I'm a pastor. Most of you know this by now. Because of this vocation, I find my self in situations that most people would not find themselves on a regular basis. That's the nature of the vocation. Pastors are called to minister to people in their most dire times, sometimes in circumstances that are not the norm, or at least not the norm as some would understand it.
Because of my vocation, I was at a in-patient behavioral health facility yesterday. Meaning, a mental health hospital. I'm not sure if you've ever been to one before, but yesterday wasn't my first time. I was a mental health counselor in the Army, so it wasn't that new to me, except yesterday was a bunch of civilians, not Army soldiers.
I had lunch there yesterday, and I was able to sit and watch the people that were there. All ages represented. All races represented. All socio-economic statuses represented. There was just a huge cross section of humanity there yesterday as far as I could tell.
As I was sitting there eating lunch and watching the other people, I couldn't help but think- most people would think that people who were in a hospital for reasons associated with their mind would look or act crazy.
Here's the interesting part- they all looked normal. They looked like people I knew, or had seen before. It wasn't like one flew over the coo-coo's nest, it was like being in a checkout line at the local supermarket. It was just full of people.
There is a stigma attached to people who have 'mental issues' and I don't really think its fair. We go and see someone in the hospital for being stupid on a camping trip and they break their leg and we think nothing of it. But if you have someone you know who has to go to the hospital because of something associated with the brain, and the perception of that person is totally different.
Mental illness is real. It affects a lot of people and is serious stuff. When we minimize it or talk down about it, we are condemning people who are truly in crisis that are in need of professional help. We should be supportive of them and realize that given certain circumstances, any of us, or our loved ones could end up in the same place.
What's the nugget for today? Don't be judgmental about people that are in need of behavioral health support. There may be interpersonal or medical conditions that are causing it that you may not know or understand. Yes, God can heal them or us of any condition, but when we pass judgement on these people, we run the risk of disenfranchising them from the grace of God because we have decided that they are 'crazy'.
Jesus ministered to people with conditions of the mind. Paul stated that we could transform ourselves by the renewing of our mind. Be a person who keeps a strong focus on the Lord, his love and his grace. Extend that same level of grace to those who are in a situation that necessitates support from professional mental health services. They are people just like you and me.