This past Thanksgiving weekend was largely given up to work around a friend with mental health and addiction issues. As I considered writing about this, I found myself getting angry, given that every day of the weekend—Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—was largely given over (by multiple people) to attending to this person, one way or the other.
The crescendo of my anger came as I thought of entitling this post, “You Probably Think This Post Is about You,” alluding to the song lyrics, “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.” And here I was again, in writing this blogpost, devoting time to the individual in question.
But I realize I am not writing this for that person, but for you, the reader who has, has had, or will have the experience. And for those who think a minister or a friend should not have anger about a loved one with mental health and addiction issues: I daresay you have not yet had the experience yourself. Anger is good for boundaries, for setting limits, for speaking truth to the power of demons overtaking another’s life and those who care.
Jesus himself rebuked crippling demons, disbelieving doubters, even his disciples when they got stupid in his presence.
The friend I write about is the same for whom we held out such optimism upon entering a recovery facility in March of 2016 in a post entitled, “Wounding God.” Despite everyone important to this individual participating in the recovery process at this person’s request, our friend eventually bolted when challenged by a counselor in a group setting. It happened the night I was attending a wedding rehearsal and dinner, and I was on the phone with our friend, who was still in the parking lot of the recovery facility. I urged a return to the group to no avail.
Since then have come many a reconciliation followed by reversals and “episodes,” some of which have been threatening, dangerous, or destructive. An otherwise privileged, well-educated, and gifted person “acting out.”
I believe our friend must exercise responsibility to take prescribed meds, attend therapy, and participate in recovery programs, but there is a factor I’ve observed that may weaken our friend’s resolve. When involved in a restrictive religious environment, everything could be held together tightly, including sexuality. But finally realizing that one can be gay and Christian, all the religious trappings that held everything closely bound together were loosened.
Our friend’s obsessive-compulsive disorder no doubt meshed with a church’s obsessive-Christian disorder, but sexuality, like spirituality, needs room to breathe.
Jesus’ friend Lazarus was neatly bound in funeral swaddling cloths. “Unbind him and let him go,” Jesus commanded. Resurrection requires loosening up, letting go.
The very term religion denotes being bound. But the only thing that should bind Christians is expressed in a song I alluded to in last week’s post:
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love.
To my friends in Southern California, please attend Pat Hoffman’s latest book launch Friday, Nov 30, 5:30 pm, in the Pavilion at the Museum of Ventura County, 100 East Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001. The memoir recounts her ministry of accompaniment with people living with AIDS. My blurb for her book, entitled Summoned and Shaped:
“When the church equivocated in the early years of the AIDS crisis, Pat Hoffman boldly initiated a ministry with persons with AIDS, many of whom were wary of anything religious. This moving and poignant story of how her own life prepared her to gently join them on their journey may help all of us who serve the ‘spiritual but not religious.’”
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