Larry Steckling 6 p.m., March 31
- Community Blog
- A Homeless Drunkard's View of San Diego
A Mentally-Ill Man Looks at Christmas
My name is Christopher Platt. I am 40 years old, and I have lived in San Diego for the past 12 years. I have been diagnosed with an extreme form of manic depression, and episodes of my mental illness have put me in and out of psychiatric facilities and asylums for most of my adult life. In addition to this, I became heavily involved in drugs in my mid-teens, and soon, I was a full-blown drug addict. As I got older, my use of drugs got gradually phased out, and my use of alcohol grew worse and worse. I believe I started drinking heavily at first to self-medicate the worst symptoms of my mental illness. By the time I came to San Diego, I was the worst kind of chronic alcoholic. I found myself homeless on the streets of downtown San Diego for the next five years.
Since then, I have sought help for both my manic depression and my chemical dependency issues. I have been indoors in my own apartment for the past seven years, and have even been able to work some. I am clean and sober today, and the most horrible symptoms of my mental illness are under control- at least for now. I take one day at a time. Even though I am on disability for my psychiatric disorder, I strive to be- and sometimes even am- a productive, contributing member of my community. Human beings are not merely economic entities, as modern society would like to make us believe, and there are many ways to be productive that are not financial.
My five years of homelessness gave me a great many experiences and taught me a great many things. I saw San Diego from a point of view from which most people never will. If the nice people at the Reader publish my blog on their nifty website, I hope to share some of my ramblings about San Diego from that point of view.
It is Christmastime, though, and, for my own sanity, I'd like to share my take on Christmas.
Christmas is the most difficult time of year for me, and I'm not alone in that sentiment. I have heard that the suicide rate doubles around Christmas. I have feelings of isolation and despair that are overwhelming. The commercialization of Christmas disgusts me, and I suspect it must disgust Jesus, too. I doubt He wants anything to do with any of it. It disgusts me that a lot of people who call themselves Christians seem to only want to remember Jesus around this time of year.
Still, if God wills, and I still have this life in two days, I shall be celebrating the birth of my Lord Jesus at my family's home. We will all be together. I give all praise and thanks to my merciful Savior and God, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the incredible restoration He is working in my life. He has already worked such incredible deliverance in my life, and He has been so incredibly patient with me. I am tempted to look at my own sin and spiritual failure and to forget the overwhelming gentleness and compassion with which Jesus has dealt with me over the years. He has brought me through so much. I have always been so sinful and unworthy of His love, and am still unworthy of His love, but still He comforts and guides and heals and protects me. He has not cast me out. There are many times that it seems I should have died in my sins, but Jesus has defied all odds and pulled me back from death (literally: I have been legally dead several times) on multiple occasions. He has continued to call me to Himself, and continues still. During the very worst times of my life, during the most awful of situations- usually situations I have created myself- Jesus has been there for me. He has seen me through. He has poured out miracles on me and my life over and over again, even when I didn't have sense enough to know it was Him. The obvious miracles and interventions He has worked in my life are too many to count. If I tried to write in detail on all of them, it would fill up this whole website. One day, in some format, I hope to go into detail in my writings about all the tender mercies Jesus has shown me over the course of my life, first of all, that I may properly understand and be thankful myself for the abundant, incomprehensible mercies of Jesus towards me, but also so that someday others may read the stories of my wretched, sinful life, not so that I may receive any glory from these tales of my own failures and depravity that should only cause me shame, but so that those who read them may see the glorious work of Jesus my God in my life, in spite of my own sin, self-will and arrogance, and that they might come to worship and glorify the Lord Jesus, my God and merciful King. But such a project is beyond the constraints of time this day. Suffice it, now, that I simply write in the spirit of awe and thanksgiving and worship of Jesus Christ, the only true and living and all-wise God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, seen and unseen, my Lord and God and Savior and Redeemer, my Shepherd and Teacher and Guide, The Author and Finisher of my faith, the Bishop of my soul, the Captain of my Salvation, my High Priest and my Prophet from the invisible God, the only One who is worthy of all glory and worship, the One to whom I owe my forgiveness and my salvation and my sanity and my very life.
When I think of the majesty and love and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, I cannot help but praise Him, and this is what Christmas is all about, or, at least, what it is supposed to be about.
