I watched a movie this morning. I categorize it not as a biography of a man but rather the biopic of a song. It wasn’t a journey but the destination wasn’t the fame either. It was a soul searching look into the life of not one person but a million peoples’ hopes. It was the soul finding of all of us; those of us who are lost and swimming so hard that the shore keeps getting farther and farther away. The movie, “I Can Only Imagine.”
I am not religious. And I certainly work very hard not to bring religion into my posts. I leave that to people who are the experts in the vast and often brutally challenged arena of our world’s religions. People can label me many, many different things but it is my religion that I keep closely guarded; one, because I don’t want to influence anyone with my thoughts and two, because my answer to those great moral questions are often dependent on the facts that I alone know. These facts include those found in my past, those found in my disease, those found in the smiles of my children. The facts that I know about my religion don’t fit a mold because I don’t fit a mold. And just like everyone else who has ever even attempted to explain their relationship with religion, I too, have friends who are devout to the point of almost being frightening. Friends who believe with their whole being that their religion isn’t a story, isn’t a possibility, but a reality that can not be challenged by even the most obvious empirical data.
I don’t allow empirical data to determine my religion mostly because my religion requires me to always believe science over faith. My religion requires me to understand that it isn’t a person, a place, even a day that is in fact religious, but rather my own soul’s interpretation of the knowledge that I obtain. I don’t use empirical knowledge to convince those I love that the religion in which they believe is somewhat suspect. Rather I allow those pieces to go by me and keep walking my path. I long ago learned that there are always people who will be absolute fanatics and there will be those whose religion extends only to funerals and weddings. And I can never determine how it is that I should be the one to quantify or qualify any belief when deep down my need of religion is my own. I may be a fool about religion but I long ago learned that my version of the events is the only practical one that matters. The rest is someone else’s hope.
But ultimately that is what religion boils down to: hope. We hope that there is someone out there who will live up to the promises exposed by the great Martin Luther King, Jr. or the beauty written in the hands of century old masters, or even those exposed by the sculptures of Bernini and the paintings of Rossetti or Hopper. We hope their vision of what God’s powers look like is real. We hope that when we hear the words of a master communicator that what they believe can be easily allowed into our own life and our beliefs. We hope; however many times we hope in vain.
We hope that God will greet us with open arms and a forgiving nature. We hope that we will see the ones we lost, the ones we have long admired, the greatest the world has known. We hope that heaven has a floor and a sky. We hope that angels will carry the burden that we have so long called our own. We hope that there is more; more life, more greatness, more beauty, more love. We hope.
And while I can’t honestly speak to why an average reader has that hope, I can plainly explain exactly why I need that hope and therefore, that religion in my life. And I am explaining a need of hope, a desperate need that hope not only exists but what we wish for can in fact come true; something completely contrary to everything I know and believe in. This isn’t some deep philosophical dissertation about my life and my hope. It isn’t worthy of much more than the words that I will spill on this page. This is simple to understand: my life both in its present form and its past does not lead one to hope or even believe in the goodness that may or may not be there to find.
I live in a world of unimaginable twists and turns until one literally has to lay down to keep from puking all over the place. I live in a world where maniac behavior is as normal as depressive behavior. I live in a world where medications literally create an atmosphere around me that doesn’t allow me to see beyond much more than the next side effect. I live in a world that would scare my own mother if I ever had the temerity to actually tell her what it is like. I live in a world that neither my husband, my children, my friends, my enemies, the newscasters, the doctors, the teachers and all of those in between can not see, feel, hear, smell or touch. I live in a world that my brain has created and I live in a world my soul has created in the vain hope that somehow I can live through what for the rest of the world calls a bad day, but for me is a bad life. I live a horrific life if one were to break down the instances, the events, the bleakness, the sheer stress of living with mental illness. In case you are new to my platform let me reassure you that mental illness is only for the strong; the weak and even the average couldn’t survive. I can barely survive even knowing that the odds are so much against me.
My hopes, my religion, lies solely in the idea that there will be a day that I won’t have to live in this hell. I won’t have to look around for the least worst thing of my day. There is this powerful hope that a day will come that I will be able to fall down in front of a being that will take away the pain, the emotional upheaval, the embarrassment, the fear, the loneliness, the incredible destruction of who and what I once was. For those not mentally ill, you can’t understand this hope. For those who are mentally ill, you know intimately what this hope is; the double edged sword that can destroy our will as easily as it can give us a twig to hold onto in the storm.
And while I am working diligently to get away from the idea that I am a disease, I can’t get away from the fact that I am a person with a disease. There is no hope in mental illness. There is no rescue, no promise, no moment that will eclipse the truth of what this disease brings to the table. And I have to find a way to live with the bread crumbs of hope for another sixty years. I have to live each day with that small kernel of hope knowing that there is no guarantee that this hope will make it possible for me to find the will to live one more day.
I actually cried at the end of the movie, “I Can Only Imagine.” I don’t cry that often. Don’t get me wrong, my kids’ accomplishments can give me the small watering in one of my eyes, but to get me to cry is a rare and almost impossible task. But it wasn’t the movie, the actors, or even the story that caused me to cry; it was the hope. If you haven’t listened to the song, I imagine you are probably one of a few, I urge you to find it once again. And when you listen place yourself in the middle of the melody and close your eyes not to see the normal misery of your personal hell but the hope that is right there for us all to know. I don’t know why the simple words of the song make me hope that there is a God waiting to forgive me and ultimately to finally give me some release from the horror that I live with each day. I don’t know why the idea of finally meeting the being that consumes so many of my prayers is a legitimate hope for me. I don’t know why any other song in the history of songs hasn’t given me the same hope that this one song does.
But this song does give me hope. And while hope is a young and often a disproportional emotion for me, this song reminds me that there is a chance. There is a chance that life won’t hurt. There is a chance that someone will finally, just once, like me for who and what I am and love me for no other reason then I truly tried. And if hope doesn’t make you try; nothing will.