Dear Care Giver,
Over the past few weeks I’ve had the image of a reed of grass in my mind, a tall slim stalk flapping in a strong wind. That’s how Christ summarized perceptions of John the baptizer, the “odd” fellow shouting in the wilderness about sin and chaff and sandals. “Did you think you’d find a reed shaken by the wind?” asked Christ of those who went to check him out. Did you think you’d find a shouting fool out there, a crazed man to gawk at? He knows how quick we are to judge.
Later, Christ tells a crowd that he will not break a bruised reed. How unlike most of us – I could see myself walking through a field of perfectly raised stalks and finding one bent, and instinctively snapping it off, for perfection’s sake. Christ will not. Neither will he break the precarious faith or life of a man or woman tormented with severe depression or symptoms called schizophrenia. The duration and scorn of these illnesses might lead you to believe otherwise. Lord have mercy on any of us who have scorned or dismissed you in any way.
Do you feel about to break? Maybe you already feel totally crushed. Here’s something I learned during my “terrible” years, when I knew there was no way I’d make it. (And I say that from both sides of the struggle – as a person suffering and later as a care giver) I read a line of scripture that resulted in an argument with God. He’d made a promise, and it was not coming to pass.
I saw these words: He would not let us be tempted beyond what we were able, but with the temptation would provide a way of escape, that we could bear it (I Cor. 10:13). From my point of view, the words were wrong. I was pressed beyond what I could bear. There was no avenue of escape, not medicinally, not psychologically, not physically. Certainly no family members crowded around to offer comfort or care. Like the Israelites in the desert who were sure they would die, and complained about it, I complained. I also hoped in God’s mercy — I hoped hard. The last line of the verse, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me…” must have applied to someone else, not me.
Only in hindsight have I been able to see much of his goodness and mercy during those horrid years of affliction. While arguing I missed a truth taking place in my life. Though I had not yet seen all the ways of God as revealed in the most famous psalm, 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd…”), He did walk through the valley of the shadow of death with me and comforted me there. He did prepare a table of provision for me in the wilderness. He has been restoring my soul. God does this work in the background, behind the pain, out of view of day to day earthly obstacles, so we often miss it. I missed it.
As Ann Voskamp said, in One Thousand Gifts, “Trauma’s storm can mask the Christ and feelings can lie.”¹ In the storm I could not see love standing there.
Voskamp offers wonderful insight into the darkness, based on God’s conversation with Moses in the wilderness. The Lord had to cover him. “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back” (Ex. 33:22-23).
“Though it is black and we can’t see” she said, “and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us… Then he will remove his hand. . . Then we look back and see His back.”
“God reveals himself in rearview mirrors,” she said, and some of us will have to drive quite a way before we recognize his presence in our past.
I did not know it then, but I see now: He knew I could bear more than I ever imagined possible because He helped carry the load.
Dear care giver, I’m telling you this so you’ll remember on your most frightening days, when you think you’ll snap or be snapped by the difficult people and regulations in your way, that the Lord will not break a bruised reed. He’s not gawking at symptoms called schizophrenia, either, like some people do. He’s got your back.
¹ Ann Voskamp. One Thousand Gifts, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.