Shake It Into the Fire
By Jim Grinnell
On the island of Malta, as the Apostle Paul was gathering wood for a fire that the natives had built for him, a snake came out of the wood and fastened itself to Paul’s hand. The Scriptures say: “When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer! Though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’”
For the person with a mental illness, their disease is like that snake of Malta, fastening itself upon them as they attempt to do the normal act of living. And we are too often like those natives, misinterpreting and stigmatizing an unpleasant reality of life. In our case, the unpleasant reality of life is this: the human brain is an organ of the body that can get sick, just like any other organ of the body!
Oral Roberts, while president of Oral Roberts University, once preached a stirring message based on this passage, saying there are some things we just need to aggressively “shake [it] into the fire.” In the arena of mental health, the real enemy is not the snake (the disease), but the stigma attached to the one who has been bitten! That person is often quickly labeled “crazy,” “demonized,” “irresponsible,” “manipulative,” a “drug abuser,” “without faith,” or “in sin.”
One of the foremost objectives of BT is to de-stigmatize mental illness – to “shake it into the fire!” Many people want to deny the unpleasant reality of mental illness, thinking that mental illness amounts to cowardice in facing the rigors of life. Consider, however, how much courage it takes to accept that one has a mental illness: it means facing those stigmas, trusting others for an intense level of support, facing a medication regimen for probably the rest of your life and dealing with a loss of control at times. Together let’s “shake the stigma of mental illness into the fire!”