As with other chapters, I do ask that you take the time at some point to read the previous entries of Being Bipolar, which now includes a number of video supplements. I can't vouch for my on-camera acting skills, but I do harbor some small pride in my capacity as a writer :-)
My belief in and hope from and expectations of God died that day when I was twelve and a male faculty member of the Christian school I was attending raped and sodomized me.
I have never disclosed that publicly, until now. So, please forgive me if I come across as... a bit nervous and unsure... in writing about it. But at least this is the last time that I ever have to write about it for the first time.
I had been at this school since kindergarten. And for the first several years it was a place not only of good education but also of earnest pursuit of Christ and the life of grace that He would have to enjoy. Then something happened and I'm not quite sure what precisely but behind the scenes some new policies were being enacted. The teacher who I credit for teaching me how to read at a vastly accelerated rate (I was measured as reading at a twelfth-grade level in the second grade) was fired because her membership was at another church and not the church that ran the school. She didn't want to leave the place of worship that she believed God had called her to be at and to serve Him in.
I've never understood that. If a person is following Christ as best he or she understands Him, then what difference does it make where he or she is serving Him at? Who am I or anyone else to say that a person is wrong for being in this congregation or that denomination (I don't believe that's an accurate term anyway: Christ is not divided and there is no such thing as a "denomination", only differing perspectives of Christ: Who is more magnificent than any one person or group of people can fully comprehend!).
And then there was what can only be called the "two minutes hate on the Roman Catholics" that I witnessed during what became my last year there. And maybe I made a mistake when I raised my hand and stood up and said "This is wrong! Why are Christians supposed to hate anybody? Aren't Catholics Christians too?"
I don't like seeing hatred toward others in the name of God. I just can't stay quiet when that is going on around me. I don't know where it comes from but, I've always been like that and I don't doubt that I always will be.
There was a Sunday night in late June of 1985 that I remember. I was eleven and was outside with my telescope. And the night was so unbelievably clear and starkly dark and... "beautiful" doesn't come close to describing it. And it was enough to compel me in one of the most unforgettable moments of my life to know that God made all of this and that I was thankful to Him for this night and every good thing that He had done in my life, like giving me good family and friends.
It wasn't a "religious" moment. I don't know if I was anything like a "Christian" in the terminology of rigid doctrine. But it was a mystical moment between God and myself and it was... the most wonderful single point of time in my entire life, up to then.
What? Did I say something wrong when I said "mystical"? I don't see how. "Mystic" in the purest sense means a personal experience of God. Mysticism might be the word that best describes my personal theology. To me, it means a pursuit of intimacy with God in a way that can't be achieved by mere doctrine or theology. So yes, I suppose that I am a Christian mystic. It wasn't something that I set out to be and to be honest, I don't think it's something that a person consciously aspires to be. But as one is drawn more and more to God, "mystical" is the sole word to adequately describe what a relationship with Him for those lingering in this temporal realm grows and transforms into.
But that sense of closeness to God was soon challenged. Several weeks later I saw a young man who I had come to regard as the older brother I never had, be crushed to death beneath a tractor in a freak accident on our farm. The grief from that, I'll never be able to fully get past. And then two months later Dad nearly lost his hand in another farm-related accident: this one involving a hay bailer. Then something happened at my school that... rattled my faith in "good Christian people". Perhaps that was my first realization that people who say they follow God, aren't perfect at all and in fact are too often much further from that than people who aren't "Christians" per se.
Then came that day in the spring of 1986. When I was accused of something that I had not done, and a male faculty member did not care to hear anything that I had to say about it. He said that I was guilty and that was that and I had to be "punished".
What happened behind closed doors afterward involved him masturbating (I didn't know at the time that was the word for what he did), his penis and my own, an action he did with his mouth that I had never come close to imagining, and him telling me that God demanded that I be a "good boy" and that I should "pray for forgiveness" for the "sin" that I committed.
It was four years before I was able to tell anyone about that. I never saw that man again after we left that school and entered public school the following fall. But I hated him. I came to hate everything about that school. My final day there, I wore a tank top shirt in defiance of the rules and told the teacher that she could "go to Hell" if she didn't like it. I wanted her to dare to do something to me. She didn't do anything.
I hated God most of all.
I hated everything that there was about the idea of God. I hated myself for ever believing in God. God, as I understood Him, would never put an innocent child into a situation where he or she is... treated like that!
And that's how it was that for most of the six years after that happened, that I declared myself to be an atheist.
Then around the time that I was a senior in high school, some... revelations, you could say... began occurring to me. I had another "mystical moment of clarity" which led me to understand that the universe was just too perfect to have arisen haphazardly on its own. Maybe it was the physics class I had that year which had something to do with it, and the orchestra of mathematical function in matter and energy which I began appreciating for the first time.
