Breaking Curtis

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2012 Nancy Virden

Curtis was about ten years old. He was quick to laugh, and liked to talk to me. Occasionally photo-24706729-skateboard-and-kidhe would more shyly attend the children’s gatherings I led than at other times. It was always nice to see him come along with his three younger sisters.

For a reason no longer remembered, I found myself in his parents’ living room talking with his mother. Out of a backroom roared an angry, belligerent man, obviously under the influence. He was, as we used to say, drunk out of his gourd.

“You little piece of s—!” he bellowed at his son. “You are a nothing and always will be a nothing. You’re a f…… waste of my time. Why don’t you just GO TO HELL!”

Apparently, he thought one of Curtis’ teachers from school had dropped by to give a bad report. He continued to holler even after his wife introduced me. He couldn’t have cared less who I was; his intent was to take out on his son whatever pressures he felt. Maybe he had a  hangover? Perhaps he was having a bad week? If you have read my blogs, you know I do not care what he was suffering. It is never excusable to talk to another person that way. Especially to a child.  

His wife tried to make light of the scene. “Oh, he just talks that way sometimes.”

If shame has a color, that was the shade of the young boy’s face. If a beaten down spirit has a body language, that was how he stood.  God help him.

An amazing characteristic of God is his ability to take what is broken and make it whole. No one is beyond repair.

We struggle to imagine our spirit restored. Others testify to it.  Maybe Curtis’ will only be patched, the new cloth threatening to rip at the seams as surely as the original did. Perhaps he will try to drown pain under a self-medication. He might continue a legacy of abuse. I pray for him still.

There is only one thing has ever successfully restored my soul. No, it wasn’t going to church, it wasn’t prayer or Bible reading. Even therapy could not fix me. These alone could not change my life because all the effort was mine to control. What I decided to try, to how much energy to use, was my decision alone. 

The answer to my daily fight against brokenness is giving up control.

Complete surrender to God  is yielding to his process for healing.  A popular worship song says, “Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is your name. Taking my sin my cross my shame, I rise up to bless your name. You are my all in all. When I fall down you pick me up, when I am dry you fill my cup. You are my all in all.”*

There is no promise in scripture that we can live on earth pain-free. That is not what I am describing. Neither am I implying that the Bible, prayer, or therapy are not three of the keys to wellness. They are.

Today Curtis is about to become an adult. Neither he nor any of us are eqipped to make ourselves whole. Hope and meaning through the struggle are found in surrender to Christ.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 – pictures from

*You Are My All in All. By Dennis Jernigan

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