The Bible As a Basis for Good Mental Health
Ben is a nine-year-old, who functions more like a motor-driven machine than a little boy. He is mischievous and delightful, playful and wise, all at the same time. His mom, a friend of mine, asked me if I could watch him one day while she was at work. She said she'd pay me, and with no job, I needed the money. I readily agreed. I had seen him in action . . . frenetic action. But I'm not his mother, so I knew that if I started to feel worn out by his endless energy, at some point I'd be sending him home.
She dropped him off at noon, with a large bag of things to keep him occupied: games, puzzles, coloring books, books to read, and action figures to . . . well, act things out. With so many activities to occupy him, nothing would get out of control, I thought. This will be easy.
But by early afternoon, Ben was beginning to get restless and a little too curious. He explored every room of my apartment, and opened every door to see what it concealed. He found electrical cords in the living room ("Where does this go?"); my Grandmother's china in the dining room ("What would happen if I dropped this?"); lingerie in my bedroom ("Hey, this fits me!"); kitchen utensils ("Listen! I have my own band!"). But when he asked, "What's this white stuff for?" I swooped in on him, slammed the medicine cabinet door shut, scaring him (I hoped) with shouts of, "That's poisonous!" He told me I should keep it somewhere safe. I thought I had. But now I knew nothing was safe, no matter where it was. His expedition had to end!
I offered him a snack, and some Diet Dr. Pepper. He asked if it had caffeine in it. "I can't have ANYTHING with caffeine!" he warned me. I told him it actually helped me concentrate because I have ADHD. He knew what I was talking about. "Well, I take a little yellow pill for that, so I don't get so CRAZY!" he confessed, gesticulating wildly with his hands as he spoke. I laughed at how he characterized the disorder. I made a mental note to ask his Mom if he forgot his little yellow pill today.
When Ben's mom (finally!) returned for him, he was jumping up and down, anxious to tell her about his day. I was sitting down and finally breathing a sigh of relief. He enthusiastically announced: "I had so much FUN!" She looked at me for confirmation. I tried to smile and nod my head, but didn't have the strength. She just laughed. She could imagine. She probably knew.
About a week later, on a Sunday afternoon, she offered to take me along grocery shopping with her, as I had no car and no money. It was a generous offer, and I was grateful. But shopping with Ben, his Mom, and slightly older sister, proved challenging. There was so much to see, and so much room to run around to see it! Apparently, he had to see ALL of it! I directed his attention to specific items along the way, trying to slow him down, but I had a hard time keeping up with him.
Finally, we reached the check-out line, where the rubber belt would help transport our groceries . . . (and us) . . . toward a less exciting space. Fidgeting in the narrow space beside the cart, Ben spied a little plastic bag of colored balloons. We both shot a quick, hopeful look at his Mom. Exhausted, she said, "OK, Fine!" She was anxious for even a few minutes of respite that she might have if he were "occupied."
Delighted, Ben grabbed the bag and raced to the bench in the front of the store. He pierced the plastic bag with is teeth, so he could tear it open. Balloons spilled onto the floor. He chose a green one, his favorite color, and immediately blew into it. We both watched with child-like wonder, as the balloon expanded, becoming a whole new entity, filled with invisible power.
Suddenly, it was sputtering through the air in a maniacal pattern, powered by the rapidly-exiting air. Ben's eyes grew wide with excitement as he darted around, trying to follow the erratic flight of his deflating balloon.
"They kinda' get away on you, don't they?" I remarked, in a matter-of-fact tone. Quickly turning to me, he challenged by conclusion. "ONLY if you LET GO!" was his intense explanation. I was a bit embarrassed that he had to point this out to me.
I sat on the bench, vaguely aware that he was picking up balloons off the floor and putting them in his mouth. I thought, my life is like that balloon! I had been trying to keep up with job searches, Lay Ministry School, two adult children--with adult problems, my health issues, and maybe even a little housework . . . very little. I often felt like I was going off in all different directions, and really not going anywhere! My energy was sputtering. I thought, My life is getting away on me. I'm not in control!
Then it hit me. Wait a minute! That's true . . . I'm NOT in control. I'm not supposed to be in control . . . God is! I reminded myself that God has a Plan for me. My life is not a serious of loosely-connected, random, frenzied activities and events.
And I know that God provides not only the Plan, but the power I'll need to carry it out. The Holy Spirit will fill me up inside, expanding my capability to do whatever it is that I am meant to do. It will prepare me for wherever the journey may lead. It will be the energy that propels me in the right direction.
I may still feel pulled in too many different directions at times--but ONLY if I LET GO!
(original writing 1/29/2006;