Commentary

“On Living with an Angel”

Dwight A. Moody 

A week and four days shy of a new decade, my son Allan reached his 45th birthday. On the third day of the new year he was admitted to the hospital for the third time in 18 months.

 

Mental illness.

 

Before it struck, Allan was a happy, social, active person. He played ball and courted girls. He graduated from college with a degree in international business. He traveled the far east: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand. He brought home wonderful stories and better pictures.

 

But one Friday night while sitting with his mother and me, he turned and said, “Dad, God wants you to rewrite the Bible.” A little later he said, “Billy Graham wants you to call him.”

 

I knew immediately.

 

We persuaded him to go to the hospital, and he stayed three days. It is the maximum that he could be retained without his permission, which he refused to give. He came home, and since then—some fourteen plus years—he has lived with us and lived with his diseases.

 

Neither one of these is easy.

 

Schizophrenia, it is called in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Plus, Bipolar Disorder. Both are treatable; neither are curable. Together, these conditions constitute Schizoaffective Disorder. A person with both is at the mercy of mental forces largely outside of his control. It is a messed-up brain, and nobody knows where it comes from or how it happens or what triggers it in a young adult.

 

Allan is an angel, or so he thinks. Appointed by God for a work with global reach and universal impact. He thinks about it and writes about it and reads about it…all day. Medicine helps some, curbing some of the voices and visions but leaving the moods swings intact.

 

But angels do not like doctors telling them their vocation from God is an illusion; they resent the diagnosis, the medicine, and the doubt. They refuse the medicine, often using devious ways to hide their con-compliance.

 

It is not easy being the father and resident caregiver of such an angel. Frankly, it drives me crazy, and now and again my oft-repressed frustration fights through the defenses I so carefully construct. I yell and stomp and curse, sometimes at him, sometimes at others. I act out in inappropriate ways. None of it is pretty: not his disease, not my behavior.

 

Most of all it is sad.

 

The road ahead shows no light.

 

It is not easy giving up a son you love, whose warm, sweet, happy disposition you still remember, to some other person, some other home. That is coming, but the light it promises is scattered and weak. It is still sad, especially for a man who is often so sweet, so kind, and so generous a person might never know his struggle.

 

Allan did not want to enter the hospital. “Dad, rather than putting me in a hospital”, read his text sent from the intake ward, “can you take me to Sarah Kate’s? I’ve been enjoying my morning walks.” Sarah Kate is his sister who left yesterday for Italy.

 

We went to see him on Sunday. Thirty minutes is all they allow, all week. But thirty minutes is about all I can handle, especially when his distracted, denying, distant symptoms are at full strength. Which they were. All of which pushes us to our own form of denial and distance.

 

It is a hell of a way to begin a new year. What resolutions can a person make in such a situation? What hope can a parent claim in face of such conditions?

 

Not many. Not much.

 

In three months or less, I will notch my 70th birthday. Mostly, I am happy, healthy, and hopeful. But this Advent-born angel interrupts my own moods with the prospects of his future. Who will look after him when we are gone? Will he end up as so many with mental illness, on some street, under some bridge, in some jail? Is there anything anybody can do for our angel, for all the other angels and demons who suddenly emerge in thousands of families around the country, millions of homes around the world?

 

Who knows?

 

God bless the social workers and nurses and medical researchers who labor long and hard to help all the angels out there who depend upon their good will, their hard work, their intelligence, their luck.

 

God bless them. Every one.

 

 

January 9, 2020

 

 

 

 

Commentary: Archives

Here is an archive of my new series of weekly columns, which began in the spring of 2018.  I welcome your feedback using the reader RESPONSE form at the bottom of every page of this web site.

On Living with an Angel

On the Road Again

Signs of Hope 

What’s Right with Southern Religion?

What’s Wrong with Southern Religion?

The End of the World 

Partners in Persecution 

The Write and Wrong of C. S. Lewis 

Can the Supreme Court Save the Culture?

With Billy Barr on the Sawdust Trail

Can Singing Save America?

Cancer: Living, Daying, and Praying 

The Mystery of  Mister Trump 

One Biblical Story, Two Political Visions

Blowing in the Wind 

Will You Also Unsubscribe?

What Kind of Country Do Christian Nationalists Want?

That’s A Completely Crazy Position”

“Let It Go. Give It Up. Throw It Down.”

“I No Longer Identify As A Christian”

Graham, King, and the Two Americas

I Am So Very Sad

Running as a Pro-Jesus Democrat 

Celebrating America the Beautiful 

Surviving a Screen Sabbatical 

Moving the Statue of Liberty

Jesus Loves Obamacare 

Religious Freedom or Religious Confusion?

Praying for the President

And What Do You Do?

Saving the Catholic Church

A View From the Top 

Praying on a Three-Legged Stool 

Was Jesus a Christian?

Keeping My Religion in 2020

What Has Paris To Do With Jerusalem?

Getting Religion in 2020

Religion, Politics, and the 2020 Election 

Listening to the Preacher 

Making America Great Again

David, Goliath, and Donald Trump 

Southern Baptists and United Methodists 

The Practice of Exclusion 

Praying for Revival

From the East and the West

Forgetting the Past

Remembering Angela 

Loving Our Neighbor 

Preaching Us Together 

My Theory of Preaching 

Twice A Year

Helping Dr. Mohler 

Reading Thomas Merton

Meeting Kevin Cosby

When I Read the Book

Bohemian Rhapsody: An Encounter

A Future for Baptist Seminaries?

Fear in Politics and Religion

The First Muslim Seminary

Don’t Preach This Sermon

Read.Talk.Pray.Gossip.

The Lilly Endowment 

The Christian Tsunami

Their Words Seem Like Nonsense 

The Big House in the Middle 

The Judge, the Preacher,  and the Good Samaritan 

I’ll Pass on the Bottle 

A Week of Shame and Pride 

Sabbatical Grace 

Questions for Catholics 

Religious Liberty for All

Resurrection of Kristopher Hampton 

Death of Kristopher Hampton 

All About the Children 

I Pledge my Allegiance

Let’s Move the Statue of Liberty 

Some Preachers of Promise

Southern Baptist Need Pope Francis 

Mystery of the Trump Presidency 

Two Funerals: Graham and Cone 

On the Other Side of Oddville

Here are a few of the articles and stories from my book On the Other Side of Oddville. These were collected from my first series of columns, published by Mercer Press in 2002. You can order a copy by using the response from at the bottom of this page; $20 will cover the cost of the book and mailing. (Checks to Dwight A. Moody).