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Home > Christian Bible Studies > Articles > Evangelism

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Mental Illness Has a Face
What I learned while visiting a mental health facility.
Tyler Charles | posted 9/04/2012
 2 of 7

And I know I did.

My relationship with Paige dated back roughly six months—when she was, in fact, one of the first college students I met on campus. One morning she plopped down near me in the student center, and, after answering a couple of my questions, she launched into her faith journey—which had been derailed somewhat abruptly when she walked away from God the previous spring. She was very aware of her lack of faith—or at least her lack of answers—and that was one of the most beautiful things about her: that she wasn't content with this uncertainty. From the day I met her, Paige was relentlessly diligent in her pursuit of answers.

Pretty soon, she and I were talking regularly. She helped me start a small group that met weekly to explore who Jesus is and what that means for us today. She and I started meeting one on one regularly too. Pretty soon she was texting me things she was noticing in the Bible, or questions she didn't want to forget before our next meeting.

In short, Paige was the committed, hungry college student that every campus minister hopes to find when they first step on campus. By the end of that fall semester, by the grace of God, she was different. She recognized that if Jesus is truly who the Bible says he is, then there's no choice for us to become anything other than a "sold-out, crazy person" for Christ. (This was the first but certainly not the last time I heard Paige talk about being a "crazy person.")

And it was beautiful to see how God was transforming Paige into that sold-out, crazy person. She was witnessing to friends. She bought a Bible to give to a friend back home. And she also decided she wanted to be baptized in the spring as a public expression of her faith.

When the spring semester started, Paige hardly resembled that girl who, just months before, hadn't understood why Jesus was relevant. And I was fortunate enough to be her mentor, advisor, confidante, and even her friend. As the weeks passed, I learned more and more about her past—about her distant and somewhat dysfunctional relationship with her parents, her destructive experiences with guys, her history with drugs and partying, the years she spent cutting, and her tendency to be ridiculously hard on herself.

Weeks after the start of the spring semester, Paige was still reeling from the devastating news that a relative had sexually abused her sister—in addition to all the other issues from her past that she was still trying to process. And she confided in me that her urge to cut herself was strong—that she had been resisting it, but it kept resurfacing. She said it felt like an ocean that kept assaulting her with wave after wave. We talked about it, prayed about it, talked more, prayed more, and I thought she had found some freedom from that temptation—that she was committed to letting God stand in front of her to hold the waves back.

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