Breathing Underwater - Week One

Pastor Curt Taylor kicks off our new series on mental health, "Breathing Underwater"

Scripture References & Transcript

Romans 7:17-25

John 5:2-8


This poem was written by Carol Baylock. It’s where this whole sermon series has really wrapped around that feeling, that understanding of breathing underwater, that that poem captures so well. Interestingly, she wrote the first draft of that poem when she was just 15 years old. 15, it seems like a really heavy poem for a 15 year old. And then she would go on to further add to it as she got older. And there’s something that changes in life at some age, at some stage we start to experience some challenges in life that as kids, it was so much easier. When I was a kid, if you were in pain, if you were having a problem, all you had to do was put a bandaid on. That was it. And if you’ve got young kids, you know what I’m talking about. They, every one of my kids had a stage that they enter into where all of a sudden they learn what the bandaid does.

And then they think that there’s mystical, magical properties around the bandaid. And so not only will they put the bandaid on their ouchie or their scratch or their injury, then they’ll just start putting bandaids on anything. And everyone and everything. You find ’em randomly around your house, they put ’em on you, they’ve got a whole sleeve of bandaids. Then they, they realize that there’s more than one type of bandaid. And so we’ve got all kinds of bandaids at our house. We’ve got colorful bandaids, uh, they’re bright. Uh, we’ve got fun bandaids. Here’s Paw Pet Patrol. Now the problem, once you start getting into character bandaids like princesses is now they want a specific bandaid. And when they can’t find that bandaid, not just any bandaid will do the, the old normal bandaid, the one that we grew up on. Yeah, no, not a chance to a three year old in 2023, you better get some good name brand identifiable characters in order to put on an out sheet.

It’s interesting about bandaids ’cause ’cause there’s a few different types. Uh, there’s that type of bandaid that you’ve got an injury. And it is, instead of hiding the injury, actually drawing attention to the injury, it’s, it’s one, uh, like this right here, the biggest bandaid in the history of the world. So you might have an injury and decide, well, what I’m gonna do with my injury is I’m going to put a bandaid on it that is so bright and so loud that everybody is going to notice my bandaid. So my kids do sometimes. Then of course, there’s these other bandaids that they’re just meant to be funny. You look at that bandaid and you start to laugh. Anybody out there a bluey fan that shows how old you are? Or, uh, if you don’t have young kids, you have no clue who Bluey is. Bluey is a dog with the best dad in the history of the world.

He has an amazing mom too, but his dad is like unreal. If you want parenting advice, you don’t need to read a book. Uh, you don’t, you don’t need to do anything other than just start watching bluey and do what Bingo does. And if you do that, you’ll be a fantastic father, uh, bluey. If you have one of these and you’re a kid, then other kids look at it and they point at and they laughed because it turns an injury into comedy. It’s funny, it works. Big old bluey bandaid. And then of course there’s the famous, or maybe it’s the infamous bandaid. Bandaid. Now they have bandaids of every flesh color. But growing up there was just one. It was way tanner than me. So, uh, as someone as pale as me, it didn’t work very well. But what was the point of this kind of bandaid?

Ultimately the point is to make it disappear, make it invisible. Make it blend in. Make it to where maybe at least from a distance, people can’t tell. It’s interesting in life as we get older, as we encounter more pain and more suffering, that we tend to deal with that pain the same way that kids deal with band-aids. There’s a few different options that we have. Sometimes we actually draw attention to the pain in our life. We draw attention to the issues in all our life. We make it like a colorful bandaid that we put it on display for the world to see. Or maybe you’re someone that you turn it into a joke, you just try and laugh it off. Maybe even on the surface, you make it seem like it’s a joke and seem like it’s no big deal, but deep down it really does hurt.

Or maybe for you, like most people, you don’t want anybody to know about the pain that you’ve got in your life, maybe for you that you want it to just stay hidden. And your desire is that nobody would know that you face challenges and issues that maybe on the outside everything looks great and everything looks perfect and everything looks wonderful, but on the inside you’ve got deep wounds, deep suffering, deep issues. You don’t know what to do with them. Sometimes as we become adults and start to encounter different challenges in life, we can feel isolated. We feel alone. We can have this perception that nobody else in the world is dealing with. What I am dealing with right now, I think social media exacerbates that ’cause social media, your friends, everything looks perfect, everything looks great, and it makes it even more feel like you’re the only one on an island that’s suffering, that’s going through what you might be going through.