I pray that Jesus accepts my worship of Him during this arbitrary of seasons that man has decided is the appropriate time for us to remember and honor and worship Almighty God for the incredible gift He has given us. When our God saw that all of us were hopelessly lost in sin, and when He saw that, in spite of all the messages He had sent us through His prophets- mortal, sinful men themselves- no one had ever gotten it right, and furthermore, that none of us ever could get it right of ourselves, no matter how hard we tried, when He saw that there was no one to save us, He decided in His sovereign will to do it Himself. God Himself took on a human form of flesh and came and visited us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, He was born of a virgin. Yes, He came in poverty and low estate. Yes, our God chose to be born in a barn full of farm animals. Yes, angels announced His birth, and humble shepherds came to worship Him. OF COURSE kings journeyed across the known world to worship Him- the Bible says that if man refuses to worship Him out of hard-heartedness (this is not the exact quote, but I believe the spirit is the same), then the very rocks He created will cry out in worship: "Hosanna in the highest; blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord."
I have heard Christians say that all the trappings of Christmas are really for children, and this may be true, but if our celebration of Christmas is to be in a true spirit, and not merely the celebration of X-mas, then we must not relegate these awesome facts of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ to mere children's stories. If we are to understand the true meaning and importance of Christ's birth, then we must remember, while we are celebrating the facts surrounding His advent, exactly why He came down to us wretched humans into His fallen, miserable, desperate creation in the first place.
In the first two verses of the book of Hebrews, the Holy Spirit says, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." Jesus came, first of all, to give us perfect and infallible teachings. Jesus said, "The words I speak to you are SPIRIT, and they are LIFE." Jesus came to bring us into all truth, and to correct the misconceptions we had about the messages He had sent us through His holy prophets. There were many things He had already said to us through His Holy Spirit that we could never understand until God came Himself, for Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is the way, the truth and the life; no one can come to the Father but by Him.
Consider the many miracles Jesus performed while He walked the earth among us. Yes, He turned water into wine, and He walked on water to demonstrate His divine Power, and He commanded the weather to show His Power over nature- further evidence that Jesus Himself is the Creator o fnature- but most of His miracles were of love, mercy and compassion. He healed people. He cleansed lepers. He restored cripples to perfect physical health. He opened the eyes and the ears of the blind and the deaf so that they could hear and see. He even raised the dead. When Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus, just before He raised Lazarus from the dead, the Bible said that Jesus wept. This all shows that the compassion of Jesus extends to us IN THIS LIFE, not just in the next. He wants to bless and heal and restore us in this life, RIGHT HERE and RIGHT NOW.
While Jesus was with us, He also cast out demons, thereby demonstrating His Power over the god of this world. Satan is just another created being, and the Bible says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. He came to break the yoke of bondage and captivity to sin under which we all suffered. He came to deliver us from the slavery to sin in all its forms. As a recovering drug addict, formerly driven by an uncontrollable obsession and compulsion to continue to do the things that destroy me, even when I don't want to, I understand this part of Jesus' ministry better, perhaps, than a lot of people.
Jesus says, "The thief (the devil) comes to lie, to kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly."
The main thing that Jesus came to do, however, was to give His precious life in payment for the penalty of our sins. God actuallty came to this earth in the person of Jesus Christ expressly to suffer and die for us. When we think of Jesus, then, at Christmastime, as that little baby in the manger, we should also remember Him as the Lord of Glory who allowed us to mock Him and torture Him and murder Him in the most horrible way imaginable. We did this to Jesus. He had to suffer and die because of the weight of our sins. Praise Jesus! What an awesome God!
While Jesus was hanging on the cross, even while we were in the very act of murdering Him, He forgave us. I cannot worship my God and Savior Jesus Christ enough for this. He deserves all that I am, all of my life, and this is what He demands of me. He is right to demand it, and it is right that I give it to Him, for He is more than worthy of it. He is worthy, not only because He is the sovereign, almighty, holy Creator God, but also because of the mercy and the love He has demonstrated to me through His actions. He is worthy, not only of my worship and my obedidence, but also of my love. Greater love than Jesus has no one ever shown. All of us- especially me- are sinners. We all- especially me- deserve death and hell. Jesus Christ, in addition to being God Almighty, is the only sinless man who has ever lived. He came from eternal glory and deserves nothing less than eternal glory. In spite of all this, He reversed our situations and bore Himself the penalty that I deserve. Praise Jesus!
