Thursday, June 28, 2012

theology of the body...

This was the night I was supposed to be leaving out of LAX for Sydney, Australia for the next 6 weeks.

And as I look out upon the mess and disaster that is otherwise known as my HOUSE right now, (since the kitchen remodel was in lieu of the Australia trip..) I don't know whether to be thankful or disappointed!

Most of you remember that Marc and I were given the opportunity by our denomination's mission agency, MTW (Mission to the World) to go overseas as mentors to college students who would raise money to do a 6-week overseas internship.  Basically, it was an opportunity for us to do RUF abroad and see God's work in a culture where less than 5% are Christians.  And downtown Sydney, Australia didn't seem too shabby of a location, eh?

So it was a bit of a shock when there weren't enough college students signed up to do the Australia trip, which meant the trip was off and we wouldn't be going.

THUS, we decided it was the summer for our kitchen remodel...  (groan.... no, really, I know it will be fantastic in the end-- if I make it!)

As exciting as the Australia opportunity was for us, (and we may still have the opportunity to go in the future) it posed some problems for me personally.  I can't remember how much I've shared publicly on here, but I have quite a bit of anxiety about flying.  It's not rational.  It doesn't make sense.  It's gotten worse the older I get.  There's nothing you can tell me that will make it go away.  I've literally flown all over the world when I was in high school and college, and still have to fly across the country to see my family.  (In that case, I just do it and get through it.)

But the thought of taking this flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia--- which is actually leaving in about 4 hours from now--- was enough to send me into panic attacks in the middle of the night.

Laugh if you will-- I know I can be neurotic!-- but those who struggle with anxiety issues will understand.  It's no laughing matter.  I've always struggled with a very low-lying anxiety and depression.  But suddenly I couldn't sleep at night, my heart felt like it was going to come right out of my chest, and at times I couldn't breathe.  And when I wasn't in full-out panic attack mode, I was bracing myself, anxious about when the next panic attack would come!  Vicious cycle.

I knew I couldn't let that dumb flight stop me from this amazing adventure, though, so I was determined to do it.  (one of the best--and hardest-- things to do for anxiety is to face that which you are anxious about)  My plan was to drug myself through whatever choice of sedation my doctor felt comfortable giving me.  ha!

But I could still feel the anxiety winning.  Tense.  Fearful.  Even in situations where I should otherwise be calm and relaxed, I couldn't calm down.   I would exercise and feel an instant of relief until I took a step off of the treadmill and it all came crashing down on me again.

After this went on for weeks with no relief, I knew I needed help beyond myself.  I called my doctor.

God knew that little trip to Australia was never going to happen.  But He used even the prospect of it to get me to the help I know I've needed all along but didn't pursue.

As I share my experience with other believers, it intrigues me to hear the Christian community's response to medication for the use of mental disorders in general.  Even in those who have a solid understanding of sin, brokenness, and the effects of the Fall on our bodies, I find a disconnect between our theology and our practice.  I want to be sensitive here, because I know it can be a sharply divided topic, and from my conversations with folks, it's definitely an emotional one for those who are not in support of medication.  I agree with them-- there are lots of people out there taking medication that don't need to.  But what I typically find as a pastor's wife in the Christian community is that more people are not taking medication that should be.  In the name of "I just need to have more faith."

Do we tell our friends with diabetes to simply trust Jesus?  Do we scowl at friends who go see a doctor when they've broken their arm?  Do we prescribe more prayer times for high blood pressure?

If we say we believe our physical bodies are broken & subject to the curse, why doesn't that also include our minds as well?  

Certainly there are varying degrees of depression and anxiety, and I think it goes without saying that not all cases need medication.  But what about those that suffer year after year, and can be greatly helped in our pews?  Do we simply pray for them, or should we also invoke a theology of the body and encourage them to see a trusted doctor?   You can tell a chronically depressed person all day long that they need Jesus, but until they're first helped out of the hole and the fog of their physical brokenness, they won't be able to properly address and asess their spiritual brokenness.

Christians, why are we so proud to admit our minds are in need of help, not just our bodies?   Why can't we see that the Gospel allows us to admit ALL of our brokenness, and that running to a doctor can be the very provision the Lord has given us to get help?

I'm definitely not completely "fixed" with medication and will not pretend to be.  (Take one glance across my house in its current state, and then it's probably a wonder that I'm still functioning, eh?)  Medication is not THE answer.  But it's been a starting help.  A safety-net for some out-of-control, unable-to-manage fears.

And though I won't have to sedate myself to get on that flight to Sydney tonight afterall, I'm thankful for how the Lord used even my worst fear to expose another area where I need to depend on Him.

1 comment:

  1. Amy,
    You are so right in your observations. I was blessed to have a wonderful Christian family doctor who saw my need years ago and honestly told me that he thought my life was better because of depression medicine. Just know that you are not alone in your journey. I have struggled with the answers to medicine or no medicine. Medicine doesn't blind me to the sin in my life, it doesn't make it go away, it just helps me to deal with it in a rational manor. Will be praying for you and if you ever need to talk when you are in town, I would be glad to listen.

    By His grace,