A Church that Loves
“My mental illness makes me a burden.” “Until I’m healed, I don’t have anything to offer those around me.”
Today’s reading cuts through these lies that I so often fall prey to. Anxiety, trauma, and depression make it so easy to believe these distortions, that somehow these wounds and this struggle affects my value as a person. It so often does shape my limits and my life. Too often it demands something of my husband, close friends, and even those I work with. As much as I have worked to recognize my limits as God-given, it still feels like I am always lacking. But then I read this:
“Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.”
The community that St. Paul is writing about among the early Church recognizes the gift in those who have greater needs. It says earlier in the chapter that the people in one area were practically begging to contribute. What a beautiful response! To see the needs of the larger community not as a burden but as an invitation, particularly an invitation to give like Christ does. This image of a Christ centered community feels like a home I never knew. A community of looking out for one another. A life of self-gift. The goal is that everyone’s needs should be met. Not by force or obligation, but out of love. Just as Christ became man and died to meet our needs. How I long for a Church that loves like this!
Of course, that has to start with small, baby steps. What would it mean for me to embrace this perspective in how I view my own self? It means re-orienting my view of myself. The days that I spend resting or recovering from anxiety or trauma triggers are not a waste. I often feel useless and broken for needing care from others or extra time for work commitments. Even with those feelings though, my weakness is an invitation for my husband and those I work with to love me in a variety of ways. Respecting my mind’s limits is not just good for me but good for those around me. Through the invitation of my need, they can grow closer to God through the gift of themselves. How beautiful! It shifts the focus from me; my needs, wounds and limits, to the beauty of relationship and community. Of course, no one wants to be the one receiving or giving all the time, the desire for an equal relationship is there. Once again St. Paul’s words address the fears that can arise in our heart:
“..your surplus at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their surplus may also supply your needs..”
I’m reminded that my limits and mental illness are far from all I have! As much as they inform my weak spots, mental illness also informs my strength: empathy, faith, resilience. It may feel like little, yet I still have something to give and offer. Our God is one who multiplies bread and fishes, I can trust that He is multiplying my offering to those around me as well. Do you feel like you have little? I invite you to rest today in the knowledge that you are good as you are.
Do you feel like you have abundance? I invite you to reflect on what invitation those around you might be offering to you.
Do you struggle with feeling like too much is asked from you? I invite you to make an act of trust that God will send you people that will supply your needs as well.
Do you struggle with feeling like you are always the one in need? I invite you to ask God to open your eyes to the gift you are to those around you and the Church as a whole.
See more from Micole on mental health advocacy and education in the Church on her site: The Face of Mercy