CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
I’ll call her Gwendolyn, which is not what I called her in The Strange Calling, but I can’t remember what I called her when I wrote that book, and all my books are packed for moving, so.. Gwen, for short.
She was on the psych floor of the hospital. When I went to call on her I was wearing my clerical collar, with a light blue Oxford cloth clergy shirt, so everyone could know that I did not take myself too seriously, despite the collar. I always wore my clerical collar in the hospital. It made getting around simpler. Also it made getting out of the psych ward easier, since the nurses there sometimes mistook me for a patient.
Over the intercom came an announcement. “Any minister in the building, please report to the nurses station on Three East.” I didn’t pay much attention. It was a good-sized hospital. There were bound to be other clergy in the building, and Gwen and I were rather deeply into her problems.
A few minutes later the same announcement was repeated on the intercom. I again ignored it. Gwen kept talking. A few minutes after that, a nurse appeared at my elbow. “Uh… I noticed your collar… a woman down on Three East is dying, and they can’t get hold of her priest, or any priest, and you seem to be the only minister here…”
“Go ahead,” Gwen said. “I’ll still be crazy when you get back.”
What followed was one of the strangest and funniest experiences of my career, as I explained to a dying woman that I was not a priest but I would give her last rites anyway, and… Well, that’s a different story. You can read about it in The Strange Calling. This story is about Gwen’s statement, “I’ll still be crazy when you get back.”
She was right. Insanity never goes away. We deal with it successfully not by getting rid of it, since we can’t, but by adding sanity over it.
That is what Charles Duhigg says in The Power of Habit. Recent brain research has revealed that a habit is never erased from the brain, but it can be covered over with a different habit.
You’ll always be the person you are. If you are compulsive, for instance, you can’t stop being compulsive. You can, however, replace a bad compulsion with a good one. Perhaps “replace” is not the right word, since the old compulsion remains, but the new one can be put on top of the old one, so that it is the one you use, the one your brain first encounters when it tells you what to do.
This is true regardless of how old your brain is. It is never too late to put a good habit on top of a bad one. You’ll always be crazy, but you don’t have to act out the craziness, and life is a lot more fun if you act out the joyfulness.
Oh, and Happy May Day, which in the UP signals the start of spring!
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]
I tweet as yooper1721.