I’ve Long Since Put the Halo Away

haloSociologist Robert Ezra Park said, “It is probably no mere historical accident that the word person, in its first meaning, is a mask. It is rather a recognition of the fact that everyone is always and everywhere, more or less consciously, playing a role.”

In my life, the mask that was my biggest temptation was spiritual superhero. My writing instructor Judy Hougen described it this way in her book Transformed into Fire:

“We’re all haunted by some image of the perfect Christian – the person who is rarely ruffled, full of right answers, and tirelessly ‘there’ for everyone.  Such people glide through life with a two-inch gap between their feet and the ground.  They pray for ten hours a day and can recite the New Testament over coffee.  And, most important, they seem to have no needs, no obvious wounds or weakness.  They’re always cheerful, never touched by depression, loneliness, or other heavy emotions.”

Nope. No way. Not anymore.

It has been in sharing my wounds and revealing my weaknesses that I have been the truest version of me— and in doing so, I welcome others exactly as they are. And even scripture says that it’s in our weaknesses that God’s power is made perfect. So, like the Apostle Paul, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses.

Someone made a joke a couple weeks ago about my halo. I was quick to correct him.

I have set down the halo (which was itself a mask) so that I could take up freedom.

slavery and freedom

Last Thursday and Friday, I attended the Global Leadership Summit through a satellite site, and it was incredible.  This was my second year attending, and both last year and this year were phenomenal.  Essentially, the Willow Creek Association pulls together a knock-out faculty of world-class leaders to speak; it’s like being smacked upside the head (in incredible ways) each hour.

On Friday, Pranitha Timothy of International Justice Mission spoke about human trafficking and about her work with IJM to rescue many from slavery.  It stirred my blood.  It always does, to hear stories about slavery and freedom.  I want my life to matter, want to do something important for the Kingdom.  I could almost picture myself going into dangerous situations to pull children out of slavery and get them safely back into school.

On Saturday, I met with a college student whom I have known for about a year and a half, a young man who is living in his own personal OCD hell and is ready to break out of it by pursuing cognitive-behavioral therapy.  We sat together, discussing OCD and how hard it was and how no one understands– but also CBT and how it can give him the tools to step from darkness into light.  I told him that in just a short time, he could be free from OCD’s reign, and I realized …

I am an advocate for those in slavery seeking freedom.

I may not be rushing into workhouses to confront slave-owners or holding children in the midst of a chaotic rescue, but I am a CBT advocate, telling obsessive-compulsives over and over and over again that this is the way to freedom.

I still plan to support IJM financially (and you can too at http://www.ijm.org/give), but I realized that my personal rescue missions will look a little different.


After we watched the Blue Like Jazz screening, my former writing professor Judy and I went to the St. Clair Broiler for some late-night breakfast and conversation.

A few things you should know about Judy: she is brilliant, a gifted writer and teacher, and she loves Jesus very much and connects with him in lovely and unique ways like Taizé and lectio divina.

One thing she said to me over pancakes and French toast was this: “Some people hold their brokenness at arm’s length.  Some people embrace their brokenness.  And some people celebrate their brokenness.”

That’s what I want to do– celebrate my brokenness.  I am not ashamed of my obsessive-compulsive disorder.  The Lord’s power is perfected in my weakness.  His grace is sufficient.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b).

How about you?

freedom begets freedom

When I first decided to “go public” with my OCD, I was sincerely terrified.  I think it was 2006, and I was asked to share my testimony with the campers at a week of 9th and 10th grade Bible camp.  My family and closest friends knew about my OCD, but it was hush-hush among everyone else.  The night I publicly told a group of people about my OCD, I was so scared that I thought I was going to throw up or fall apart.  There is no going back.  Once you tell people this, you can’t make them forget you’ve said it.  They will always treat you differently, look at you differently.  You will lose friends tonight.

Instead, what happened was that a long-time friend ended up sharing with me that he too struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder.  He was so ashamed of it that he hadn’t even told his own family.

Honest sharing from one person draws out honest sharing from others.

In other words, freedom begets freedom.

I have seen the truth of this over the last six years.  The more vocal I am about OCD, the more people seem to come out of the woodwork: I struggle with that too; my friend is an OC and I don’t know what to say; I never knew that it was OCD until you described it that way.  They want to know the next step, they want to know there is hope, that they are not alone.

And they are certainly not alone.

“OCD is the fourth most common mental disorder, and is diagnosed nearly as often as asthma and diabetes mellitus. In the United States, one in 50 adults suffers from OCD.” (Wikipedia)

But we find one another by saying it outloud.  OCD.  I have OCD.

And then there is the response: I have it too.

And we begin to steal back power and control.

These days, I drop those three little letters into conversation pretty much any chance I get.  I am not ashamed of it or nervous to tell people I am an OC.  I am only hoping that my freedom will beget freedom.

I have OCD.  What about you?