We Are in the ER, and We Need an Accurate Diagnosis
At one point in my early parenting years, I had three daughters ages three and under. Whatever madness you’re picturing is accurate. During that season of crazy I got a sore throat that wouldn’t let go. I was downing Advil multiple times a day to keep the soreness, swelling, and fever at bay. But after a few days, the swelling got to the point that I was having trouble breathing. So I did what any mom of young children would do: I drove myself to the emergency room. It was simply easier to leave the kids at home with my husband than to have him drive the whole family to the hospital.
I parked my car and went inside the ER expecting to wait for hours to be seen. Instead, after answering a few questions, I was whisked behind a curtain and started receiving treatment. The doctor on duty was clearly alarmed.
I heard her call my husband, “Sir, your wife is very sick. She won’t be home anytime soon. We’ll be giving her intravenous antibiotics and possibly inserting a trach tube. She’ll be in ICU, so come down here when you can.” I got morphine for the pain and slipped in and out of awareness of my surroundings for the next few days.
Clearly, I had misdiagnosed my sore throat. What initially felt like a small hassle grew and grew until it was actually a life-threatening crisis. The Advil wasn’t going to cut it. What I thought was a cold was actually an aggressive infection closing my throat. My uneducated misdiagnosis put my family and me in peril.
A misdiagnosis for understanding the current mental and emotional health crisis for women in the West will do the same thing. We cannot simply pop a few Advil if we’re going to have any hope of coming out of this crash we’re in.
It’s not that the feminist movement had it all wrong. It’s not that we women are just doing too much and we’re tired. It’s not that mental health medicine and practitioners aren’t helpful. It’s that our problem is deep down. It’s soul deep.
Author Rosaria Butterfield nails it when she writes, “The real issue at the core is personhood. Failing to discern rightly who we are renders us unable to accurately discern anything we touch, feel, think, or dream. Failing to discern rightly who we are renders us unable to properly know who God is. We are truly lost in a darkness of our own making.”1
We need to remember who we are and whose we are.
The bold theologian and Reformer John Calvin called it five hundred years ago when he said, “For the plague of submitting to our own rule leads us straight to ruin.”2Truly, we are lost in a darkness of our own making, and we got here by dethroning God and enthroning ourselves. We’ve deified ourselves. And it’s led to our demise.
The Remedy: Remembering Who We Are and Whose We Are
Culture tells us the remedy for our burnout is more me-time. What we need is more rest. More quiet times alone. A nicer luxury vehicle that can block out the stress of the world. Possibly a nanny and a cleaning lady to help us balance it all. More wine. More coffee. Therapy, medicine. More self-talk. Get your tribe, get your people, get your momfia to remind you that you are enough and you can do this.
But I propose that we need to go way back to the beginning. We need to remember who we are and whose we are. How were we created and by whom? For what purpose were we designed? On what kind of energy are we meant to run?
Our remedy is in reclaiming our worldview. It’s in rejecting the self-help movement that birthed us and in reorienting ourselves back toward the God who made us. Healing must happen in our souls. Our health will come when we root ourselves in what’s true.
Let’s face it: we were duped by the culture that raised us. The ideas that we swim around in are wreaking havoc. As we match them up against the biblical truths of the gospel, we see how they ring hollow.
Like the alluring but destructive creatures in Greek mythology, self is a Siren. We are indeed attracted to ourselves. But rooting ourselves in ourselves has led to our ruin. The I-can-do-this self-talk and building ourselves up from the inside has exhausted us. We see now that there is no rest for the one who depends on herself for everything.
Our current crisis condition is not what the giver of life intended. He created us in a specific way, for a specific purpose. And he intended that we be energized and filled with joy in a relationship with him.
Let’s admit that we are not enough, and turn to the God who is.
- Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 48.
- John Calvin,A Little Book on the Christian Life, trans. Aaron Denlinger and Burk Parsons (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust, 2017), 22–23.
This article is adapted from Enough About Me: Finding Lasting Joy in the Age of Self by Jen Oshman.
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