The story doesn't end there. The third day after His horrible death, He took up His physical life again and rose from the dead. He did not just rise spiritually, as many people believe; He rose PHYSICALLY. He defeated the power of sin and death, and demonstrated His almighty Power over sin and death IN THE FLESH. Praise the matchless and wonderful Name of Jesus, the only Name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved.
In spite of the abomination that is the corporate American Christmas, in spite of the lie of Santa Claus and all that claptrap, in spite of the pagan practices of trees covered with lights and mistletoe, and even in spite of the fact that I believe with my whole heart that Jesus Christ was not born in the dead of winter, that the early Catholic church just decided on that day because the winter solstice was already the biggest party in the world, and it was easier to simply take that one over rather than try and throw a competing parade, this is what Christmas means to me.
Those who know me know the struggles that I've had with sin, and the struggles I am having right now, in spite of knowing all that I've just written, and in spite of believing it with all my heart. The fact that I can continue to sin willfully in the face of this glorious mercy and salvation grieves me unspeakably. I know that it grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Jesus Christ Himself, too. I have offended God, and I continue to offend Him. I offend Him in countless decisions I make every day. Those around me see that I am often in obvious inner torment, but this is the source of my grief- it is not a symptom of my mental illness. I want so much to please my Lord Jesus. The Bible talks about the kind of man who worships God with his mouth, but his heart is far from Him. I so don't want to be this kind of man, but I know I often am by my continued disobedience. Jesus says, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." I say that I love Him, but I fail to keep His commandments so often and in so many ways. I pray that Jesus continues to forgive me for my sins and continues to chastise me for them so that I will come to repentance. I pray that He delivers me from my sins, not just my bad and disobedient behavior, but the fundamentally disobedient, defiant and rebellious nature of my heart. I pray that He takes this wickedness out of me and changes the basic way I think, that I might truly be a man after His own heart. I pray that He forgives all the times I have quenched and grieved His blessed and everlastinhg Holy Spirit by hardening my heart to His voice and not allowing myself to be led by His Spirit. I pray that He forgives me for all the times I've justified my own sin, continuing to do wrong even when I know it's wrong and comforting myself by saying, "God will forgive me." The Bible says, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? May it never be!" I so don't want to go on like this, to be this sort of man. I don't want to walk contrary to the spirit of grace.
These issues consume me, and I praise Jesus that they do! The fact that I am constantly torn up inside with grief over my own sin is evidence to me that Jesus still has a call on my life, and there's hope for me yet. Still, the struggles within me often make my behavior erratic. I become isolated and distant. I have already confessed that I have suffered from crippling mental illness, and those around me who know this see my behavior as a further manifestation of my insanity. These issues should be the primary and perpetual concern of everyone, though. There is nothing more important to me than having my life line up completely with the Word of God. There is nothing more important to me than being in God's perfect will, than being led by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ my Lord. I don't care what other people think anymore- I can't care. I don't even want to care. I know in my own heart that when these most important of all issues are my primary concern, regardless of how erratic or distant I may seem, I may just well be the sanest person in any room in which I happen to find myself.
It is my great desire for anyone reading this that you be saved, that Jesus keeps you in His salvation, that you grow in grace and in the knowledge and application of His Word, and that you are continually led by the Holy Spirit. This is my greatest desire for myself, too.
I am so looking forward to spending this Christmas with my beloved family, and I hope that you all have loved ones with whom you will share this holiday. I pray that Jesus blesses this Christmas with nothing but love and joy and salvation and spiritual victory, with a greater and more life-changing knowledge of Him in all of us. I hope and pray that He will make this the best and most blessed Christmas ever for all of us.
My name is Christopher Platt, and I am a mentally-ill, recovering drug addict and alcoholic, and I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the Power of God unto salvation for all those who will receive it and live by it, even to schizophrenics and manic depressives and junkies and whores and drunkards and thieves- even to miserable homeless wretches like me. This Power has proven itself in my life.
Merry Christmas to you all.
More like this:
- Pacific Beach Bible Church — June 4, 2008
- Bonita Orthodox Presbyterian Church — July 19, 2007
- Reformation Evangelical Lutheran Church, Clairemont — Jan. 11, 2007
- Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Oak Park — Dec. 8, 2005
- San Diego Citadel Corps — March 31, 2005