Spirit and Mental Illness by Craig Rennebohm

written by Craig Rennebohm

After 53 years of living with depression and a ministry increasingly focused on the intersection of religious life and mental illness, I share these thoughts about our biological, psychological, social and spiritual wholeness.

Our bodies and brains serve not only a myriad of worldly functions, but are a “sensorium for the Spirit.” Literally every occasion of our lives from infinitely minute to the most complex is in the hands of a tender God, with a divine, caring intention. That includes our biochemical struggles and the brain’s constant effort to build health, balance and wellbeing.

Our bodiedness gives rise to a rich psychological life of feelings, sensation, thought and selfhood that includes the unique development of our identity, our human personality, our inherent and holy worth as individuals.

We are in the process of growth and maturing, never alone, but always in relationship with family, friends, congregation, community and world. Who we each are is eternally held by others and by One whose love and support for us is endless.

Our soul, our deepest, fullest identity, over time and gracefully guaranteed forever, is imperishable. Nothing can block the promise of wholeness, nor ultimately separate us from one another.

While the forces of mental illness may challenge our biological balance, deeply disturb our sense of self, rock our relationships and play havoc with our faith, this very vulnerability indicates who and what we are birthed to be – sensitive, deeply feelingful, imaginative and thoughtful persons, healing and growing in community, beloved community. My illness has been a burden, a trembling unto death, but also a brokenness out of which has come a profound gift of spiritual life and sacred journey.
Craig Rennebohm is a retired UCC Minister and author of Souls in the Hands of a Tender God (Beacon Press), written from his own experience and 25 years of ministry doing outreach on the streets of Seattle with individuals facing homeless and mental health challenges. Craig is currently a member of the Port Townsend Friends Meeting and exploring the world of poetry.