Lenten Devotion for March 28, 2023

The Good Courage devotions for this Lent, particularly the ones written by Amy Panton remind us that life can be hard.

Not all faith communities have learned how to give support, love and acceptance to folks whose lives don’t quite fit within the “norms” of middle-class life.

I’m pretty sure that those “norms”- that we are all heterosexual, gainfully employed, in stable committed relationships with a long term partner, raising kids who will take up careers, then closely duplicate the lives of their parents, perhaps with a little more prosperity- the norms were always part of the big illusion.

The big illusion being that life is do-able, manageable, and “winnable” for almost all of us. Those who can’t seem to make it work, well, they are the exception. For the most of us, life is great, near perfect in fact!

This has too often made it even harder, for folks who struggle, to admit to themselves, and to others, that they needed help.

It just a few years ago that someone close to me shared her difficulties with anxiety and depression with a faith leader in their community, and was told she needed to pray more. Then they “laid hands on”, and tried to pray the problems away!

That’s not something we’d say (hopefully!) if a person had a broken arm. We would see that the person received appropriate medical care- perhaps even take them to the hospital.

Which is what Amy Panton did for her friend, when she needed help.

Lenten Devotion for March 14, 2023

The Good Courage writer for today, Amy Panton, has once again offered a frank, confessional description of an aspect of her personal journey. The heart of her reflection, it seems to me, is her coming to terms with thinking of herself as a person who requires yet another psychiatric medication.

I have several people in my life who have been greatly helped by the medications Amy Panton writes about. I am grateful they are available, and often wonder how things might have been different, if there’d been medical intervention and counselling earlier.

Amy Panton prays, at the end of her devotion, asking God to help her “survive another day with all of this anxiety”.

It’s a heart-wrenching prayer, especially when I recall the title of her devotion for today: “I am so ashamed”.

This suggests that not only does she struggle daily with anxieties, but also has shame as part of the burden. Shame about having anxieties, and shame about requiring medication. Perhaps even shame that her prayers for relief, or help, may not always seem to be answered.

I pray that as a society we can let go of the stigma that has been attached to what we often call “mental illness”, and the prejudice and shame that has too often been directed at those brave enough to seek help, or have dared to write or speak openly about their struggles.

I’ve been trying with my responses to reach back in my memory bank for songs that seem to speak, at least to me, to the concerns raised in the devotion. Here is a link to a Paul Simon song from 1983 that I always thought was about something more than he seemed to be saying.