This year, I’ve been juggling two writing projects (in addition to my blog). Mostly, I’ve been working on my short story trilogy – “Life”, “Liberty”, and the “The Pursuit of Happiness”. But I’ve also been tweeking a manuscript I started in June of 2009 – meditations on faith from a person living with Bipolar Disorder.
Yesterday, I had an “Ah-Ha!” moment when I saw the title of a poem written by Robert Herrick – “Delight in Disorder”. (The poem itself is quite good and worth checking out – here.) It was the title, though, that grabbed me as the perfect fit for what I have already written in my memoir (as well as a vision for changes I want to make). Here’s why –
“Delight” describes the optimum human response to divine grace. In my faith heritage, the answer to the first question of the Westminster Catechism is
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
As human beings, we are made to praise our Creator, and a key component of this praise is to delight in the works of the Lord.
… in the sun as it rises over the ocean.
… in the smile of a child asking to be picked up.
… in the creative spark that inspires productive action.
Delight is not a natural human response (we are often prone to complain). It is instead a Spirit-prompted reply to God’s gracious acts.
The question arises, h0wever, for me (and many others), “How do I delight when I am depressed?”
The question is not an easy one, and it deserves more than a simplistic answer. The Apostle Paul, who battled depression himself, advised –
… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV)
Notice it says “give thanks in all circumstances”, not – “for all circumstances”. I do not thank God for my Bipolar Disorder, but I do thank God in my Bipolar Disorder.
Which brings me to the second part of the title. There is delight to be found in disorder. My spiritual memoir will include stories where I have been able to delight in the Lord in spite of my diagnosis.
… when friends cared for our young children so my wife could visit me in the hospital.
…. when the church provided me a paid leave of absence until I could return to work.
…. when I was able to encourage others (like me) with mental illness to press on with faith.
One of my great hopes (“burdens” as my Evangelical friends would say) is that this book would serve as a bridge for people with mental illness and people of faith. It has been my experience that there is a great chasm between people with mental illnesses and people in the pews (of a church). There are exceptions, of course. There are people in church with mental illnesses, yet I’ve also found many are reluctant to share their struggles with their brothers and sisters in faith.
If it weren’t for my faith, I would be dead. It’s as simple as that. And while it is true you can have faith in God apart from a faith community, it is a little like trying to run a race with amputated legs (and not a very good prosthesis).
I’m still mulling over a sub-title for the book. Right now, the top candidates are Delight in Disorder: Meditations from a Bipolar Mind and Delight in Disorder: My Life with Bipolar. I’ll see what emerges in the re-writes and go from there.
I would be interested in hearing from you. From Christians who may have struggled to understand mental illness in light of faith as well as non-Christians who may question the value of faith in the care of people with mental illness.
Mostly, I’d like to hear what questions you have about my story. What would you want to read that you would find interesting and help you better understand how I have found Delight in Disorder?