It was around my birthday that year when I found my belief in God again. And along with it, a disbelief that God would ever want to take me back.
Look: those six years of atheism? I did some horrible things in my rage against God during that period. I became a champion of disbelief in God. There were even some letters that I wrote to and had published in the area's largest newspaper, stemming from my refusal to believe in God. And in some ways, much worse. Most people today know that I am very against abortion. But that wasn't always so... and shamefully, I can prove it.
How could God want to take a person like me back into a relationship with Him?
That is where I was for the next few years. I was "outside looking in". I did see others who had that relationship with God, and I envied them for that. Secretly, I wanted to be like them. I don't think I ever even prayed to God to let that happen. But, He must have known...
...because a few years later I began studying at what was then Elon College (it's now Elon University). And God began putting some incredible people into my life. Sometimes, seemingly by accident (thinking of how I discovered the Baptist Student Union there). And it was in my second year there that I began to at last move toward that warm fire around which were people I had come to love and care for, and they shared love toward me and best of all they shared Christ with me. And I learned that God did want me after all.
I have not followed Him perfectly. In fact, there have been many more times that I have failed, than I have succeeded. I have discovered that to chase after God does not mean a life of ease and comfort. But it does mean that He will never leave us or forsake us or abandon us.
And that is how I can write about my relationship with Jesus Christ today...
...in spite of how, more than anything else that has happened to me in my life, I have cried out to Him about the disease which has robbed me of capability, of opportunity, and of family.
Ever since first going public with my having bipolar disorder a few months ago, I have wondered a few times: "Should I reveal the sexual molestation that happened when I was an adolescent?" Talking about having a mental illness is one thing. Recounting an incident like that... I've had to live with that for almost a quarter-century.
But now, I don't have a problem with it. And maybe it is time to be open about it. I didn't ask for that to happen to me either, but it did. I wasn't the guilty one. I didn't choose that or invite it to happen. It took place because there are very evil people in this world who take advantage of others and sometimes in ways which... let's put it this way: I'm against the death penalty. EXCEPT for child molesters. I wish that I could see past that to a place where I can pray to God to be merciful to even them... yes, even to that man... and show them the grace that they need as much as any of us do.
Maybe someday I will grow enough to reach that place. I hope it does. But it hasn't happened yet.
But I can and will talk about it, if for no other reason than because that very horrible thing is a part of my testimony. And now, it can be that as much as anything else that God has done in my life. He did not make that man do what he did. But God also did not leave me, even when I most hated Him. I no longer have to dwell upon the evil that was done to me, but instead I can write about and give praise to God for the good that He has done in my life in spite of that.
That is why I am writing about that happening to me, as part of the Being Bipolar series. Not because that was something that had any bearing on my mental illness, but because once again my original outline for this endeavor has been thoroughly smashed and I was led to write about my faith in God and how it has related to this medical condition. Because this is about my "being bipolar" and because my spiritual life is a very large – honestly the largest – component of my identity. Because I've no doubt that many others also have struggled with reconciling their belief in God with having a disease, and not necessarily a mental one either.
So... who knows? Maybe sharing what I have gone through in this aspect of having bipolar disorder will be a boon to others as well.
And for those of you wondering (which I'm sure is the vast majority of those reading this): I have NOT been able to find any bearing that what happened to me when I was twelve, has had on my having bipolar. Did it affect me? Absolutely. Maybe some day I'll be able to write more about that particular hell. But that was a traumatic experience, not a chronic condition with physiological and genetic causes. One which I have now recognized that I was suffering from much earlier than when that incident took place.
But I have thought at times: am I able to be here now, today, because of all the crap that I went through from a very young age? Could it be that God, even when I was most distant from Him, was with me and not only letting me survive that, but also building me and toughening me up for things yet to come?
I think... yeah, He did. And in my best moments I know that He did.
Was He bringing me through hardship and pain so that I might one day be able to write about having bipolar, as I am doing now? I think that's altogether possible. I can't not regret what happened to me back then. But, I can be thankful that God didn't abandon me and in fact was letting that be something that would in due time bring me to a place that I could never have reached on my own.
It's like what that German philosopher dude once said: "That which does not kill me, can only make me stronger." But I much more prefer the worst of the apostle Peter, as written in 1st Peter 1:7...
