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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Reflections on Daniel

At 2.34am Saturday morning (AEST) my wife gave birth to Daniel Jack Chatwin. He weighed 8lbs, 11oz (the lightest of our 3 boys!). He is fantastic and a wonderful gift from God. His arrival is the reason for a slight delay in getting my blog online.

His arrival has prompted a few reflections. I am not going down the line of fatherhood and the beauty of life etc. I think that this has all been done to death and becomes quite sickly sweet eventually. The reality is that a new born is a great event and we love him dearly but it is also darned hard work and tiring. The WHOLE package of raising children is a privilege, an adventure and a chance to grow in many ways.

What I have reflected on are my own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. For two years or so I have struggled with chronic depression and recently after trying medications I was diagnosed with mild bipolar disorder. This diagnosis helped answer quite a few questions for my wife and I and helped to put some aspects of my life into a more helpful context. Into this situation I have a wife and 3 beautiful boys.

Issues that arise for me concern my ability to be a good father. Now, I believe that I am a good father but it is because I put a lot of time, thought and effort into my fatherhood because I know that the medication that I am on and my innate mental vulnerabilities predispose me towards a struggle in terms of parenting. In this sense I feel fortunate because I have been forced into thinking out how I will parent and how I will best relate to my boys in a way that is enriching, loving and supportive for them.

Interestingly, this past few days a friend of mine raised the vexed issue of blessings and curses. It is something that I have given much thought to coming from a more charismatic inclination. I have certainly pondered the blessings of my family and the "curse" of my mental illness. I have also worried that one or more of my boys may be somehow predisposed to this sickness. I have wondered if I shouldn't be expecting healing. Do I need deliverance? Is there a curse on my family line of males. Is this Old Testament thinking? Is there such a thing as Old Testament thinking? What is the connection between mental health and faith?

I happen to have moved away from the direct line between events in our lives and the resultants "blessings" and "curses". I like to think of our relationship with God to much more nurturing and dialogical. I want to take some time to develop these reflections so I can help my boys to grow up with a healthy attitude towards, and understanding of, God and so I that I can help those who are trapped in fear and guilt because of the unhealthy theology that has been taught to them.

One thing I want to finish with is the fact that this type of theology emerges out of a need for leaders to control people. Linked in with this theological outlook is the issue of finding, and living in, God's "perfect will". The basic premise is that there is a perfect will of God and it is possible to discover it for our lives. If we live in that place then all will be well and we can experience blessings such as healing, wealth, general answered prayer etc. The other side of this thinking is that if we are not living in God's perfect will then we will see sickness, financial struggles and an inability to connect with God in prayer.

This theology has seriously been suggested to me especially as my mental illness emerged. Apart from anything else it inflicts serious damage on our conception of the nature and character of God. It presents God as a very black and white personality who is locked into a legalistic mindset whereby once someone strays out of His will they are attacked by a malicious response of sickness, poverty and alienation from God but if they step back into God's will all is well once again.

This tramples upon our understanding of the Father heart of God and His incredible grace, mercy and love as it was supremely demonstrated through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also begs the question regarding when we are in or out of the will of God and how we know. This situation opens the door for those who "hear" God's voice who can tell us how we ought to live so as not to incur curses. I believe in prophecy in a charismatic sense as the ability to hear God's voice and to speak into people's lives but the Apostle Paul is clear. in 1 Cor 14:3 that "one who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them" (NLT).

The theology of God's perfect will, although perhaps presented as coming from loving motives, is not, ultimately, given to help someone grow in their relationship with God or for encouragement and comfort. I have walked through some very dark times and what I do know is that God was always there with me. My responses to God have varied as I journeyed the spectrum between despair and joy but God's unconditional love for me and His desire for my best has never dminished.

Every shade of denominational life and each aspect of the theological spectrum utilises different parts of the Bible, different versions and different presuppotional mindsets to make its point. Some pentecostal theology emerges from the Old Testament as does some Reformed Theology. I, along with most Christian thinkers, desire to discover a truly all-encompassing Biblical perspective but I realise that this is a difficult road to walk.

Having said this in humility I end with Psalm 130 as best capturing my heart at this time. I have used the New Living Translation simply because I like the way it reads.

Psalm 130

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word.

I long for the Lord
more than sentries long for the dawn,
yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is unfailing love
and an overflowing supply of salvation.

He himself will free Israel
from every kind of sin.


Joey Cavalier said...

Those are some good thoughts Les...I am a brother who struggles a great deal with mental/neurological issues...I can never, and will never accept my mental torment as coming from "God, my loving Father's hand." I do believe God can use this infirmity in my life for good (so I can be a wounder healer), but I primarily believe that He opposes it in the sense that He wants me to set my mind on things that are beautiful and true; not things that are horrible and tormenting...As I said in my blog, I am very unsympathetic to a blueprint worldview, and I can see that you lean in that direction...
If I imagine all of my neurological/cognitive bondage coming from God it puts me into a deep fear and even deeper bondage...If it is coming from God, there is nothing I can do about it...
But the truth is that THE THEIF comes to steal, kill, and destroy, not God (Jn 10:10). Christ has to give us life in abundance (Jn 10:10), which includes a healthy thought life (Phil 4:8)...I appreciate your strength in rejecting messed up blueprint ideas, and the fact that you are focusing on the divine love of the SON, who perfectly represents THE DIVINE LOVE OF THE FATHER...I will keep you up in prayer and KNOW that GOD IS FOR YOU, not against you.

Les said...

Thanks for your response. Yes, these mental struggles do not come from God and he DOES use them. I like Henri Nouwen's concept of the "Wounded Healer".

I also agree that God doesn't want this to be the end of the matter. We can get into a position of being the victim and giving up on life in many ways.

I am learning to accept the limitations imposed on my life but also to utilise the possibilities to the max as I serve God with my life.