Pastoral Care and Depression

Last night I had a pastoral care visit with a parishioner.  She came from another parish in town (not LCMS, although it could have been).  She was nervous, fearful, on the edge of tears and yet strangely numb, like she wasn’t all there.  I recognized the signs.

She came to tell me that she was in an outpatient mental health program for clinical depression.  The reason she came to tell me was because she wanted to make sure she wasn’t sinning by being in this program or by taking anti-depressants.  You see, her previous pastor had  told her individually and from the pulpit that it is “sinful and wrong” for Christians to take anti-depressants or see psychiatrists and psychologists.  Because we are Christians, we have no need to be depressed, and should be joyful all the time, because Jesus died for us.

We had a long talk, prayed, heard the Word of God together, and I worked hard to dispel the destructive words of her previous pastor.  It will take a long time for it to sink in.  She feels guilty because she is undergoing medical treatment.  Good grief.

If this is the stigma and gunk that our parishioners have to deal with from us, imagine how hard we pastors are on each other?  I think that many parish pastors view those of us who has suffered from clinical depression as damaged goods, weak, with some kind of serious moral failing.  Suffering from depression is somehow unmanly.  Real men don’t have mental problems.  They just think that way.

God help our parishioners who suffer from our false understanding of mental illness.  God help us when we judge and condemn one another needlessly.  God help me when I want to throttle someone for being such an idiot.  God help me.

-DMR

Pastoral Care and Depression

Last night I had a pastoral care visit with a parishioner.  She came from another parish in town (not LCMS, although it could have been).  She was nervous, fearful, on the edge of tears and yet strangely numb, like she wasn’t all there.  I recognized the signs.

She came to tell me that she was in an outpatient mental health program for clinical depression.  The reason she came to tell me was because she wanted to make sure she wasn’t sinning by being in this program or by taking anti-depressants.  You see, her previous pastor had  told her individually and from the pulpit that it is “sinful and wrong” for Christians to take anti-depressants or see psychiatrists and psychologists.  Because we are Christians, we have no need to be depressed, and should be joyful all the time, because Jesus died for us.

We had a long talk, prayed, heard the Word of God together, and I worked hard to dispel the destructive words of her previous pastor.  It will take a long time for it to sink in.  She feels guilty because she is undergoing medical treatment.  Good grief.

If this is the stigma and gunk that our parishioners have to deal with from us, imagine how hard we pastors are on each other?  I think that many parish pastors view those of us who has suffered from clinical depression as damaged goods, weak, with some kind of serious moral failing.  Suffering from depression is somehow unmanly.  Real men don’t have mental problems.  They just think that way.

God help our parishioners who suffer from our false understanding of mental illness.  God help us when we judge and condemn one another needlessly.  God help me when I want to throttle someone for being such an idiot.  God help me.

-DMR

Grace Upon Grace

I am currently reading John Kleinig’s excellent book, Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today.  I’m not going to go into too much detail, but I will say that his notion of what he calls “receptive spirituality” really resonates.  One of the great gifts of Lutheranism is the understanding that grace is pure gift.  Not that profound, I know.  But it never, ever gets old.  For those of us to run on fumes and wonder how the day actually happens, grace is all it’s about.  Kleinig gets this, and puts this into practice when it comes to the Christian life.  I’ll try and post a few more thoughts from him along the way.

-DMR

The fall rush and doing good

I want to commend an article to you I ran across recently.  It is in the newsletter for Doxology, and is entitled A New Beginning.  Please check it out. Here’s one of the opening paragraphs:

There is a bit of a buzz surrounding the season, we all detect it. Several pastors told me, “Here we go again.” One man reflected with a sigh of resignation, “Sometimes I wonder if I’m just doing the exact same thing for the 14th time in my life.” Another pastor with a large elementary school observed, “Take a deep breath; here it comes.”

This is me.  Well, not literally, but you get the point.  I am inundated with the fall.  School, Sunday School, Bible Class, Adult Instruction (Catechesis, whateveryouwanttocallitthisyear), it all starts in the span of about two weeks.  GOOD GRIEF!  Haven’t we ever heard of pacing, people?

This year, though, overshadowing all of it, is that basic question: is anybody listening? I feel like I am doing the same thing year after year after year, and that nobody is listening.  The excitement, the interest is gone.  I’m not the new pastor with the great ideas to save the Church.  I’m the pastor who has been around here for a while.  I’m predictable.  People know my strengths and weakensses.  They know what to expect.  There is nothing new under the sun.  I think that’s in the Bible somewhere.

So how am I to move forward?

As of this moment, I don’t know.

So my answer for now is, focus on the doing and less on the gradiose strategizing and theories and plans.  I don’t know where this will go, but there can be some satisfaction in worker harder to do a good job, regardless of the measurable outcomes.  St. Paul put it this way:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
(Galatians 6:9-10 ESV)

Have a blessed day in Christ.

-DMR

Treating the Blog Like a Shut In

Dear Blog,

Yes, I’ve been treating you like a shut-in.  I love to see you when I’m there, but you make me tired and listless.  You remind me of how imperfect I am, how much I want to just stare at the wall or watch mindless TV, or how little I like interacting with people.

Yet, I’m always glad when I’m with you.  You give me joy.  You remind me I’m not alone, and that there are others out there struggling as much if not more than I do.

I’ll try to do better.  I’ll try not to neglect you so much.  But I am ever so aware that I need you as much if not more than you need me.

Talk to you again soon.

-DMR