March 7, 2021 Sermon & Worship Link

Picture of Anne Ellis

Anne Ellis

Children, Youth & Family Minister

Picture of Leslie Buerschaper

Leslie Buerschaper

Mental Health & Spiritual Care

holy vessels: A Lenten Season of Recovery

Week Three: Stories

Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:27-33
To join with us by watching our online worship, please click here.

Leslie Buerschaper

Those who collect beach glass often become “archeologists”–seeking out any markings or clues as to the story of the original piece. It often takes much time to bring out the truth behind it. This week we acknowledge the power of truth-telling as a healing property. There are stories that have shaped our lives, leaving us without the ability to see who we truly are in the eyes of God and leaving us without the ability to speak the depth of our stories of struggle. We focus on the importance of recovery of mental health, reclaiming our sense of who we are and being able to proclaim new redemptive stories of divine worth. Telling our stories, of struggle is important to recovery from mental illness.  Unfortunately, all to often though, telling our story is met with resistance and stigma, a perception from others that is very often inaccurate.  The following poem by Debbie Sesula, Coordinator of the North Shore Peer Support Program and Adult Community Mental Health Services wrote the following poem about perception:

If you’re overly excited

You’re happy

If I’m overly excited

I’m manic.

If you imagine the phone ringing

You’re stressed out

If I imagine the phone ringing

I’m psychotic.

If you’re crying and sleeping all day

You’re sad and need time out

If I’m crying and sleeping all day

I’m depressed and need to get up.

If you’re afraid to leave your house at night

You’re cautious

If I’m afraid to leave my house at night

I’m paranoid.

If you speak your mind and express your opinions

You’re assertive

If I speak my mind and express my opinions

I’m aggressive.

If you don’t like something and mention it

You’re being honest

If I don’t like something and mention it

I’m being difficult.

If you get angry

You’re considered upset

If I get angry

I’m considered dangerous.

If you over-react to something

You’re sensitive

If I over-react to something

I’m out of control.

If you don’t want to be around others

You’re taking care of yourself and relaxing

If I don’t want to be around others

I’m isolating myself and avoiding.

If you talk to strangers

You’re being friendly

If I talk to strangers

I’m being inappropriate.

For all of the above you’re not told to take

a pill or are hospitalized, but I am!

Unfortunately, this is true all too often. Our mental health becomes who we are, who people see us as and who we start to believe we are. We lose sight of our true selves, our story of being; when in fact our lived experience with mental health challenges is only a chapter or two (sometimes more) in are whole story. The thing is, we have to read, research and talk about those chapters in order to loosen their grip. By sharing these stories, we find we are not alone, we start to see that who we are with mental health challenges is not really who we are deep down.
Unfortunately, early on in mental health recovery, we and those around us expect that once we have “recovered” everything will be the same as it was before we got sick; that we would go back to how things were. But like the pieces of sea glass, what we find on the beach, or in ourselves after being broken into bits, is not the same vessel as before. Sea glass is smooth and polished, not two pieces are the same. They are shapes and sizes and colours of something to marvel at; a piece of beauty that has been broken down, thrown around in the sea, weathered by elements and then polished by the sand into something new. For me, many of my struggles came from denying who I truly was, who God created me to be. I was a vessel I thought I was supposed/expected to be. It wasn’t until that vessel was shattered and remade, did I truly recover.
A huge part of that recovery has been telling my story and being darn scared to do so. Like the blind men and the possessed mute in the reading from Matthew today, I was different, something less than perfect. But it is also important to become that “archeologist”, to look at the past and try to figure out the origins. Sure, brain chemicals play a big role, but so many other things are at play. Like passages from the bible, we can’t really have a true understanding, a complete picture of the whole story without context and the surrounding text. What would have happened if the blind men followed Jesus’ instructions and did not tell their story? What would have happened to all of us in the Living Room group here at Mt. Seymour, if we didn’t tell our stories? Was Jesus worried about perception if the men told their story? I find it really interesting that the blind men were told not to tell but the mute was not. Is it because seeing is associated with perception, but speaking is associated with story telling?

Anne Ellis

I wonder about that myself, Jesus’ regular insistence for those heals to not tell what he’s done. Perhaps it was simply a desire to stay anonymous, which is easy enough to understand. Or perhaps Jesus wanted those whom he helped heal to own their healing.

Perhaps he wanted them to realize that they had within themselves the strength and ability to heal. Jesus was there as a support, a director or facilitator as each of those people did the hard work.

In my video for the children this week we talk about hurts that we can put a bandaid on to help them heal. We talk about how a bandaid shows the world you’re healing. But how do you put a bandaid on a wound that’s inside your mind?

Well you can’t, not in a way that people can see that you’re both wounded and healing. So we need to think about other types of bandaids. For many of us that is sharing our stories. Talking to people we trust and we know will love us even when we share our darkest hurts, are hardest moments, the true pain in our hearts. When we do that and the person across from us truly listens; Listens to hear what we are sharing, that becomes healing. That becomes a bandaid.

Leslie mentioned Living Room Group during her sharing. Living Room is a peer support group, here at mount Seymour, for people with lived experiences of mental illness. We have been meeting regularly for almost 4 years now. We gather together, right now online, and share the joys and frustrations in our lives, usually to do with our mental health, but also our lives in general, as we are more than just our mental illnesses.

For all of us, having the space to share and be heard, especially by others who understand provides much needed comfort and healing. In my mind, When the blind and mute come to be healed by Jesus, I think there’s something deeper at work. It’s not about their physical afflictions being healed, but rather – standing before Jesus – they are finally seen, finally able to heard by someone who loves them, doesn’t judge them and believes they are worthy.

May we all experience this in our lives. And find healing and hope.

If you, or someone you know is struggling with their mental wellness, or has in the past and you would like more information about Living Room, our Peer Support Group, we would be more than happy to talk with you.

Living room meets 2 times a month and is 100% confidential. You’ll have time and space to be heard and to be in relationship with a community of people who understand lived experiences of mental illness. We are not group therapy nor do we offer advice. We simply listen and care. amen