If you feel that, if you feel any of that tension right now, can I just tell you that you’re not alone? As a matter of fact, unfortunately in our culture, it’s becoming pretty rampant here. Here’s three different statistics that I, I I would point out. One is that anxiety, depression and substance abuse are at all time highs. That’s according to Healthy Mind study. A lot of that can be attributed to coming outta covid and what’s happened in these last few years. But anxiety, depression, substance abuse, all time highs. In addition to that, the, the suicide rate as of this came out in the last week. But the suicide rate right now is the highest in the United States since World War ii. That’s from the C d C. So c d C is when we peaked, and this is the highest since then in the history of our nation.

And then lastly, it’s not just adults. In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Amerin, uh, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association issued a joint statement to the Biden administration, urging that child and ad adolescent mental health be declared a national emergency. And so we’re at this crossroads as a culture in a country where we have these issues underneath the surface and a lot of professionals aren’t sure what to do with it. If you’ve got a Bible turn with me to Romans chapter seven. Uh, we’re gonna be looking at a really famous passage and and here’s the encouragement in this passage. If you’re one of those people that’s struggling right now, not only are you not alone, uh, we have plenty of people in the country that are going through those same struggles. But scripturally we’ll find that Paul had the same type of issues.

If you’ve got a Bible, we, in Romans chapter seven verses 17 through 25. Now normally I read out of the E S V, that’s what I like to teach out of today. I’m gonna be reading out of the message. ’cause I love how Eugene Peterson translates this specific passage. Romans chapter seven, starting of verse 17. It says, Paul says, but I need something more for if I know the law but still can’t keep it. And if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help. I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it. I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions such as they are don’t result in actions. Something has gone deep wrong within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands. But it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but I’m pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. That the struggles that we see so prevalent right now are the same struggles that Paul said he had. Now, Paul was a Christian.

Uh, clearly he was someone who had made Jesus the Lord of his life, was following after God. And yet even as a Christian, he had these internal struggles that he had, that he’s wrestling with, that he’s fighting with that sometimes, uh, we can feel like we’re all alone there. Were the only person that’s ever struggled with whatever we’re dealing with. And then we read the words of Paul. And so much of what he said sounds so familiar. At least it does to me that I’ve been there. I’ve been with that wrestling in my soul. And he gives us the answer. The first answer is to recognize the need for Jesus, the foundational truth that you and I need in my life. Whatever we’re dealing with, whatever we’re going through is first and foremost, it needs to start with Jesus. But then what often happens is we think, well, I I don’t need any other help.

I I can just try and do it by myself. I I will just try hard enough and get over it. But, but we don’t get help. Why not? Uh, we see a nation that has a mental health crisis that has so many different challenges and often at the root of it, what they really need is, is first and foremost they need Jesus. But they, they also need to extend the hand and recognize that they need someone else to help them out. But, but we don’t tend to do that. Uh, I thought, why, why is it in my life and times that I’ve needed help that I didn’t get help? Why is it that I don’t get help here? Here’s some reasons it’s not exhaustive, but it’s some of those reasons. The first is denial. It’s really easy sometimes to pretend like nothing’s going on. And maybe because we, we put that invisible bandaid on that as we’re convincing the world around us that nothing’s wrong, we can sometimes convince ourself that nothing is wrong.

We live in denial of the need for help, denial of the issues that we’re facing. And sometimes it’s just simply feelings of guilt or shame that because I have this guilt or because I have this shame, I’m so scared what anybody else might think or say that I don’t want to deal with. And I just feel like I’ll turn inwardly and, and try and deal with it by myself. That can lead to embarrassment. That, that question, what will blink? Think that I have a moment that I really need help. I’m, I’m dealing with an issue. And really, I, I should get outside my comfort box. I should find a counselor. I should find a pastor. I should go forward and, and receive prayer. But, but there’s a part of me that says, well, wait a second. I mean, what, what if somebody else finds out?

