“Of all the things I’ve lost, I think I miss my mind the most.” — Author obviously unknown
One of the hardest elephants to talk about involves the most major of major organs in our human bodies.
Over my years of working first as a therapist and more recently as a pastor, I find it intriguing how easily people can present complaints having to do with bodily dysfunctions. Especially as people get older, I find it quite common for folks to compare in even casual conversation their diagnoses, medications, surgeries, doctor’s names. Especially before and after church gatherings!
So long as it does not involve the brain.
Otherwise intelligent people who can name several of the more technical terms for how the organs interact and our anatomy is supposed to function will appear dumbfounded when asked if their brain’s Frontal Lobe is supplying enough answers to the questions being raised by their Amygdala. If you don’t believe me, just try such a question on someone you consider to be of average intelligence, or above average. Ask your parent. Ask your pastor. Ask your doctor. But do be prepared for silence. As in, “which type of cheese do you think Mars is made out of?” silence.
Truth is that some people would more comfortably discuss things we have discovered about the planet of Mars than they would some rather basic things we have discovered about the human brain. Which we visit daily, believe it or not, within our own bodies. And when it comes to pastors in our churches? Some would rather talk about inter-planetary science fiction than they would about the scientific realities of our inner spiritual faith that is rooted in, yes, our human brains. What? Talk about the elephant in our very own living room?
If you’re up for a bit of new experience while reading this, why not click on this link and and watch what happens as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Loleha5EbEo brings you to today’s elephant.
Pretty scary stuff, huh? Well, actually no. In fact, not at all. You just watched a micro-mini lecture by a Vassar College professor. And whether you knew it or not, your brain’s Frontal Lobe was learning something about how mental illness and addiction can happen when the Amydala raises a question the Frontal Lobe has no answer for.
Another way of talking about our brains is that the part of our limbic system we call the Amygdala really functions like a little child within us. Sometimes our little child gets scared. Sometimes our little child asks a lot of questions. Which is why God has given us a Frontal Lobe within our pre-frontal cortex. That’s the part that is our inner adult. The one that can reason out the answers to calm our inner child. You and I are each walking around with a child and an adult inside our heads that, if they are not communicating, will wreck havoc on the rest of our bodies in way of stress-related diseases of the lower organs.
So what’s my point?
Well, for starters, if we’re talking about church sanctuaries in particular, our pews are full of little children whether we know it or not. Everyone in attendance has an Amygdala. Our inner children are full of questions, the biggest of which seem like scary elephants. And every adult in our pews has a Frontal Lobe whose task it is to learn and then to teach and communicate with these inner children on a regular basis. Furthermore, our Frontal Lobes will leave our sanctuary after any given service having learned something that can help hear and then answer our Amygdalas. OR, get ready for this, they will have essentially dropped the Amygdalas off at the door and then returned to pick them up after church, hoping maybe something good rubbed off on them. In which case, our mental illnesses and addictions will continue to happen. In hiding. In silence. In church.
And now the question for comment. Do you think the church can and should do more to help heal the wounds of our human minds today, even as Jesus went about healing many people from the neck up during his own day? Do you think we really can and should talk about this elephant? If so, what are your own ideas for going about this?