November 2019

There’s an old saying ‘Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.’ It strikes me wisdom lies at the heart of  Jesus’ teaching about caring for others.  After all, we don’t need knowledge to understand that we should focus on something beyond material issues of wealth, power and possessions, and concentrate on what really matters.  I write this having attended an event where two things caught my attention.  Firstly, that October was Black History Month, and I know so little about it, to my shame I might add.  For instance, how many of us have heard of Walter Tull (1888-1918).  A highly decorated black soldier whose gallantry was for decades ignored by British history.  It isn’t really hard to draw conclusions as to why that was the case.


The second was the event itself.  I stood with staff and residents of a local mental health hospital enjoying conversations and listening to wonderful songs sung by residents.  Frankly, most people would have been unaware of the residents illnesses had the event taken place in a local village hall.  The event coincided with Mental Health Awareness Day and the hospitals one year anniversary, and I found myself wondering how many of us understand mental health.  How many of us realise it isn’t simply about stress or depression where a couple of days rest may suffice.  It’s about people who have become extremely unwell.  Like many of us they have families, friends and a variety of qualifications and experiences. 


As a society we shy away from such illnesses, sweeping them under the carpet rather than seek to understand.  Often we demonise rather than engage, forgetting we are all God’s children.  He is here for all…not just the physically and mentally well, or those attending church regularly.  Proverbs 4 tells us ‘the beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom.  No matter what it costs we should seek to understand.’  To seek and understand means to engage with those we do not comprehend be they suffering with mental health issues such as depression, stress, forms of psychosis or personality disorders.  Both Religion and Science have at least one thing in common.  They seek to understand.  It’s a good blueprint to live our by, for in understanding comes acceptance and reconciliation, and ultimately, wisdom. 


When we talk about or confront things that make us uncomfortable we discover something quite remarkable.  It really isn’t that frightening.  Notwithstanding current issues I believe our society has come a long way from the days when ‘different’ was something to be feared…except where mental health is concerned.  Why is that?  I suspect it’s because we haven’t fully confronted the reality of such illnesses.  But did you know over 27% of UK employees have a mental health illness.  Each year 1 in 4 of us will suffer some form of mental health problem.  A fifth of us will have suicidal thoughts.  None of us are immune.  This time next year it could be any one of us, a sobering thought indeed.


Jesus never turned his back on any one.  Perhaps we need to follow his example, get alongside those suffering such illnesses and seek to heal while promoting  greater understanding allowing us wisdom to know his peace in our lives and the lives of those in our communities, whatever illness they suffer from.…Rev Paul