Following Jesus

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Following Jesus

The Force That’s Always With Us

January 13, 2017 by

“I have a mess in my head sometimes, and there’s something very satisfying about putting it into words. Certainly it’s not something that you’re in charge of, necessarily, but writing about it, putting it into your words, can be a very powerful experience.” —Carrie Fisher

In the days after Carrie Fisher’s sudden death a few weeks ago, the hashtag #InHonorOfCarrie became a platform for thousands of her fans to share their struggles with mental illness. For them, Ms. Fisher’s legacy was the battles she had fought and won on earth and in hell, not just in a galaxy far, far away. Her courage in fighting bipolar disorder and her defiance in speaking out against the stigma around mental health helped thousands of people fight similar battles.

I hope no one underestimates the importance of this discussion or its power to save lives. There are times when no human reassurance, therapy, or medication means anything to a person suffering from mental illness. But to meet someone who is just the same can be an essential lifeline for such people. Ultimately, it makes continued existence in the world seem possible.

The Sea of Galilee at sunset

I know this from my own life. In my darkest days, not even a doctor with her hand on my pulse could convince me that I wasn’t dying or that she would be able to save me. As I walked the halls of my high school, holding on to the radiators or the wall and stomping my feet in order to stay on earth, I became more and more convinced that I didn’t have a place in a world of people who could smile and talk so easily, go to movies in dark theaters, or attend funerals without any noticeable effect on their heart rate or breathing capacity.

But during eleventh grade I started looking for a different solution to my debilitating anxiety. I was raised hearing Bible stories and believing in Jesus, and somehow these stories kept coming back to my mind, so I began to search Christian literature, seeking a conversion; I wanted to become a new person, fearless and full of faith.

What I found instead was the truth, summed up by this passage:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:14–18).

There was the hope I sought! If Jesus was tempted just like me – like all of us – he could help me. His walking on the earth as man of flesh and blood helps me still today, now that I follow him. His companionship as man, not deity, brought me out of my fear.

Ms. Fisher, by figuratively walking alongside many who suffered from mental illness, gave them hope by managing to be a famous movie star despite her illness; I’ve found an infinitely more powerful role model in the man who sweated drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Just like all those who told their stories online in honor of Carrie Fisher, I want to tell my story in honor of Jesus. By coming down from heaven as a vulnerable human being and suffering for us and with us, he made it “okay to not be okay.” That’s ultimate deliverance from slavery.

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About the author

Esther Keiderling

Esther Keiderling

Esther Keiderling lives and works at the Woodcrest Bruderhof.

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