I vividly remember the first time I saw Dead Poet’s Society. I’m fairly certain it was the first “grown up” movie I saw. Or at least it’s the first I remember. It was the first movie that stayed with me. And has stayed with me to this day. I remember it being the first time that I saw suicide dealt with on-screen. Professor Keating inspired something in his students and in every person that sat in those late 80’s movie theaters.
Maybe because of the impact that movie had on me…and maybe just because he’s quite possibly the funniest human to ever live…I was always drawn to his movies. And to him.
He was also the first Hollywood A-Lister that I remember ever speaking openly about battling depression. He spoke so openly about the reality of his struggle. Before him, at least that I can remember, it was a taboo topic in Hollywood. He addressed it with that same mix of heart wrenching honesty and humor that he brought to the big screen.
A lot will be written in the coming days and weeks about his death. About suicide. About depression. About how he made us laugh and cry.
A lot of people will judge & condemn. Most of those people will be in the church world. Those people will all be wrong.
Depression is a disease. And like any disease, God CAN heal it. But also, like any disease, it may be a journey. A hard journey. A painful journey. A dark journey. But for some reason, when God doesn’t bring miraculous healing from depression, suddenly the person fighting the battle is now fighting people. People who say to quote Scripture, to pray about it and use all kids of Christian-ese. Because if you had the “joy of the Lord” you wouldn’t be depressed.
Just like if you had the “joy of the Lord” you wouldn’t have cancer, right?
Don’t get me wrong. There is a huge faith element in any battle we face, demon we fight or disease we journey through. We have to have faith that God will bring healing. We have to have faith that God will bring help. We have to have faith that God will see us through.
But just like faith doesn’t always bring earthly healing to cancer, it doesn’t always bring earthly healing to depression. So why does the church offer refuge for those who bravely battle cancer, but offer judgement for those who quietly battle depression? Why can we openly talk about diseases of the body in the church, but shut down when diseases of the mind come up?
The church as a whole must open up to the conversations around diseases of the mind. And become that hospital, that place of refuge for those who are struggling. Some churches are there. Rick Warren’s church is one leading the way because of the devastating effects that mental illness had in his family. Carlos Whitaker has paved the way in the Christian community for speaking openly about depression and anxiety. But where are the other voices?
The church as a whole must remove the stigma on mental illnesses. The church as a whole must offer the same care and community to those who battle mental illness that is offered to those who battle physical illness. The church must be Jesus.
*I am the church. I have been guilty of the stigma. I must be more like my Jesus. I must be more grace filled.*
I’m sorry you were never completely free from the grip of depression while on this earth, Mr. Williams. I’m sorry if ever there was anyone claiming to represent Jesus who condemned you in your battle. I’m sorry that this world has lost a light. Tonight, I choose to remember the man who made me laugh and made me cry. The man whose heart was bigger than all of Hollywood. The man whom his colleagues esteemed as one of the greatest.
Tonight, I salute your beautiful, messy, struggle filled life. And the authenticity in which you lived it. Praying you are at peace now, oh captain, my captain.