Ten years ago today I ran my brain into the ground. I had a “break-down.”
Some people don’t like that negative imagery. They would rather speak of a “break-through” or something more positive. But let’s not hide the reality; I broke my brain. It came from my own lack of wisdom, my unresolved insecurities and unhealthy drives, which collided with a complex and conflicted context. I used up all my fuel, and then some. I came to a crashing reverting-to-childlikeness traumatised halt.
In the immediate aftermath was much grace from my church, much strength from my wife and family, and much affection and support from my friends. I was helped to a road to recovery.
I have learned to be open about my experience, mostly on the off-chance that someone reading this is going through the same. I know how useful it is to know that you’re not the only one to fall off that path. As a grumpy old churchwarden remarked to me on my way back to being functional, with a knowing wry look of an old bloke who’s just seen a welp grow up a bit: “So, you’re not as strong as you thought you were, Will.”
No, I’m not. That was the painful thing to learn. It was the most blessed thing to grasp.
Ten years later, I am well. Well, well enough. Like an old sporting injury, it’ll trigger a twinge every now and then. But the lesson remains.
Ten years and one day ago I thought I was strong. I put my shoulder under every burden. I didn’t realise that there comes a point when you’re not mustering your strength, you’re cashing it in… and spending it.
My strength was my weakness. I was achieving outcomes according to my capacity and my skill. It wasn’t nothing; I had some game. But it maxed out at the size of me. It wasn’t that impressive.
Over these last ten years, I can see where the real fruit has been; the stuff that lasts, the real stuff that lingers. The sorts of things which makes you give thanks to God and trust that he’s true. It’s when you see lives turned around, and people baptised, and find in brothers and sisters in missional arms a fellowship that lingers across years and latitudes. It’s that sort of stuff that lasts, and it’s not generated by my strength.
I used to think I could exercise force of persuasion; now I know that the real stuff happens by the the Spirit touching hearts.
I used to think I could exercise strong directive leadership; now I know that the real stuff happens when good people find themselves together under the apostolic heart of Jesus.
I used to think I could, and should, fix everything and everyone I see; now I know that the real stuff happens when I wait on the Lord.
This isn’t passivism or even nihilism. It’s still about being present. It’s still about being familiar with sufferings. There’s still a need for conviction and passion and purpose and excitement. But that only works when it rests on peace. And peace comes not from my feeble strength, but knowing I am weak, and held by very strong hands.
In short: Jesus, all for Jesus, all about Jesus, all to Jesus, I surrender.
It has been a decade of weakness, beyond anything I ever asked, or imagined.
Thanks be to God.