I am excited to welcome guest blogger Barry Pearman, a Christian mental health advocate from Auckland, New Zealand. His website Turning the Page aims to empower people’s mental health through faith, hope, and love. You can also follow him on Twitter @barrypearman.
Why You Need To Stand Close
by Barry Pearman
She was short in stature but large in observation. She would watch, listen and ponder. Underneath though, there was wisdom that needed to be discovered, explored and known. I brought her onto the leadership team and asked her many questions. At the time I was pastoring a church (within a church) that focused on supporting those with disabilities, primarily those related to major mental illnesses. This woman on my team struggled with hearing voices (schizophrenia) and had been in psych hospitals for many years. And she was full of Christ.
Who do you listen to?
Social activist Jim Wallis once wrote, “Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem.” Who are you choosing to stand close to? Who are you sitting, or kneeling or washing the feet of? This idea is captured in one of my favorite Bible characters, unnamed but deeply known, from Ecclesiastes 9:14-17:
“There was a little city, and few men within it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now a poor wise man was found in it, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then I said, ‘Wisdom is better than strength.’ Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the cry of him who rules among fools.”
We all live in little cities. Small groupings where hopefully everyone knows your name. It might be at work, the gym, the cafe, the church. When a problem comes, we often run to the powerful, the authorities, and the leaders who are usually distant from the ditch. We do not seek “the poor man’s wisdom,” when often the quiet cries of the marginalized are the most important.
Spend Time in the Gutter
My heart is for those who struggle with mental health issues. Often discounted, their voices need to be heard. Many have a wisdom that is ‘better than strength’ yet it is despised and silenced. Today I would ask you to seek out the poor. Listen to them. They have seen things from the gutter that you need to see. Getting down into the gutter yourself is a way to understand and listen to those who need to be understood. Let’s not give out our good advice, band-aid prayers, or disempowering charity. Let’s just sit and listen. Life will change for each of us as we enter into this work of Christ. May we never be the same again.