I took this sweet photo of two friends several years ago now. I was asked by a client to meet me at a local park so I could photograph two children as a surprise for their parents. I thought it was amazingly sweet. She was not the mom, she was a friend to both families and not yet being a mother herself, she found herself filled with joy and happiness whenever she spent time with their families and watched these two children play together. This is how I envision God walking with each of us! Can’t you just feel the connection? The carefree ease they have as they walk hand in hand. I don’t recall if they were laughing or talking or just being quiet as they walked down the path.
God reaches His hand to me through his son Jesus and the Holy Spirit with an invitation to share a friendship. It is a friendship that I work on every day as I meet with Him in prayer. I believe we are asked to extend that same hand to our loved one’s with mental illness. We also need to remember that our body language and how we outwardly show our emotions can have a positive or adverse effect on them whether we realize it or not. Making a mental note to be keenly aware of how we look at our loved one’s can mean them opening up or shutting us out. And I know this can be really hard to do! I have a background in theatre and was trained by the best in New York City but there are days it is a herculean task to smile through the frustration or the hurt or the irritation.
Our loved one’s live so much of their lives in dark places. Being a light for them and with them. That light can shine in so many ways:
- taking them to meetings or therapy sessions
- a warm smile and/or a hug (did you know that holding another person for at least 20 seconds is very therapeutic)
- share a meal
- help them with a project
- get them out of the house for an activity; a walk in the park, fly a kite on the beach, watch a ballgame, share an ice cream
- text or call for no reason other than to say “I love you” “good job” “I am proud of you for…”
In Tolkien’s, The Fellowship of the Ring, he wrote; “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” Those words were spoken to Froddo, the hobbit whose task it was to take the dreaded One Ring to Mount Doom, as encouragement by the Lady Galadriel when she gave him a small crystal phial, filled with the light of Eärendil’s star. She knew that dark days lay ahead for Froddo and his companions and in an act of mercy, compassion and support she gave him light for those times when it felt like the darkness was overwhelming, that there was no other source of light. For me, this is symbolic of not only my personal faith journey but also my journey with my loved one. She needs acts of mercy, compassion and support from family as her darkness can be overwhelming. I rely on my faith in my dark times and ask God to shine His light so that I can move forward. For me personally, I hold faith for the both of us. My loved one does not have a faith to sustain her right now. Maybe that will change in the future but for now, I have to be the bridge. I have to extend that hand to her that God extends to me and I pray that through me she will feel and see that I can only be strong because of the hand I am holding on to so tightly!
So when you or I or a loved one is having a rough day with their mental illness and we pray collectively that God will come calm the raging storm, and when He doesn’t (right away), I believe that we must have the same faith and trust in our Heavenly Father that Jesus had when he prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me (or my loved one): nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Mathew 26:39). When the darkness of mental illness arises, we must have the same faith to hold up the candle of hope that God will not leave us alone in the storm. We must let our trust in God be the “light…in dark places when all other lights go out.” We hold firmly to the knowledge that when the storms of depression or anxiety or schizophrenia or bipolar rage, it is only temporary and that in the next life these struggles will no longer exist and we can look back on this life with satisfaction and peace.
Have a beautiful day and let your light shine!!