In honour of #MentalHealthWeek we welcome guest author and pastor Deane Proctor as he challenges us to nurture faith communities where the question “how are you REALLY doing?” needn’t even be asked. This post is based on a sermon which can be viewed on Charlottetown First Baptist Church’s website.
“But how are you REALLY doing?”. That’s the necessary but often unasked follow-up question when two people meet up and when one of those people can plainly see that something’s “off” in the other person. Imagine what could happen if the follow-up question when someone is asked how they’re doing and too quickly says they are “fine” or “good” was a serious, non-judging invitation to give the real answer “But how are you REALLY doing?” Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 that we should love God with all of our minds, but as a person living with both depression and anxiety, there are some days when my mind is so out of sorts that I’m just not able to do that. And I don’t know who needs to hear this church, that’s why I need you. WE need you.
Imagine what it could be like if pat answers, out-of-context bible verses and Christian clichés were ruled off-limits at church. What if saying you’re ok when you’re not ok wasn’t ok in the church? What if a person could actually come to church knowing that waiting there was someone, a brother or sister or maybe a whole collection of brothers and sisters on whom they could confidently lean, be prayed over by, be truthful with, be authentic in front of and feel safe letting their emotional guard down with. Do you know what the result would be if people gathered together like we are could be that real? Do you know what we could call it? Church. Christian community the way it was always supposed to be. Not shiny and happy and perfect and blessed ALL THE TIME but messy and depressed, with a helping of miserable and imperfect on the side. A place where the spiritually damaged could find healing in Jesus.
By all means ask me if there’s anything you can do for me but the first few times you do, don’t be surprised when I say there isn’t. Trust is earned. Don’t ask me if I’ve ever prayed for a cure as though mental illness was strictly a spiritual problem. Instead, just love me as your neighbour with the patience and grace with which you love yourself and I’ll do my best to do the same for you.
As the church, (if we are to be the church), imagine us loving God and one another together with whatever we have in us today, physically, emotionally, spiritually OR mentally. If we can do that with patience, grace and a growing trust in one another, in the future you won’t need to ask me how I’m “REALLY doing” because as my trusted brother or sister in the Lord, you will have, little by little, loved me, seen me and heard me in a way that made me feel safe enough to answer you truthfully the first time you asked. You can do this church and I need you to do it. WE need you to do it.
To check out a recent series from First Baptist Church Charlottetown PE focusing on mental health and the church, click here.