What are they gonna think about me? Is there gonna be a stigma that gets associated with me if I go to that class or if I go to that course, if I go to a counselor? Sometimes embarrassment is what prevents us from getting help. Sometimes it’s self-hatred that you’ve dealt with, whatever that thing is for just long enough where you are just hating yourself and it feels better to just hate yourself and live in it than to try and get better. Sometimes we feel, well, I’m just not strong enough. I can’t do it. I won’t be able to overcome this. So why, even in trying and sometimes we just blame sometimes in take, instead of taking ownership and accountability of the issues and the struggles that we have in our life, we say, well, it’s not my fault. It’s because of that. It’s because of this one thing.

Well, if you would’ve had my mom, if you would’ve had my dad, if you would’ve had my childhood, if you would just understand what he did to me or what she said to me, then you’d feel the same way that I do. And that all could be very true. I don’t know your story and I’m sure that you have as part of your story, some brokenness. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, the rain falls and the good and the evil alike, that we’re all gonna face challenges in this life. And I don’t know all the challenges that you face and many of the challenges that you face might not be your fault. They might be because of somebody else. And yet, here’s what scripture tells us. What is ours to decide is what we do with the next step. We, we can’t change what’s happened to us, but we can change what we make of what we have and who we are.

AA is an amazing organization. It started by two Christians that, that wrote the big book, alcoholics Anonymous. The big book is all about walking through these 12 steps. Every one of those 12 steps is really founded in scripture. But anybody who’s gone through a 12 Steps program would tell you the same thing. The hardest part of a 12 step program is step number one. This is step number one. It says, we admit that we are powerless. And in the book it says over alcohol. ’cause it’s very specific to alcohol. But really this would be true for any issue that you’ve got in your life. Admit that we are powerless over blank, that our lives have become unmanageable now. Now here’s what you have to kinda unpack with the meaning behind that is that sometimes people hear that word, I’m powerless. And, and they, they say, I don’t like to think of the fact that I’m powerless.

And here’s what it’s not saying. It’s not saying that you don’t have the power to make changes in your life. It is agreeing with you in that what it’s saying is that that issue. And so for an alcoholic, it’s saying that that specific issue of alcohol, recognizing that you’re in need of help is the most critical, the most important, and yet also the most challenging. And it’s saying, I cannot do this by myself. So pick your issue. Pick what that thing is in your life, that thing that that just like Paul described that you’ve been wrestling with for, for months or maybe for even years over and over and over again. And maybe that you convinced the world around you that it’s not that big of a deal, but probably that issue, if it’s been there long enough, it’s affected your close relationships, it’s affected your close family and whatever that issue is, will you get to the point where you recognize, I need help.

I need help. When I was somewhere around, uh, three or four years old, I was actually texting my parents this morning to try and remember how old I was. My mom thinks that I was three years old. My dad thinks that I was four or five years old. But regardless, I was very young. And we went with a church family, a few church families to Astroworld. Now Astroworld does not exist anymore a Rip Astroworld. But back in the day in Houston, Texas, there was a Six Flags theme park, which, which this is a side note, it has nothing to do with anything, but they shut down six flags because the property became worth a lot. So they shut down, they sold the, the dirt, everybody expected development. And do you know what’s there? 20 years later, nothing. So they got rid of Astroworld for no good reason whatsoever.

Uh, but I was in Astroworld and one of my first times gonna astroworld as a really young kid. And Astroworld now as adult probably was really dirty and gross. But as a kid, I mean, it’s, it is a theme park. It’s just the coolest thing in the entire world. And I remember that vividly. Remember, regardless of how young I was, this is probably my first memory in life, it seared into my mind. And I remember being with the group and they were all sitting there talking the, were trying to figure out what we were gonna do next. And off to the side, uh, it was getting towards dusk and they had those booths. If you’ve been to a theme park, you know what I’m talking about. They have these booths that they’re trying to sell predominantly to little kids like me, glow in the dark, flashy things.

