Goal Posts

Like so many others, it was in late adolescence when Douglas slammed into the invisible wall of mental illness. He was running forward,  full throttle, toward his goals for college and career when his world—and ours—crashed.

For a dozen years afterward he floundered in a fog none of us understood. There were frequent bad seasons, sprinkled with not-as-bad times and peppered with very, very bad episodes. Throughout those years Nelson and I acquired a new skill we call “moving the goal post.”

We continually assessed Douglas’ capacity to move forward and tried to divine reasonable expectations. Then we would “move the goal post” to where success could be achieved, always setting it down where he could set his hopes on the possible.

Is now the time to aim for a job? Could he manage a class at the community college? Is this a season for independent living? Or are we at a place today that just getting him to go to sleep is the endgame? We always stayed aware that what might be a reasonable, achievable goal today might be a cruel burden tomorrow … always knowing that yesterday’s goal might seem patronizing today. Nonetheless, we set, aimed and tried to keep moving toward hope.

Douglas is living in recovery these days. No longer do we need to carry the goal post from one end of the field to the other. Our range of motion now covers only about 20 yards. We are thankful, yet mindful that with mental illness there will always be a back and forth motion to life.

To respond to this, we stay alert, attentive and agile. We hold all things loosely and embrace the art of flexibility. We anchor our faith in the One who never changes, but who faithfully steers us through rough seas and leads us beside quiet waters. And though the measure of success changes day to day, we can trust His Spirit to guide Douglas onto level ground where the goal posts are just within reach.

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