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The happiest days of my life

Joe was born to a mother he felt didn’t want him. His family told him that when he was born that his mother ordered the hospital staff to, “Get him away from me.” Joe commented, “She had children but didn’t want children. She treated children okay but she never really liked them.”

Joe admitted that he was different as a child. “I was sensitive, baby-faced and weak from rheumatic fever.” Joe also suffered from chronic mental illness, Bipolar Disorder, also known as Manic Depression. He experienced multiple psychiatric hospitalizations during exacerbations of his illness. (For those interested in better understanding Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression, I suggest you read “An Unquiet Mind” and other books by Kay Redfield Jamison.)

Joe was artistic and creative, as many people with bipolar disorder, “manic-depression” are. Kay Redfield Jamison elaborates on this in her book, “Manic Depression and the Artistic Temperament: Touched by Fire.”

Joe declared, “My mind has been my best friend and my worst enemy.” He shared how he’d been ridiculed and rejected all his life for being different and stated, “I always wanted to be wanted, but I settled for being needed. So I’ve always tried to make myself needed and I went overboard trying to please others.”

When I met Joe he was in his late sixties. He’d been residing in a nursing home for a couple of months and had been battling cancer for two years. As Joe reflected on his illness it was as if a light came on and he concluded, “But do you know what? The last two years have been the happiest years of my life.”

I asked why and Joe replied, “You know, I’ve really never thought about it.” But after pondering for a while he surmised, “I think it’s because, for the past two years, I’ve been surrounded by a group of people who have accepted me for who I am instead of trying to change me. They pointed out my strengths and encouraged me to use them, and I did.”

Joe really isn’t that different, is he? Tim Keller, pastor and contemporary Christian author wrote, “Man is in search of redemption.” (“Counterfeit Gods”). We all want to be wanted and accepted for who we are, don’t we? We’re all searching for a sense of worth and significance. Joe finally found it in the hearts of his friends.

Emotional and psychological insults, injuries and rejection, especially during our childhoods, can lead us to live with a vengeance, with a goal of vindicating and redeeming ourselves. But self vindication and redemption are only illusions, because as Jesus said, “No one is good but One, and that is God” (Matthew 19:17). So I ask you, where does that leave the rest of us, including me and you? It leaves us in need of a redeemer.

So if you’re tired of living with a vengeance, if you’ve been shouldering the impossible burden of self redemption, I encourage you to turn to the “The Redeemer.” The days you spend loving and following Him will be the happiest days of your life. Jesus invites us: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30)

Loren Hardin is a social worker for Southern Ohio Medical Center Hospice and can be reached by email at hardinl@somc.org.

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Straight Paths

Loren Hardin

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