Part 1 of my story

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Mark 5:18-20


I would like to start my story by telling you a bit about what happened to me at the age of nineteen, at a time when I first got help—when illness showed itself in the worst way.

In my effort to keep the focus on those things that helped my confidence grow, I will refer you to what I have written about my experience with psychosis in my book, In the Name of Jesus, page 54. If you have it, this book describes the various kinds of emotional pain experienced by people with mental health challenges.

When my screaming had become unbearable, my parents called a cab and took me to the hospital. In the emergency room I shouted obscenities at the staff, something much out of character for a person who had always been quiet and reserved. They gave me a shot and I began to settle down.

A doctor came and talked to me. He noticed the poetry book I had brought along. Leafing through the pages he found If, by Rudyard Kipling and asked me to read it out loud for him. As the sedative was taking effect, I read slowly, absorbing every word.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;


It was as though the words were written especially with me in mind—as though Kipling had known that a person like me would need to hear those words one day.

Each line I read held meaning, and as I began losing consciousness, hope slowly began to rise within me. I finished reading the entire poem before falling asleep—always to remember the effect its inspiring messages had on me. Despite the terror I had experienced, the poem helped me see that there was hope.

I had felt alone in a scary world, but this doctor made me feel that someone cared. He gave more than simple medical treatment could. He had given me the courage to carry on.

I didn’t believe in God at the time, but he must have been with me. It was a blessing to have had my poetry book there, and to have a doctor find that poem and be thoughtful enough to have me read it. The words were powerful and to this day have encouraged me to find my way through good times and bad times.

When I found myself lost in thought, as I so often was, I remembered:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;


And then I would get up and start baking something or begin work on a project I’d been considering.

During painful times, I was moved by the powerful challenge:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:


He did not just see me as a deranged young person. He saw  me as someone who was going through a temporary crisis. He saw me as someone who needed care and empathy.

Although I didn’t believe in God back then, I believe he was there in this situation–in the wisdom and kindness of the doctor. And like the crazed man who Jesus healed in the Scripture above, he would one day send me out to testify to others about him. I would tell them about him and his love, and what he could do in our lives.

And that’s what I’m doing now.