A Quiet Mind
“You’ve been courageously honest!” It’s become a familiar phrase to hear from someone who’s just read my book, ‘A Quiet Mind’. At first I was surprised by this response but now the penny has dropped and I understand where it’s coming from.
You see, for most of my life, I’ve done things instinctively; it never occurred to me that there was a ‘right way’. I grew up learning to read between the lines, find my own coping mechanisms and survive until I was old enough to leave home. The second thing that only occurred to me recently was that how I choose to share some of my own story, in all its glory and dysfunction, in exploring ways of finding healing and acceptance, isn’t the usual way people do things, either. As pack animals, most humans hold their cards close to their chests and suffer in silence. This perpetuates the sense that it’s ‘only me’ that plagues so many lives, causing crippling self-doubt. It also stigmatises those who suffer mental anguish and within the Church, it reinforces ways of believing and practising Christianity that perpetuate self-loathing and abasement: the very things our faith is meant to eradicate!
For a long time, many in the psychotherapeutic professions have been at best suspicious and at worst fiercely opposed to religion. If I’m honest, I can understand this; so many of them have worked with people who have suffered immeasurably because of the perception of a God who judges, punishes and condemns humans for not being ‘perfect’, and through control wrongly exercised by some in positions of power. This is a crude and simplistic description of Christianity but the profile of these views have all but obscured the gentler, more loving interpretation and practice of Christianity that enhances so many lives across the world.
A glance through the collects, confessions and hymns of many Churches paints a dour and depressing atmosphere where the first thing we must do when we approach God is grovel and inadvertently declare the inadequacy of the Divine creator in bringing about such unworthy wretches! More recently, prayers, songs and preaching that welcome, encourage and empower people have grown in popularity and are, I believe, more in keeping with the teaching of Jesus. Yet still, in modern composition, the subject of mental suffering is largely avoided. The music of John Bell and Graham Maule is refreshingly different in approaching the subject in such hymns as ‘Will you come and follow me’ and ‘Touching Place’ as is some of the liturgy from the Iona Community. It’s not only new material, though; there have always been people in the Church who have championed the cause; the lesser used ‘O love that wilt not let me go’ is one of the most inspiring hymns in the midst of despair that I have ever come across and the title of my book is taken from one of Cranmer’s collects.
With one in four people in the UK estimated to suffer from a form of mental ill health at some time in their lives, we have to face the fact that in every 20 people in our Church congregations, 5 people are likely to fall into this category. Surely, the Church should be a place where people can come and know they can speak about their pain and find acceptance? Where their self-doubt will not be compounded and where we all can, together, find ways of healing and belonging? The Church has a wealth of tools, traditional and modern, at its disposal to meet the challenges of mental dis-ease and to find ways of being community that exclude no-one. There has never been a more urgent need for us to step up to this task than the present time.
So it’s into this arena that I come with my very small book that’s aimed to seek out all those who feel lost and un-loveable and to share the story of an amazing journey of body, mind, emotions and spirit - a journey of self-discovery and acceptance that God loves me just as I am – in the same way as God loves you, just as you are.
Revd Eva McIntyre
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