So they’ve got necklaces that you can put on. Uh, they’ve got bracelets that you can put on. They’ve got little things that, like, you press a button and it spins and it has all kinda lights. Uh, as a, as a young boy, the thing that I thought was the coolest, they had swords that lit up, kinda looked like a lightsaber, except it was like multicolored. And, and I just remember turning and just being distracted and gazing right at all the flashy stuff. And I’m staring at the flashy stuff. I’m sure I took a few steps towards the flashy stuff. And then I turned around and my group was gone. Nobody was there. And I, I vividly remember this memory where I turn around and they’re not there. And I start to walk and I start to roam. And, and at first, I, I, I start to cry out, mom, dad.

And then I went through every sibling, Marie, Steven, Beth, Beth’s, like two. I was even calling out for her name. And then I’m just in the middle of a theme park with lots and lots of people running around as a three or four year old, maybe a five-year-old by myself. And can I tell you that I can, can feel right now in my gut and my heart and my soul, the anxiety that I felt in that moment, the fear that I felt in that moment, the loneliness that I felt in the moment, the panic that I felt in that moment. And for a few minutes, I just roamed not sure what to do. And it struck me that my parents in the car, right before we got out of the car heading into Astroworld, my mom said, I want you all to know this. And it was one of those moments with my mom where she’d say, I want eyeballs.

Everybody’s eyes right here. I wanna make sure that we’re all on the same page. She said, if you get lost. And she counted that by saying, and you shouldn’t get lost. We’ll be with you the whole time, but if you get lost, you need to look for someone who’s wearing a name badge and that person can help you. And so after, it probably wasn’t even that long, but what felt like an eternity as a young boy with panic and anxiety and fear, I turned and I started looking for someone with a name badge and I found who was really a custodian worker, but they had a name badge. And I walked up to ’em and I said, hi, I’m lost. That’s what I said. I didn’t know what else to say. Didn’t know, didn’t know what story I’m, I just said, Hey, I am lost.

And, and what I did not know, what you might not know is that there is a lost and found for children at theme parks because that’s where I got taken. So I got taken to lost and found. And I, I, I vividly remember going in because every kid was running around having fun. Like they were playing <laugh>. And in the back of my mind, I, I mean, I’m, I’m crying at this point. I’m, I’m like an emotional mess. And I’m walking in, I’m like, what is wrong with you kids? We’re lost. Okay. Why are you having fun right now? And I sat in the corner and I was, I was just distraught. What I found out after the fact is that my, my parents were, they were with some other families and they were making the decision. It was towards the end of the day.

It was, what are we gonna do? We, we got time for maybe one or two more things. And so my mom and the ladies decided, Hey, we’re gonna go to the Dolphin Show. They had a little show that you could go sit down and watch the Dolphin Show. We’re all going. The the girls are gonna go to the Dolphin Show. And, and my, my dad and the guys, they decided they were gonna do a few more rides and then they would meet back up together. And so they split and they split for the entire length of the Dolphin Show, which is not a short amount of time. And then they came back together. And this was the conversation that, that I didn’t get to experience. But I can now imagine as an adult having this conversation with my wife where we get back together and my mom looks at my dad and says, well, where’s Kurt?

And my dad says, well, he’s with you. And my mom said, we went boys one way and girls the other way. Kurt’s a boy. He was with you, <laugh>. And my dad said, but he was only three. I figured he’d stay with mom. And then they had that moment of panic and anxiety. ’cause it’s not like I’d been missing for two minutes. I mean, this is an hour of little Kurt is in lost and found <laugh>. And so eventually I remember sitting in lost and found with the other children who were all having a great time. And eventually my dad walks through the door. And can I just tell you, I’ve never been more excited to see a parent before in my entire life. I mean, I, I started crying again because I was just so, there was a part of three year old me that was like, I’m lost forever for the rest of my life. I’m gonna live with these crazy kids by ourselves and lost and founded Astroworld.

