I have been silent for a few weeks now, waiting. I have watched some things in my world continue to spin out of control and I simply have tried to patiently look for my lesson. What is it I am supposed to learn in this difficult time? I know there is always some truth or some insight I must get to, but the path is winding and sometimes, I am looking in the wrong direction.
We have struggled for a very long while now with Layla’s mental illnesses. I have looked on as she has torn her own life to shreds. She has annihilated her friendships at school and daily wallows in her grief, rage, mental and emotional instability. Over the last few weeks, we finally called in crisis family preservation counsellors for services in our home. With medications, and intensive therapy, I was hoping we could make some breakthroughs. Trained professionals come in to our home, she complies, calms down, comes out of the locked bathroom, stops screaming but she won’t do it for me. And today it all became very clear what I had been missing.
I am witnessing what looks like a wounded, wild animal. Her behavior reeks of it. She is lashing out at everyone around her because she needs everyone to feel the pain she is in. If someone has wounded her (even if it is in her own head and they haven’t done a thing), they MUST pay the price and she won’t rest until she is sure they have been punished. It consumes her. She bites the hands that feed, nurture and try to care for her. Because she is broken. Wounded animals lash out when in pain or survival mode. But we are not animals, we have the capacity to rise above our circumstances. We can live up to a higher calling than mere survival.
I was so busy trying to help mend the physiological needs of her brain with medicine, and then her mental state with counseling… I forgot to stay on top of the condition of her heart – her spiritual needs. I have even neglected my own in this. I believe that the whole of the person is made up of the mind, the body and the spirit. If one of those areas of our humanity is off balance or in need of healing, it affects the others as well. I am by no means suggesting that if Layla just prays some more, that her mental health issues will subside – Far from it. But rather, faith is an anchor, a place to return when our minds and bodies are in turmoil. Like the drishte in yoga- that place we return to keep us centered.
We aren’t given illness so that God can heal the physical ailment (as so many tend to believe), we are often allowed physical illness to help mend our hearts. Sometimes our bodies are healed as well, but not always. I know that whatever I have endured in sickness or difficulty has ultimately drawn me closer to God and I have tasted His goodness, His endless mercy, matchless grace and radiating love in those times. I know that the same is true for Layla. She has this illness but it can lead her closer to the God who loves her, if she allows it to. As her parent, living by faith, it is my responsibility to help her find that Anchor. A place, a refuge that she can rely on even when she can’t trust her own mind. And these past months, I confess that I have neglected that crucial element. We get to a place where our very roots are exposed and we realize that we control nothing…we can either lash out in our helplessness or we can lay ourselves in God’s hands, which is exactly where He wants our hearts to let go.
She is lashing out because she cannot forgive. She screams because she can’t let go of her anger. She bathes, no, she marinates in her pain without any desire to heal. Sometimes we carry things that are far too heavy for us to bear. But before we realize, we get really comfortable white-knuckling that baggage and don’t know how to let go. So, tonight, we talked about letting it go. Giving it over to God, saying, “I can’t carry this, it is ruining me. Please help me?” And knowing, believing that when God says he listens to us, we have all of His attention. And he will help carry the burden. That doesn’t mean He takes it away. But He gives us a way to heal even if it remains. She may struggle with mental illness, but she can still take some responsibility in her healing. I asked her to just take one step toward her own healing and see where it takes her…
And I must do the same. I cannot carry this alone. I have been telling God for so long that “I can’t….” but I realized the other day, I actually CAN. I just don’t want to anymore. The good thing is, I don’t really have to – I forgot to look to my Anchor. I just kept staring at the problem. More pointedly, I kept looking at a wild animal gnashing her teeth and like all human beings who just can’t look away from the bizarre or broken, I focused on it far too long. And I was screwing up my own heart and head in the process. I had a really bad attitude and I knew it, too.
So, discipline. We have to change our focus and that takes changing some habits. Or introducing new ones. Every morning and every night for the next week, Layla and I have pledged to spend time reading from daily devotionals and the Bible and talking to God about whatever it is that is hurting and giving it back to Him. Renewing our minds, giving strength to our bones, mending our hearts, forgiving each other. Maybe in the next week, we will find that next step toward wholeness, healing in our Father’s hands.