Mentally Unbalanced— or not?

Mentally unbalanced

I listened to the news this morning and I heard some very strange things. This is not unusual, but it did make me think. Two stories in particular:

1. The story about the man who took potshots at the White House. He was described as mentally unbalanced.
2. The story about the man from the Netherlands, who sat in a vat of ice for almost two hours in order to break a world record. The Guinness Book of Records judge was there to certify that the old record had indeed been broken.

In fairness to the man from The Netherlands, he was not described by the news media as mentally unbalanced. However, as I sat there, looking at him, I wondered what would possess a human being to sit nearly naked in a block of ice for almost two hours. When he emerged from the ice (actually they had to use an ice pick to free him) his skin was blue from the lack of circulation. He then jumped into a Jacuzzi tub of warm water. I sat there and marveled at the abuse the human body can take. I imagined that he was filled with the ‘pins and needles’ feeling that one gets when the nerves are shocked by stimuli from one extreme to another.

All this brings me to the thought of mental instability. Just what is that, and is it to be avoided? We normally think of mental instability as having to do with extreme negative behavior (reference the man who used the White House as target practice.) Everyone is decrying him as mad.

On the other hand, the man who made a block of ice his easy chair for almost two hours is, while unconventional, not necessarily regarded with extreme negativity. Fortunately, we live in a country which allows eccentric behavior. I would not want to freeze for two hours, but then again, when I look at my own behavior, maybe others would see that I have the benign sort of instability.

You see, I am just unbalanced enough (in the conventional way of thinking) to believe:

o God’s Word is true
o People are redeemable
o Nothing/no one is a lost cause
o My efforts in extending Grace are not futile.

My family and extended circle of friends and acquaintances are concerned about me. They watch me as I struggle to get a firm footing on what change I can or cannot effect. They watch the roller-coaster of emotion as I press through the boundaries of conventional thinking, believing for one more miracle. Believing that one more act of love, one more ‘atta girl;’ one more tissue will push that one who is struggling into the Promised Land of Peace. I am sure that they see in their own circles:

o Graduates who are on edge and stressed with the promise and terror of ‘what’s next;’
o Parents and grandparents who are stressed by the unspoken promise that Christmas is a dream come true, and all stops must be removed to ensure that perfect Christmas morning;
o Loved ones see their family members struggling to find their paths in life, stressed with the sheer effort of willing them to win;
o Those loved ones straining to make a change, doubting if there is still enough Grace in the world to justify one more effort.

All of these scenarios bring us to the place of mental instability. In my own life, I take it just a bit further. Knowing that I do not have the prowess to keep from falling off that precipice, I (on purpose) reach out for Someone bigger than I am. When I feel that I have reached the city limits in the land called Sanity, I plant my feet, take a deep breath, and believe that God’s Grace is sufficient for one more day, one more rescue, one more outpouring of mercy.

Without this hope, I would have crumbled long ago. What about you? How close to the edge of Sanity are you? These are indeed stressful times. What are your strategies for hedging yourself in, refusing to be overtaken by the instability of your emotions?

Until next time,