Sometimes in life we get lost. Sometimes in life, you encounter a challenging situation where you’ve got whatever it is, anxiety, depression, fear, suicidal thoughts, those things can lead to substance abuse. And maybe your thing isn’t even that day deep. Maybe your thing is a relationship. Maybe your thing is your marriage, right? Your marriage is falling apart and you know that it’s falling apart. Maybe you’ve even just stopped working on it and you’re just living together and trying to figure it out. Whatever that issue is, at some point you come to the end of yourself and you recognize, I can’t do this alone. And you turn and you try and find somebody with a badge. That’s what AA is all about. It’s recognizing I can’t do it alone. And so I need help. And John chapter five, uh, there’s this amazing story. It’s a, it’s a famous story, but we often miss the real question that Jesus asks. Uh, Jesus is entering into Jerusalem, and this is what it says. Now, there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, a pool, an Aramaic called Beseda, which has five roofed colonate in these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for 38 years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, do you want to be healed? I want you to pause for a second and just really unpack that verse. Do you want to be healed? It seems like a ridiculous question, doesn’t it? He walks up to someone who’s lame, who’s been lame for 38 years. He’s lying by the pool, hoping for a miracle, hoping to get help. And Jesus doesn’t just walk up to him and say, Hey, I’m gonna heal you. He doesn’t walk up to him and strike up a conversation. We see Jesus throughout the different gospels. We see him heal in a whole multitude of ways. He doesn’t have one line that he starts out with. And yet in this moment, he chooses to begin the conversation with an odd question. Do you want to be healed?

Now, that’s a yes or no question. It’s either, yes, I wanna be healed or No, I don’t want to be healed. And this is the answer that man gives him. The sick man answered him, sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. And while I’m going, another steps down before me. There was this idea, uh, that once a year an angel would come and sir, the pool, sir, the water and the first person that would get in would be healed. And so Jesus asks this question, do you want to be healed? And instead of giving a yes or no answer, he takes it as an accusation. He takes it as I’m sure what a multitude of other people had, had that same conversation with this guy. And they blamed him for his infirmity. They blamed him for his problem. And so he took this statement from Jesus as an accusation of, oh, do I want to be healed? Well, it’s not my fault. Let me give you the innate answer. Let me explain to you what I’ve tried to do. Then it goes on to say this. He says, do you want to be healed?

It says, when Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, do you want to be healed? The Sigma answered, sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. And while I’m going, uh, another steps down before me. And then Jesus said to him, get up. Take your bed and walk. You see, what the guy didn’t understand at the time is that Jesus wasn’t making an accusation. Instead, Jesus was offering an invitation. There’s are radically different things from each other. He interpreted it as an accusation of, this is your fault. Woe is you. Why are you doing this? Why have you messed up in life? Why don’t you just get into the water? That’s how the man interpreted it. But no, Jesus was offering him an invitation, an invitation to be healed.

But then it’s interesting how Jesus heals him. The next step is that Jesus says, get up and walk. So he first offers this invitation with a really challenging question. Do you want to be healed? And then after that really challenging question of do you want to be healed? He now puts the responsibility back onto the person. Now, the miracle is coming from Jesus. The man can’t heal himself, but then Jesus puts onto the man to get up and walk. The man could have not believed him. The man could have said, oh, this crazy person, I’m staying right where I am. So Jesus heals him, but then places a human responsibility on the man to respond to the healing. It’s an important question. Do you want to be healed? It’s a question that Jesus asked the man. It’s a question that each and every one of ’em should ask ourselves, do you want to be healed?

There’s a slide for that. Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be healed? Whatever your issue is right now, whatever you’re struggling with right now, do you want to be healed? So the first step is to recognizing that you can’t do it by yourself. That you need Jesus as the foundational piece to that, that that’s where it starts. But then it’s also not trying to do it by yourself. It’s asking yourself, what’s your next step? What’s your next step? So, so I’ve got a relationship with Jesus. I’ve got a relationship with him, but I recognize, hey, just like Paul, I can’t do it by myself. And so I need to find help. Now, there’s all kinds of different help that you can find. Uh, maybe you’re hearing you’re struggling with substance abuse. Maybe you got some issue in your life that you, it’s a sin that’s been over and over and over again.

