I teach a class about mental health tools for the women at The Well. We talk about thoughts, emotions, and behavior; about balance and self-management. It’s a good class, and I see women putting their tools into practice and coming up with ways to care for themselves and others.
I’ve noticed that the first step in nearly every recommended tool, strategy, or technique for better mental health is the same: calm down. Whether you are overwhelmed, solving a tricky problem, or changing an old habit, you must first gather your wits, take a drink of water, or count to ten. I find it ironic that the first step is often the hardest one, at least, it is for me! I know I’m not alone, though. Here at The Well, we spend a lot of time working on ways to find and restore calm.
Last week, with that first step on our minds, our class tried a new kind of Bible study method where we explore a passage of scripture and consider the possible feelings and thoughts of the men and women in the story.
We read John 8, when the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. The Pharisees wanted to cause trouble, and this might be hard for Jesus to handle. But Jesus, upon seeing the woman and hearing the plan to stone her, knelt down and wrote in the sand.
We watched a movie clip, acted out the simple scene, and then we started asking questions, including that age-old question: “Why did Jesus stoop down and write in the sand?” Perhaps Jesus needed to calm down, I thought. He faced a crowd and a challenge. Someone was suffering, and the guy she’d been sleeping with wasn’t even there. How was Jesus supposed to respond? Maybe he was overwhelmed and took a beat to breathe and gather his wits. (I admit I struggle to imagine Jesus using breathing techniques.)
I grew up with this Bible story, and teachers and preachers often guessed that Jesus was praying. Prayer is calming, I noted. The Bible teaches that in times of trouble, prayer brings calm. Be still, and know.
Our main counselor at The Well, Sirisuk, went to Bible school before she began studying psychology. I once asked what she liked about psychology, and she explained that it increases her faith. When she learns new things related to mental health or addiction, she connects these new concepts to scriptures. The wisdom is ancient, but humans still need it.
God knows what methods we need to use to stay sane; to be okay in this rough world. He knew and shared this wonderful wisdom from the beginning of time. He understands our humanity more than anyone else, and as we find ways to understand it ourselves, we give new words and new evidence to old wisdom and truth. We see how amazing God is, again and again.
I think I’m a little right that Jesus wrote in the sand to calm himself, and my teachers and preachers were also right that he was praying. Prayer is the best method to stay calm in this very busy and very difficult world that we hope to manage. It requires us to be walking in his pasture and listening to His heart.
This world requires our calm and rested hearts, prepared by Jesus, ready to respond to whatever or whomever is in front of us. May we use our mental health tools, and may we pray without ceasing.
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