Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

 Romans 8:29


Just before he passed away, Narayan Vaman Tilak (1861-1919). a famous convert to Christianity in India,  wrote the following to a missionary friend: “Cease to be fathers and mothers, be real brothers and sisters, know how to appreciate, trust people, and take the place of India’s revered saints.”

Unfortunately, a patronizing attitude can be present as well by those who support individuals like us, many of whom live with mental health challenges. Those supporting us may consider themselves in the role of a father or mother helping “needy” individuals—maybe not really considering us equal. This is a natural attitude they can’t help. They are all generous people who mean well and they want to do everything they can to make our lives better.

But there’s a danger.

Many of us will welcome having a mother or father figure taking us under their wings. They might be giving us the kind of love we missed as a child. Their warmth is just what we long for. Through such godly people we learn to feel what God’s love is like.

But problems can arise, especially for people who are hurting. It’s easy to become attached. We might become dependent on such supporters, which is not helpful at all.

As we see in Narayan Tilak’s quote above, he would much rather have had a brother or sister minister to him, someone he would feel equal to. Wouldn’t it be healthier for all of us to be supported by those who can see us as their equals? Wouldn’t it feel better to us to be considered equal? As God’s children we are all equal—all of us brothers and sisters.

Henri Nouwen had a good insight. In his book, The Wounded Healer, he wrote, “The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”

The way I see it, if we really want to help someone, we need to join them in the desert, come to understand their pain, feel it along with them, and help each other out.

That’s how Mother Teresa helped the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. She lived as one of them. She felt their hunger and their pain. And she came to know exactly what they needed.