"These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
A preacher friend once accompanied me on a visit to Dad's knife shop. Dad showed him all around and then he lit up the forge that he uses to heat up steel red-hot so he can beat them on the anvil or with his power hammer (something he designed and built on his own!). My minister friend marveled at it and noted that Dad's forge was a lot like what God does to us: He puts us through fire, and sometimes He pounds on us at the same time to get us into the shape He wants us to be. But in the end, like those bars of steel, we come out tougher, harder... and with purpose that was not there before.
In the times of despair that I have had these past months and couple of years, I have striven to remember that. It helps to give me hope that if God didn't abandon me then, He will not abandon me now. It reminds me that God is working on me. Making me to be a Chris Knight that I am yet to be and can't begin to imagine is coming in His time. That, I could never be that Chris Knight without Him putting me through the fire of the forge of life: burning away impurities as a refiner with gold, and making me stronger and sharper than I could have ever done by my own efforts.
(I think Roland, my friend, wound up preaching a bunch of messages about Dad's forge! It certainly does seem to inspire, when it's going full-flame and you see that steel glowing fiery orange and the sound of the blower and you witness plain dull metal becoming something you can wield raw muscle and sweat into making a gorgeous tool of.)
I am a hunk of ugly and ordinary metal, that has been put through fire and fire again, and that the Master Blacksmith has not been ceasing in crafting into a most precious implement to be used in a design for His glory and majesty.
We all are.
And then... there are the times when I am usually alone and I can't stop myself from weeping and crying aloud to God (literally on occasion) about why my bipolar just doesn't make sense with what I have come to know about Him.
Please know something: I do not believe that God "caused" my mental illness. Indeed, God doesn't cause any illness to strike a person. But many times God allows a sickness to hit someone. Jesus Himself addressed this very thing, in the Book of John, chapter 9. A blind man was brought before Him and His disciples asked whose fault was it that he was born unable to see.
Jesus told them...
"'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.'"
And if there be entertained any further notion that God makes disease happen, I can most heartily recommend the Book of Job: a work that I have probably read just shy of twenty times in recent months.
That is something else that I cling to for the hope that it gives: that what I suffer, will be something that the work of God might be made manifest in.
It would certainly help to alleviate the grief and misery that I have been feeling especially since early this past fall. Grief and misery that, there hasn't been a day that's gone by that I haven't prayed to God to bring relief and understanding from.
The most painful of all, is that I keep praying to Him and asking Him why did He let me have this when it is what led to me, without ever wanting to have done so, hurt those closest and dearest to me. I have especially begged Him to help me understand how it is that He allowed me to have this condition when it led to the destruction of my marriage: something that I had never conceived He could even be possible of doing. That just... seems so wrong and against the nature of God as I have come to know Him...
...and then, I have friends who usually remind me, because I need to be reminded of it no matter how much it hurts: that God's ways are not ours. And I can't begin to even come close to understanding Him. All I can do, all I should do, is... trust in Him. Even though that is VERY hard to do most of the time.
A friend let me borrow a book recently: When God Winks At You. Ever since reading it I've found myself praying for God to wink at me: to let me know "Hey, Chris, I'm still here and I love you and I haven't forgotten you!" For much of the productions of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Gypsy that I was recently a cast member of, I would drive past this church on the way to rehearsal and on the sign outside it said "We Must All Trust In God's Plan". Was that God "winking" at me? Telling me to trust Him in spite of my grasp of circumstances?
I want to believe so. I REALLY want to believe so.
Because I don't doubt that God is there and that God answers prayer.
I just wonder if God is listening to my prayers. If He has heard me at all during these past few months.
Does that seem strange? To talk about faith in God and yet not feeling sure that He is listening?
For a person with mental illness... well, for me anyway, it is not such a contradiction. Because, there are times when, I admit with great sadness, I do catch myself falling into a trap of "Is my belief in God a delusion of my mind?"
There. Yes. I said it. I know that I have a mental illness and I do often wonder if God is just something that my mind produces that I want to believe in. And please know that I would give darn near anything to not have that kind of doubt enter into my thinking!
And sometimes, there is a horrible converse of that which overwhelms me. Lately, it has been the worst doubt that I have had to content with...
...that there is a God, and He does listen to prayers. But that my own mind is too severely damaged and hopeless and irredeemable to pray to and approach God as I should be.
That's a weird alternative to atheism, you gotta admit. That I can believe in God but I can't believe my self is able to reach out to Him. I could probably write a whole book about that. Or maybe shoot a film about it. Except I don't know if it would make for a good tragedy or a good comedy...
But can you imagine many things that are more terrible than that? To wonder... to seriously wonder... that your own mind isn't what it needs to be to talk to God in prayer and that it might never be as normal and healthy as it should be to commune with your Father and Creator...
Does that mean that I am truly without hope?
