On June 13, 2009, I was driving along the scenic shores of the Finger Lakes region of New York wondering what I was going to do with my life. I was 45. I had spent most of the last two decades serving as a pastor while battling bipolar disorder. At my best, I had time and energy left to enjoy family life with my wonderful wife and four beautiful children. At my worst, I either laid under the covers in a dark bedroom or frantically pursued plans ill-conceived and left undone. I looked out the window and prayed for vision.
Suddenly, it came to me. I would write a book about bipolar and the faith that either fuels us to distraction or saves us from self-destruction. In less than 20 miles, I conceived of a collection of devotions, inspired by the Psalms and a title — from Sheol to the Highest Heavens: 101 Devotions for Persons with Bipolar (and those who love them). By the time I pulled into the driveway, I had most of the introduction in mind (which has remained largely the same), and some thoughts on one devotion (which is now the “Epilogue”).
Over the course of the next six months, I poured through the Psalms and wrote 1-3 devotions a day. Some days as I felt like working more, I would re-write earlier devotions. By early 2010, I had a manuscript I just knew would be embraced by countless publishers. I bought a copy of the Christian Writer’s Market Guide, found 15 publishers I felt were appropriate and sent out quickly composed queries.
I waited. And waited. And waited.
Out of the 15 queries I sent out, I received a total of one response – a two sentence form e-mail.
It was as if I had a miscarriage.
I stuffed the manuscript in my chest-of-drawers under a pile of junk mail, unfolded underwear and mis-matched socks.
I didn’t write another word for over a year.
The Bible says, “Without vision, people perish.” I was dying on the vine. My mind was consumed with grief which actually felt a lot like nothingness. Each day, I sat in my recliner and stared at the ceiling. At night, I slept fitfully, listening to BBC radio through my pillow speaker — a reminder at least that life went on — somewhere.
Meanwhile, my wife was fed up. Understandably. Here we were, living on a fruitful homestead, financially secure, with four adorable children and nothing to do but delight in the Lord and love one another. What was wrong with me?
I tried many things – counseling, gardening, volunteering, working with men from the church. Something was still not right. We searched our minds for an answer. Was I over-medicated? Did my overdose damage my brain? Or the E.C.T.? Was it my illness? Or just me?
Only God knew. And for some reason, God was not giving us the answer.
(image above from Jenny Russo)