Have I ever mentioned that I love instructions?
Maybe that is why I did so well in school. I don’t love being told what to do so much, but I really appreciate a good map, a list, 7 steps to succeed at . . . whatever.
And these things have value. It is good to know where you are going and how you will get there and if you have enough money for the trip!
Ephesians 4:14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.
But for me, like so many other things, I became too focused on my own ability to identify a problem, analyze the data, research the topic, and develop a course of action. Where does God fit into this?
Well, He’s in my heart, right? He’s right there watching me do my thing . . . maybe giving me a little nudge or boost if I need it . . . on occasion . . .
But thankfully God loved me too much to let me continue in my arrogant way. I never would have even realized there was a problem if God had not sent me (kicking and screaming, by the way) into Uncharted Waters!
I can’t say that I am the first Christian wife in the history of time to be married to a man with a mental health issue. But I can tell you this – search as I might – I have not been able to find a single one who wrote about it.
That’s not surprising, really. I don’t even want to write about it.
We can readily accept that body parts malfunction for a bunch of reasons, only one of which is a physical trauma – but when it comes to the brain, we only accept malfunction that results from some type of physical blow . . . and even then, because behavior is mostly controlled by the brain, we often reject people whose brains are not perfect.
But I digress,
There are some resources in the secular realm . . . but they don’t help with the issue of the husband being the head of the home, the provider, etc. Non-Christian wives (the really dedicated ones who stay with their ill husbands) just throw that out as “does not apply”. Maybe it never actually applied to them.
I have also known a few Christian men whose wives had mental illness. Some of their experiences were helpful (dealing with negative “church” attitudes, etc), but still no help for the head of household thing.
I suspect there are other Christians dealing with circumstances “on their own” . . . feeling that there is no one to point the way, to ask questions and get advice, even if their exact situation is different from mine.
Out in the Uncharted Waters I have learned some awesome things about God. And I discovered three resources.
First is the person of Jesus Christ. Never has the story of Peter walking on the water, sinking, and being rescued (Matthew 14:25 -31) been more vivid and real to me. My normal course of analyzing problems and figuring out solutions was exactly the opposite of what I needed to do. I had to take my eyes off of the problems and focus only on Christ.
Initially that seemed totally unrealistic. How does stuff get done if you refuse to look at it? So what, you’re supposed to pretend you don’t have problems? I can’t totally explain it, but the tasks I needed to do and decisions I needed to make all happened . . . I did them, but they did not overwhelm and drain me in the way they had before.
It’s sort of like learning to ride a bike – you are “balancing” and pedaling – but Dad’s really the one steadying and propelling.
Second are islands . . . large chunks of truth out there. Even though there are no directions on how to get from here to there, I can see the islands. I know basically where I need to go.
So, the Bible says, “wives be submissive to your own husbands.” I know how that would look in a “normal” marriage (lots of books, sermons, and seminars on that!) The question is, how does that actually work for us if his brain isn’t totally intact?
The answer to that question is not the point of this post . . . my husband and I would have to write about that together. The point of this post is that the Bible gives us major truths, so that even in Uncharted Waters, we can find our way by them . . . even if no human has written down supplemental instructions.
And third, previous experience. God brought many experiences my way before sending me into the Uncharted Waters . . . each with lots of helpful resources. I have been able to draw on principals I learned in these other situations.
- Having a daughter with (severe) ADHD gave me some understanding of brains and what can happen if they don’t work properly.
- My own brain surgery also gave me some insight on what it is like to be on the other side of the “impaired” equation, both in terms of brain injury and requiring care.
- Even Caleb’s previous drug addiction and the things I learned in Al-Anon gave me some tools I would need for this part of my journey.
We don’t always need step by step instruction from someone who has been there. God is our guide and we can know the right things to do. It may not be easy to see, it may take some time and some trial and error, but we are not abandoned.
I did not chose these Uncharted Waters and I often find myself wishing to be done and/or to have more understanding and support . . . but I know that God has prepared and equipped me with everything I need for today.