You Can't Get Pregnant." Although it addressed those who can't get pregnant, it also spoke to people like me who did get pregnant. And then the trouble started.
No pregnant woman dreams of a future for her child that includes schizophrenia. Rich quotes from a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King about shattered dreams and "staggering winds of disappointment." Been there.
At the top of my sermon outline, I wrote: "We don't know why bad things happen to good people. It's not helpful to spend much effort trying to figure out why." (Still, I expect to have a meeting with Jesus after I die to get an explanation.)
Rich noted in the sermon that shattered dreams can result in bitterness, fatalism or a feeling that God is punishing us. For me, it's resulted in an absolute determination to make this dreadful experience benefit someone else. Sometimes I wonder if I am still bargaining with God. (As in, if I'm really, really helpful, maybe my son will be healed.) But I don't think that's it.
I have seen so many other mothers buckle and collapse under the strain of having a mentally ill child that I must help. I know that it's really hard to believe that God is sovereign and loving when your grown child is lost in the streets of a strange city or tearing apart the plumbing of your house at night to find the source of the voices he hears. But He is. Many times I have been asked, "Why are you all right?" And the answer is that God ... who is good and loves my son more than I do ... is with me.
So I'm in training at Vineyard's Support and Recovery ministry and hope to co-lead a support group to help those who love people with mental illness. Details on that will follow as it gets closer.
How can you keep the faith when the worst happens? Rich mentioned some ideas: Find a way to turn this liability into an asset. Write down all the things that are right in your life. Focus on who God is. (And by the way, schizophrenia was never God's idea for anybody. This disease, like all others, was the brainchild of Satan who hates us and wishes us harm.) For me, listening to worship music on my iPod in the middle of the night, practicing centering prayer, and surrounding myself with reminders of God up to and including following Virtual Abbey on Twitter to pray during the day helps as well.
You can watch the sermon at www.vineyardcolumbus.org
As often happens, after I heard the teaching, I got a reinforcement message in the form of a podcast sermon from Willow Creek ... my husband's old church in Chicago ... that went over many of the same things about dealing with serious disappointments. And it ended with a thought: God's not finished with me yet. I may have hope deferred, but that doesn't mean there is no hope.