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Stations of the Cross

Mental Illness by Mary Button

Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness 1


Stations of the Cross

Mental Illness by Mary Button

Church Health Center Memphis, TN Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness 1


2 Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness


For my parents, Mike and Carolyn, and for my brother, Tommy.

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About the Church Health Center The Church Health Center seeks to reclaim the church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and our spirits. Long recognized as a national model for serving the uninsured, the Center has spent years connecting people of faith and their congregations with quality health resources and educational experiences. To learn more about the Center, visit ChurchHealthCenter.org. To learn more about our magazine on health ministry, Church Health Reader, visit chreader.org. Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness Š 2015 Church Health Center The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved. Written by Mary Button Artwork by Mary Button Design by Rachel Davis ISBN: 978-1-62144-048-2 Printed in the United States of America. Please feel free to copy and distribute this resource to your congregation or community.


TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction

6

Artist Statement

8

Station 1: Pilate Condemns Jesus to Death Station 2: Jesus Accepts His Cross

11

15

Station 3: Jesus Falls for the First Time

19

Station 4: Jesus Meets His Mother

23

Station 5: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross

27

Station 6: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

31

Station 7: Jesus Falls for the Second Time

35

Station 8: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

39

Station 9: Jesus Falls for the Third Time

43

Station 10: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

47

Station 11: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

51

Station 12: Jesus Dies on the Cross

55

Station 13: Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross

59

Station 14: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb

63

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INTRODUCTION

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he Stations of the Cross are a pilgrimage. A mixture of Christian Gospel accounts and tradition, dating back in some form as far as the fifth century, the 14 stations are stopping points on a journey we make with Christ toward the cross. If we were in Jerusalem, we could make a physical pilgrimage. Wherever we live, we make a pilgrimage of the heart along the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of Sorrows.” Christ entered our world to live among us and bring light to darkness, and he invites us to walk with him through his darkest moments. As we do this, halting at each station for prayer and meditation, we step once again into the drama of Christ’s sacrificial death so that we might be whole. The Stations of the Cross are profound reminders of the humanity we share with Jesus—pain, relationships, injustice, indignity, weakness, brokenness, death. He knows our sorrows. Out of that shared humanity rises a shared calling. As we walk the Way of Sorrows, we also walk toward light and hope in resurrection. We ask the question, “What is our role in the health and healing of the world Christ came to redeem?” This particular rendering of the Stations of the Cross turns that question toward the brokenness of mental illness—and the equal brokenness of our response to it. If you are using the images and accompanying reflections for personal meditation, your mind may fill with the struggles you or your loved ones have experienced on the way to wholeness in mental health. If you are sharing the pilgrimage with a class or a group, may God’s grace embolden you to speak aloud of these things and hear with open hearts the words others bravely form.

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Pause to absorb the range of elements in this book. 1. Moving artwork of each station. Enter it freely. Feel what it calls you to feel. 2. Eloquent insight into personal experience with mental illness. 3. Scripture for reflection, inspiration, and action. 4. Discussion questions for personal or group settings. The Stations of the Cross are an appropriate study during Lent, Holy Week, or any time of contemplation of following Christ with a focus on mental well-being. You may move slowly through the stations on your own, or you may walk them two or three at a time in a group setting. Either way, take advantage of the On Your Own questions that invite you to interact with the artwork in personal ways as well as the With Others questions that encourage you to engage with the artist’s calling to reconsider and change some of our attitudes, assumptions, and behaviors around the topic of mental health. May your pilgrimage both immerse you in the wholeness God intends for you and open your eyes to how you might share wholeness and healing with someone else.

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ARTIST STATEMENT

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his is my fifth Stations of the Cross series. My goal for each project is the same: to challenge viewers to a greater understanding of those on the fringes of contemporary society through the narrative of Christ’s execution. In creating a new series each year, I hope to sustain meaningful, theological dialog on human rights. The 2015 Stations are deeply personal. After years of misdiagnoses, medication side effects worse than the symptoms they were meant to treat, and the patronizing disdain of health care providers, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s been five years since my diagnosis, and most days I am overwhelmed by the sheer force of color in my life. Friends often comment on the bold colors present in my work, even in seemingly gloomy subject material. But at the age of 25, with the help of talk therapy and mood stabilizers, it was like the color was switched back on. I began to experience the world in a profoundly new way. I speak from my own experience and truth. My story is mine alone, and the purpose of this series of work is not to project my story onto anyone else. I have experienced wide-ranging degrees of mania and depression and infinite feelings in between. So have, I imagine, most of you. Many of us struggle to find quality behavioral health care. Holistic wellness does not fit into one standardized cookie cutter shape. The artwork in this series expresses some of the experiential quality of mania. As the colors darken, I hope to illuminate the darkness of depression as well as some of the implications for social justice presented by American society’s mistreatment of those with mental illnesses. The narrative shape of the series comes from Kay Redfield Jamison’s magisterial book Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. This book shepherded me through the first year after my diagnosis and helped me to understand the central point of this new series of work: people with mental illness experience the world in ways that illuminate great truths about the very nature of human experience.

