Hearing the UCC's theme, "God is still speaking,"—over and over—has reminded me of a time when God's speaking to me was both an example of its application and a personal speck of sanity in an otherwise insane world.
I first encountered God in my troubled mind, in a hospital ward where I was suffering from an unknown brain disease—perhaps early-onset Alzheimer's, a schizo-affective disorder or, least of all, a full physical malaise. My body would cooperate with my brain for a 24-hour period, but then would relapse into 24 hours of mental dysfunction. The darkness of these second periods was profound and complete.
Yet, during my moments of total insanity, I remember one thing that was ever present—an aria from "Elijah," the oratorio by Mendelssohn. "O, rest in the Lord" was being played and replayed in my mind as if the words were the only words my mind could form:
"O rest in the Lord, wait patiently on Him, and He will give you your heart's desiring. Commit thy way unto Him and trust in Him, and He will give you your heart's desiring."
Was my mind playing tricks on me? It was certainly possible given the condition my mind was suffering.
How ever one "auditorizes" the Almighty, I choose to believe that these lyrics—so clearly sounding in my troubled brain—these words of rest, life, trust and hope were a gift to me from the God of Psalm 23, even when I could not answer the simplest of questions from the medical staff.
The God of "valleys of deep darkness" was there in my head, reminding my troubled thoughts that not only is God still speaking, as our denominational campaign reminds, but God speaks to us even when our senses and mind are unable to respond.
I have often wondered if God ever chooses to open the curtains of confusion in the many types of mental illness or dementia which afflict so many people. Then, last summer at General Synod 24 in Minneapolis, with so many people repeating "God is still speaking," I realized for the first time that, indeed, God has always been speaking.
So many times we do not hear because of the clatter and clamor all around us. It is only when we have the noise of the world removed that we begin to hear that voice of the Almighty. For me, it remained with me when insanity quieted my overwhelmed psyche.
Sometimes, we are overwhelmed by the noise of our insanity. In those times, Psalm 40 becomes our way to God: "I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry."
Before God ministers and speaks, we must be able to listen: "He drew me up out of a desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure."
I am truly drawn by the accuracy of the Psalmist. The quicksands of psychosis seem to grab and drag its victims' feet down into the drowning pit of Hell on earth.
God, the great rescuer, reaches down into our very mind and pulls us up to peer over the side of the abyss, into God's loving eyes, and hear the gentle, healing voice of the One who still speaks to my heart and the 19 million persons who suffer from affective disorders. A great many of these people of God still have not heard God's voice.
The church's ministry is clear—to be God's agents to all persons with disabilities—physical, emotional and mental. If God is still speaking, perhaps we are not hearing or, worse, that we are somehow impeding God's speech.
The Rev. Hugh V. Nash is pastor of Zion UCC in Baltimore, Md.