Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So, don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4, The Message
Several years ago, I was at lunch with a friend who is a psychiatrist. I mentioned to him that I had just met someone who said she was a patient of his. He asked, “Did she say I was a good doctor or bad a doctor?” I answered, “she thinks you are a great doctor.” He smiled and replied, “That’s wonderful. If she had said I was ‘no good’ I would have had to say, ‘she’s crazy.’” I half-smiled and then realized, I had never heard a joke from my friend about the daily grind of the work he does. I had never heard him laugh about caring for people with mild to severe mental health issues and diagnoses.
I often say, we all must learn to laugh through our tears. However, the tears held internally from those who care for mentally ill patients must build up day by day in ways that the rest of us can’t imagine. They need outlets too. Moreover, they need our thanks. They need to know what a positive difference they make in the lives of people for whom they care.
To deal with the intricacies of the brain and all the potential breakdowns that occur from the shoulders up is hard work. Those who care for us and our loved ones are amazing in their giftedness. They get up each day and work tirelessly to peal back the layers of hurt, dysfunction and pain they see just in the chair right beside them. They don’t get multiple signs of distress that appear when the skin is cut or a bone is broken. An MRI doesn’t show them the source of a cancerous growth or a muscle tear. They have to work in the shadows of the mind. They have to possess super perception to pick up what is not said, what is not obvious, what is not known. They have to collect data from intuition about inconsistencies and hidden truths. They are detectives of the mind. They are the Sherlock Holmes and Columbo’s of brain dysfunctions. They have to listen carefully and wait patiently as the children, men, and women talk around the deep divides within their conscious and unconscious states of mind. They are Masters of hearing deceptions. Then with gentleness on some occasions and directness on other occasions they help the patient unpack the truth.
Please take time this month to thank the men and women in your life who make a difference in this world as Mental Health Professionals. Let them know how much they mean to you. Say “thank you.”
Thanks be to God for the Mental Health Caregivers of this world. Thanks to be God for the heroes of our lives who help us face our hard truths and piece together the broken parts of our minds and emotions. Thanks be to God for the Mental Health Professionals who save us from ourselves and help us become whole… again.
Rev. Dr. Tim Ahrens
The Rev. Dr. Tim Ahrens is Senior Minister of The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio where he has served since January 2000. Ordained in 1985, Tim is a lifelong member of the United Church of Christ.