You don’t know how to beat it, and you’ve tried to beat it and you can’t beat it. We have an amazing program called Regen. Uh, it, it goes all year round, but it’s about to really kick up in the fall. And maybe your next step is to recognize, come to the end of yourself and say, Hey, I need to be healed and I need help to do this because I can’t do it by myself. And so maybe it’s, it’s coming and saying, Hey, how can I get plugged in to region? Walk alongside some other people that have different things that they’re struggling with and working through, but in a godly, biblical way, deal with that struggle. Maybe your issue, you need counseling. And maybe depending upon where you grew up, that scene is a negative thing. Can I just tell you, I think everybody should go to counseling.

Everybody in life should at some point go see a counselor. And so maybe you’ve been putting that off. Maybe you’ve been struggling with anxiety or depression or suicidal thoughts. Uh, whatever you’re dealing with, maybe your next step is, Hey, I need professional help. We would love to help you find a counselor. Maybe it’s for your marriage. Maybe your marriage is just absolutely falling apart. And like this bandaid, you keep it hidden really well. Maybe you keep it hidden from your family and your kids. Maybe you even keep it hidden from your friends, but you know that you’re not gonna make it. What’s your next step? First, it’s saying, do you wanna be healed? And then it’s responding to that and saying, I’m gonna lay down my pride. I’m gonna lay down my ego and I’m gonna say, I need help. We need help to solve this issue. And that’s a hard thing laying down your pride. Setting aside that, that shame, setting aside, uh, that discomfort, setting aside what other people might think. The man at the waters had the same issue. When Jesus says, do you want to be healed? He takes it as an accusation.

And then Jesus says, stand up and walk. And in that moment, in the back of his mind, he could have thought, well, he’s probably just trying to make a, a mockery of me. He can’t really heal me. I should just stay right where I am. But he decides to take a step of faith. He decides to answer both questions first. Yes, yes, I do want to be healed. And then secondly, his next step was to simply believe, to stand up and walk. And he didn’t just walk. Scripture tells us he ran and he jumped and he danced. And that’s what God wants for you as well. Last few weeks I’ve been cleaning out my garage. It’s one of those pro projects. If you’ve started a project like this that you think it’s gonna be, oh, I don’t know, three days and I’ll get it knocked out, and three weeks later, I’m still working on my garage and then cleaning out my garage. I, I found a handful of these. I, I don’t know what happens to extension cords. It went in a box when we were moving two years ago in Houston, and then it came out of the box looking like this. So there’s some, some gremlin that lives inside of my garage that when I’m not looking, ties the extension cords into knots. And there’s a part when you look at an extension cord like that, honestly, there’s a part of me that’s like, let’s just throw it away. Let’s just start from scratch. It’s worthless at this point.

This wasn’t even the worst one. I had one that looked worse than this, believe it or not. And yet, you look at that and there’s a part of you that can just feel hopeless. I mean, it’s just obnoxious to try and untie an cord. But do you know how you untie an extension cord? Whether it has one knot in it or a hundred knots in it, you untie it the same way, one knot at a time. Maybe your life feels like this. Maybe your life is a jumbled mess and you don’t know where to start and you don’t know what to do. Can I tell you how you untie the mess of your life? You start with Jesus. You start with Jesus, and then you let him with community, untie your life one knot at a time. Let’s pray Heaven. Father, I just thank you for the, the privilege of wrestling with a tough sermon series.

God, as we look at the world around us, we look at the statistics. We recognize that the world is broken, the world is suffering. The world has issues. And Lord, for anyone in the room right now that is suffering, that has issues, God help us to recognize we’re not alone. Scripture tells us we are all broken. Every single one of us is broken in need of a savior, in need of you. And so, Lord, I pray for those people in this room right now, God, that have been so broken for so long, they don’t know what to do. God, I pray that today can be a day that if they don’t know you, that they starve by knowing you, by giving their life to Jesus. If they do do know you, then they will figure out what’s their next step. God, today can be a day that they start to unwind the knots in their life little by little one at a time. We pray these things in the name of Jesus.