Numbing Out

fogAs a new pastor in my 20s, I sat up one night with a 30-something mom of two young daughters whose husband had just died in a car accident. These were the first words out of her mouth after the horrible news sunk in: “I wish it was a year from now.”

This struck me at the time as a hopeful comment. She trusted that time would bring healing eventually. But then again, maybe she just wanted to numb out for a year and wake up when it was over.

As a victim of the latest upper respiratory bug floating around Chicagoland, I just wanted to sleep over the past four days, believing that when I woke up – poof – the sore throat and achy bones would be gone.

If only healing our other bugs were so easy.

Sometimes we crawl into bed in hopes of waking up better, after the pain of profound disappointment or shame or confusion or sadness or mental chaos. And if we can’t sleep, we can always numb out via other means.

This article was published in The Washington Post yesterday in response to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose in particular and the global drug problem in general.  It explains some of the basics about this latest tragedy.

Many of us deal with various levels of mental illness. Some of our brokenness is situational, involving layers of personal grief. And some of us were born with chemically quirky brains, and worse.

All of us would like to go to sleep and wake up happier or more content or less anxious or totally healed. I wish we who are addicted could stop eating and drinking our feelings. I wish we didn’t turn so quickly to pills or needles when we are emotionally hurt.

But we like fast and easy fixes. And we don’t want to trouble others with our pain. And some people consider it more fun to deal with our pathologies pharmeceutically. It feels like “recreation” instead of hard work.

But our souls cannot be healed with sugar or alcohol or narcotics or hallucinogens. The world cries out to be loved in spite of our brokenness.

It kills me that the church has the reputation of being so judgmental and lame and irrelevant. Because the world could really use a worldwide community of people who unconditionally love each other and teach others how to love unconditionally.  If only.

5 responses to “Numbing Out

  1. Thank you for this and all the insightful writing you share through this blog. I’ve also noticed a recent trend towards accepting certain more fashionable kinds of “brokenness” (a big buzz concept right now) and I think it would be worthwhile for all of us, including the church to explore what kinds of unraveling we do not find comfortable or OK.


  2. Charlotte Lohrenz

    Wonderful, Jan. Thank you.


  3. I wish you had said a few more kind words about those folks who have the “chemically quirky brains,” who would dearly love to be rid of the pills and needles that keep them alive. We need to love in the middle way – supporting those who HAVE to take the drugs to stay alive and functioning, and also supporting those who need to do the hard work of dealing with their pathologies.


  4. Abbie – I’m with you re: the necessary needles and pills. Those of us with chemical issues in our brains indeed further chemical assistance to counter the quirks. Sometimes it’s the meds that keep us even.

    Very Hungry – I would love to hear more about fashionable brokenness. Maybe I’ll write about that for tomorrow’s post. Thank you.


  5. But I do love that the church is at least called – even though we fall horribly short and miss the mark most of the time – to be the place where we can practice such love and support and hope! Thanks for this!


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