Jesus promises his disciples the Advocate, someone to argue in our favor and speak council to us. It will be a Spirit of Truth that comes from God and will testify, speak, words on Jesus’ behalf. This Spirit will guide us into Truth.
But when the Advocate came, after Jesus was gone, it sure didn’t look like Truth. The Holy Spirit took over the early Christians and they began to testify in many languages, babbling like at Babel, but instead of meaningless confusion, they speak meaningful stories of miracles and forgiveness and new life.
Some of the crowd sneers, “They’re drunk!” Drunk, and speaking nonsense.
As we heard, Peter counters, “They’re not drunk! Rather, ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”
But did you know, prophecy and senselessness come from the same Greek root meaning. Mantis is a seer, a prophet who foretells the future in ancient Greek; and mania is senselessness, madness.
In the ancient world, great oracles tended to have a temple where they put their head over a volcanic crack in the ground, or drank chemically tainted spring water, or consumed oleander, or one way or another got high. And then, in their drugged state, they spoke of the visions they saw.
In the Bible, John the Baptist is either a maniac or a mantis. He is in the desert, eating honey and bugs, dressed in camel hair. He is also foretelling the future, speaking of God’s coming, and calling people to return to their faith.
Unorthodox. Not normal. Offensive. Crazy. Insightful. Humanizing. Challenging. Touched by God.
Teeched, is what we said back home. Someone is teeched in the head by God. Touched in the head by God. And we meant they were not normal. Mentally ill, mentally different, or somehow unorthodox.
It was a bit derogatory, just like the people in the crowd speaking about the apostles “they’re filled on new wine.” “She’s teeched in the head.” Dismissive. Those people don’t matter. They’re insane. They need counselors and medication and maybe an asylum.
I carried that negative attitude about mental health and abilities with me out of my home village.
And when I became depressed, I refused to get help. I’m not teeched. I don’t need medication or counseloring. What good does it do anyway? It’s just talking. I can talk. Besides, nothing is wrong with me anyways.
I poured myself into my job. And my classes. The harder I worked the less time I had to think about my own worries and sadness and anger.
The more anxious I got, the more it felt like I was choking when I went to eat. So I stopped eating.
Soon I was working full time, going to school full time, getting straight A’s, and losing weight and looking great. What could be wrong?
The thing about depression is it shows up in many different ways. Sometimes, it is sadness and sleepiness and weight gain. Other times, it is hyper activity and sleeplessness and weight loss.
I kept saying I was fine.
My employer knew better. A faithful Christian, and motherly, she took me aside and told me she knew how much was going on in my life, and she’d witnessed me working more and more hours, eating less and less, and my grades doing great… “And I think you need someone to talk to.”
NO! No! I’m not teeched! I’m perfectly normal and orthodox and ignore me!
So she rephrased it, “Until you talk with someone, I don’t want you working because you’re using it to avoid thinking about your troubles.”
So I went to go talk with someone. And sure enough – she said I was depressed; and needed medication, and meeting and talking. I was angry. I was … ashamed.
There’s such a stigma around mental health! Whether we are born with mental health concerns, like those we took an offering for at Hope Homes today, or whether we acquire them over time, like I had, either way… our society dismisses and disapproves of psychologists, counselors, and anyone who has mental health concerns.
If someone takes a “mental health day” we consider them weak.
If someone needs counseloring or medication, we consider them unfit for some jobs, and to own some items.
The stigma has us trying to hide such people away from society… and when there is no money to do so, we kick them onto the streets for short, hard lives.
Most homeless people have mental health concerns. And, poor, unable to get the medication to help them, they self medicate with street drugs and alcohol.
But it’s not just homeless people.
It’s also farmers.
Out of all professions, farmers have the highest suicide rates. We work long hours. Often lonely. And the margin between profit and loss is so slim… that every little movement made in Washington DC, every rain storm and frost and sunny day, every deportation and disruption of migrant workers’ lives, changes if it is a win year or a lose year. A 12 year low for crops is predicted for this year due to international sanctions and bans; the crazy weather; and changes in the Farm Bill. One of these changes is revising or removing crop insurance.
And farmers are killing themselves. Dairy farmers. Crop farmers. Small time farms that struggle against factory business farms are getting so deeply in debt that death looks like the only way out.
And in rural areas, there are few social workers, few counselors, few psychologists, and a great stigma against being ‘teeched in the head.’
… I know. I didn’t want help. I would have rather worked myself to death… and if a certain day the pressure was just too much… just find a way to relieve it. And end my life.
Religion was the bastion, the home, of original mental health help before there were counselors or psychologists. And many counselors and psychologists are deeply spiritual, but keep it from their practicing life unless the client invites such to not offend the person visiting them.
And almost every pastor sees a counselor or psychologist.
Our physical health is important. If we break an arm, we go and get it set.
If we are spiritually hurting, we reach out to a pastor or fellow Christian and ask for prayer.
Why do we deny ourselves mental help for when our minds, our emotions, need assistance?
Just stigma. Just not wanting to be seen as drunk on new wine or teeched in the head.
Well, it’s a bit too late. Just as your body and your soul needs tending, so does your mind. And we’ve all got the Holy Spirit within us. We’re all teeched. All Touched by God.
We’re all already the drunk ones, already the ones the world thinks are not normal, already dancing to the beat of a different drum.
Whether we call that mantis, and prophesy, or mania, and senselessness, is a matter of perspective.
A matter of whether we will embrace our mental abilities, and care for our mental health… or whether we will ignore it, deride those who seek help, and separate ourselves further into isolation.
This is a stigma the world places on us. Not the Bible. In the Bible, it is a very good thing to be touched by God and teeched in the head.