Does that mean that I am a freak, a "mistake"?
If I cry out to my Heavenly Father and not know for certain if He can hear me, does that mean that I am an ecclesiastical orphan?
Could it be that I really am a monster? That I have lost people close to me because I don't have mind enough to have the humanity and sympathy and empathy that a person needs to have?
One of the most un-endurable things about my mental illness, is that it has caused many people who had been in my life to seriously question whether I have been a true follower of Christ at all. To know that they think that of me... has HURT so much!!
But, what if they are right? What if I never did and never could earnestly and sincerely follow Christ? What if nothing I can do could change that?
Why did God make me? Does He have a purpose for me?
Has He cared... has He been able to care, as I know He does toward others... about what I have lost?
Will He forget about me on the day that I die?
Am I damned because of my mind?
These thoughts, and so many more, are what race through my mind many times when I am going through a hyper-manic bipolar episode.
Then I usually take a tablet of Seroquel and my thoughts slow down and usually, I wind up taking a nap or completely turning in for the night.
But the thoughts are always waiting to return, and to torment me with doubt and despair. Sometimes, they even return several hours later. And it's not good to take more Seroquel so soon.
So then I pray. And find that I'm thankful to God for letting me have, for even a short time, a scrap of mind quiet and stable enough to pray.
Dear Reader, it would probably surprise you just how hard that much can be. When one is trying to talk to God as a child to his Father, but can't because his mind is racing out of control and it's impossible to focus enough.
Prayer is a commodity that is more precious than most appreciate. When I can pray without struggle, I can't but be grateful.
A few days ago a friend who I hadn't heard from in many years wrote to me. He said that he found my blog last month, that he's been reading Being Bipolar and watching the videos.
He told me something that I once knew and had forgotten, and when I read it again, I was wog-bogglinginly astonished at how so simple and yet supremely powerful it was to realize. It was as if I was just discovering it for the first time.
He said, "Chris, God is still writing your story."
And that has filled me with great optimism and hope for my life.
Take a moment to think about some of the greatest and most influential people in history. Many of them... if not most of them... did not live lives of complete joy and comfort. In fact, their time in this world was marked and marred by painful circumstances or tragic events. Gandhi was beaten and imprisoned numerous times during the long decades when he was leading the movement toward independence for India (and he was later assassinated for trying to bring peace between Hindus and Moslems). Today we know that Abraham Lincoln suffered numerous physical ailments as well as chronic depression. Mozart also struggled with depression. Beethoven was deaf. Homer (the Greek poet not The Simpsons character) was blind. Sir Winston Churchill regretted that he was never able to be close with his mother (he once wrote that there had been "a great distance" between them). Einstein had Asperger's (a form of autism) that prevented him from being competent in math for many years. Leonardo da Vinci was dyslexic. George Washington had a learning disability and could barely write (it's true!). Epilepsy plagued Agatha Christie. John Nash has gone his entire life with schizophrenia, but that didn't keep him from revolutionizing mathematics with game theory. And one of the most famous voices of our time, that of James Earl Jones, was silent for the first many years of his life: Jones – the man who gave Darth Vader his vocal persona – had a severe speech impediment that he eventually overcame.
All of these people and many, many more have or had lives that were not the ideal that any of us would want. And yet, rather than be what held them back, their respective disabilities and sad situations enhanced each of them as individuals!
Those aspects of their lives often defined them. But they did not destroy them. What any of us would gladly avoid, countless men and women throughout history have had to greet head-on with courage, with determination, and with... well, what else can it be called but faith?
Their tragic circumstance became part of the story of each. They became their testimony.
Just as my living and coping with and managing my mental illness, is now part of my testimony.
I'm not gonna ever dare compare myself to the great men and women who have come before, as if my bipolar is something that has me on the short list for fame and fortune. If that is the price for that, then it is too much and I would just as soon tell God that He can keep this and "Thanks but, 'no thanks'."
But, this is what God has allowed to happen in my life. Just as He allowed all of the other things to happen. This is part of the story of Chris Knight.
And it is a story that is even now still being written.
In all honesty: when everything is drawing to a close, would I have seriously been happy with a life that did not have some tragedy here and there?
Nah. Then my life would have been nothing but a comedy. And I trust God too much to know that He absolutely understands that Chris Knight is a unique and wonderful mix of the funny and the serious.
God is simply writing the story that I know I want to be able to read and reflect upon and be glad that He did write it, someday.
Just as He is writing your story!
What came before, is part of my testimony of what God has done in my life.
What I live with today, is part of my testimony of what God is still doing in my life.
And when I am stronger still because of this, that will become testimony of what is God will be doing in my life in the years yet to come.