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The stations illustrate the words of the artists profiled in Jamison’s study of creativity and bipolarity, as well as some mentioned in another of her excellent books, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide. Robert Lowell, Delmore Schwartz, August Strindberg, A. Alvarez, and Virginia Woolf are just a few of the artists included in this series. Many of their life stories have sad endings; they lived lives on the tightrope between the electric genius of just a little madness and the shattering horror of too much. The legacy left to us by these immortal empaths is their writing. We have their words, their stories of great joy and deep sadness. It’s from these words that we know that the experiences of those with mental illness are deeply human and, in that way, part of all human experience. As a Christian, the story of Jesus Christ is at the heart of my understanding of what it means to be human, so it makes sense to put his story into conversation with mine, with Virginia Woolf’s, and with the one million people who commit suicide every year. The church has a special moral obligation to educate itself on the social realities of people living with mental illness. I say “special obligation” because I believe that, too often, it is the church that most contributes to a society that devalues the lives, experience, and wisdom of people with mental illness. For me, the most horrifying aspect of my depression is the feeling of separation from Christ that it leaves in its wake. When I feel this way, going to church only makes the feeling of separation that much more painful. I worry that my depression is an offense to God, that my inability to pull myself out of my pity means that God hates me. I open my mouth to sing hymns of praise and the words turn to ash in my mouth. This is not to say that churches should never sing praise hymns, or that caring for those of us who live with chronic mental illness means to dwell in the darkness. Rather, we should live out the Scriptural understanding that there is time enough under heaven to tear and to mend. —Mary Button

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STATION 1 Pilate Condemns Jesus to Death …a magical orange grove in a nightmare… —ROBERT LOWELL

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A

n influential public poet, Robert Lowell was an important part of the movement in confessional poetry that dominated the postwar literary scene. He wrote in both free verse and meter. His subject matter was himself, his family, his mad highs and crushing lows. His fellow poets adored him; his three successive wives despaired. Following a manic episode, Lowell wrote to a friend: “The whole business has been very bruising, and it is fierce facing the pain I have caused, and humiliating [to] think that it has all happened before and that control and self-knowledge come slowly, if at all.”i Hallucinogenic mania, which Lowell described as a “magical orange grove in a nightmare,” in its beginning can feel like a special invitation into a brighter, blazing alternate reality. Always, though, there is a darkness lurking, a toll that must eventually be paid for the sleepless nights and grandiose mornings. Mental illnesses are often lifelong. Their chronic nature often makes them invisible. Out of a fear that talking about my symptoms, the seasonal recurrences of my manic anxiety and my suffocating depression will make me seem ungrateful, negative, selfish unprofessional or out of control, I keep silent. When I feel at my worst, I’m the least likely to talk about it. My disease begins to feel like a secret, and it compounds my loneliness. In valuing and respecting the experiences of people with mental illness, churches can create a safe space for people to be fully visible in their community.

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SCRIPTURE

Isaiah 40:3–5 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

DISCUSSION

On Your Own • Looking at the art for Station 1 (based on Luke 23:1–25), stand with Jesus before Pilate. What do you see and feel that you did not expect? • What dissonance do you experience in your own life between what you think “ought” to happen and what does happen? With Others • Read Isaiah 40:3–5 aloud. In what ways does this imagery help you picture hope for healing? • In our relationships with others, how do we clear the way for God’s presence to be visible? • How does a sense of safety encourage people to fully participate in a faith community?

PRAYER

God who transforms wilderness to beauty, help us be voices that cry out with the good news that you come even into lurking darkness with your blazing presence.

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FOOTNOTES Jamison, Kay Redfield. Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994. ii Jamison, Kay Redfield. Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. iii Ibid. iv Solomon, Andrew. The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. New York: Touchstone, 2001. v Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage, 1947. vi Treadwell, Henrie. “Black Male Suicide: Why are so many young men killing themselves?” The Root. September 15, 2008. http://www.theroot.com/articles/ culture/2008/09/black_male_suicide.html vii Alvarado, Mary Margaret. “Beginning of the End of War.” Sojourners. January 2014. http://sojo.net/magazine/2014/01/beginning-end-war viii Edemariam, Aida. "I accumulated an anger that would rip a roof off." The Guardian. 11 September 2009. http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2009/ sep/12/hilary-mantel-booker-prize-interview ix Sacks, Oliver. Hallucinations. New York: Vintage, 2013. i

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For centuries, the Church has been on the frontlines of caring for people’s physical and spiritual health. Yet today, we tend to separate the physical and the spiritual. That’s why Church Health Reader provides award-winning resources for you and your church—online and in print. To subscribe or to learn more, visit www.chreader.org

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M Mental Illness Stationsofthe Cross The Stations of the Cross are a pilgrimage. A mixture of Christian Gospel accounts and tradition, the 14 stations are stopping points on a journey we make with Christ toward the cross. In Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness, artist and author Mary Button explores the brokenness of mental illness—and the equal brokenness of our response to it through compelling art and essays. The Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness is an appropriate study during Lent, Holy Week, or any time of contemplation of following Christ with a focus on mental well-being. You may move slowly through the stations on your own, or you may walk them two or three at a time in a group setting.

Church Health Center 1210 Peabody Avenue Memphis, TN 38104 www.ChurchHealthCenter.org

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Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness  

The Stations of the Cross are a pilgrimage. A mixture of Christian Gospel accounts and tradition, the 14 stations are stopping points on a j...

Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness  

The Stations of the Cross are a pilgrimage. A mixture of Christian Gospel accounts and tradition, the 14 stations are stopping points on a j...

Profile for chreader
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