One morning in 2014, I woke up hearing voices. When I opened the door and no one was there, I didn't hesitate and quickly went to the emergency room. Suddenly, my world was rocked; I was diagnosed with bi-polar schizoaffective disorder. I moved from fast-paced Washington, D.C., back to my quiet home and roots in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
My transition from D.C. was hard and isolating. My brain filtered my diagnosis and life changes through a negative bias: the racing and intrusive thoughts, the self-condemning guilt for how I had failed, the sense of panic, the dark depressive feelings. My heart was heavy, and I needed something more. Sometimes the best thing I can do when life feels noisy is get quiet enough to hear God's truth, but having a mental illness makes it hard to move forward in faith . . . and in life.
A friend from high school extended an invitation to lunch and asked me to attend Lititz Church of the Brethren, where I was introduced to Pastor Jim Grossnickle-Batterton. Each Sunday, I was greeted with biblical hospitality and open arms, as members of the church empathized with me and accepted me just as I was. Depression and anxiety can cloud my emotions and thoughts, which makes building my faith difficult. The welcome I received from the Lititz congregation felt like a welcome from God. Whether it is a ride to a doctor's appointment or an intergenerational Bible study, Lititz Church of the Brethren has become a constant reminder of God's loving embrace.
As I became comfortable at church, I wanted to give more of myself by volunteering with the Witness and Outreach Committee, walking side-by-side with others to glorify the name of Christ. Having been embraced by God, I wanted to make space for others and invite them into God's embrace through simple acts of service. For the first time since my diagnosis, I feel as though I have a seat at the table and am contributing back to God's kingdom. When I set my mind on the things of God, I have direct and immediate access to the peace of God.
Father, Your Word says you are always with me. You go before me and behind me. In the middle of the anxiousness I feel, I ask for the peace only you can bring. The Bible says that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. I ask for that to be real to me today. Comfort my mind when my thoughts are spiraling. Calm my heart when it starts racing with fear of the unknown. Calm my circumstances that feel out of control. Your peace surpasses all understanding. Guard my heart and my mind in peace through Christ. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Heather Wolf was an advisor to the Campaign School at Yale, a Campaign Management and Fundraising professional, and a former White House staffer. She is an alumna of Elizabethtown College.