Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bird Brain

How do you explain inexplicable behavior? This morning, while I was eating breakfast and watching the Today show, a robin kept trying to fly through my french-door windows. Over and over again. In the 20 minutes I watched, I would estimate conservatively that he flew into the window 50 times. Only an ornithologist would be able to explain that bird's behavior.

Type I Bipolar Disorder manic behavior is a little like the bird's. Full-blown mania is characterized by acts that are inexplicable. When someone you love becomes extremely irritable, has poor judgment, goes on wild spending sprees buying things that they could never use, has repeated and demeaning sexual encounters, continually puts their life in danger having "fun," is unreasonably aggressive, or commits crimes, it is a mind-bewildering experience. Everything that you thought you knew about the kindness and integrity of your loved one seems to have been an illusion. You wonder, "who have I been living with all of these years?"

Sadly, the consequences of that bizarre behavior are not only felt by the person with BPD, but are also shared by those who love them. All too often, the words of the apostle Paul come to mind. "A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7f)."

I believe that the subject of manic behavior should be discussed among Bible scholars. Perhaps best studied by those who have a strong medical or scientific background. There are questions that at first seem to be easily answered from God's word, but serious and long-term reflection might say to us, "We don't know it all, and we certainly do not have all of the answers."

Whenever we see someone who has an obvious mental impairment, such as Downs Syndrome or brain damaged or chemically deficient, we might wonder to what degree God will hold them accountable for the acts of their life. The Bible says repeatedly that a person will one day stand before God and answer for their deeds, but does that suggest that the Lord will not view differently the person who, for whatever medical reason, seems to exhibit behavior that is outlandish and out of their control. To what degree might the structurally or chemically impaired brain be held accountable?

Those questions may never be answered in this life, but only in the life to come. Still, I am concerned about this theological conundrum. I've dedicated a large portion of my life to study of the Bible. I consider myself to be a pretty good scholar, one who can analyze and put all of the pieces together. Nevertheless, I am conflicted about these things. I need more prayer, study and reflection. I do realize that there are some things beyond our comprehension, and only God Himself knows what is truth. Wise king Solomon said, "No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims that he knows, he cannot really comprehend it (Ecclesiastes 8:17)."

This much I know absolutely. "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:8-14)."

In that I take comfort and encouragement. Anyone who struggles with mental illness needs both.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

1 comment:

Neva said...

Great post as always. When I worked in the behavioral health unit we worked with many who suffered from bipolar disorder. They were in my prayers so often. Today, when I visit that small town, I still run into some former patients and again I remember to pray for them.
Thank you
Peace and prayers