“Thanks to my cousin Danei Edelen for helping to put this obituary together” my cousin Mark Worden said. “Dr. Ronald Dean Worden, age 82, was gathered to his Savior at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2020…”. Smiling through our tears, my mom, my aunts, and I strained to see and hear my uncle Ron’s memorial service “virtually” on July 1 due to COVID-19. Coming from a family of preachers and teachers, we are used to living apart, but not at times like a funeral. “We are just happy to be together,” has always been our family motto.
Like his father, his mother, and my father, my uncle Ron pursued ministry as a career. My uncle Ron was a brilliant, soft-spoken man with a passion for teaching the scriptures. He studied the Bible at institutions such as Harvard Divinity School, Yale University and Princeton Theological Seminary. For over 50 years, uncle Ron taught college, master’s and seminary students of all denominations.
“He is the only person I know that could read Hebrew and New Testament Greek directly without a commentary and create daily devotionals,” his son Mark told me recently. “I am trying to be positive about it. He finally gets to see his father.”
When my uncle Ron was 11 years old, his father Dean Worden died suddenly. Dean Worden was a father of five children, a Methodist pastor, and a college professor at Barclay College at the time. Barclay College’s library is dedicated to him. To provide for her family, my grandmother June taught grade school during the school year, attended various colleges and graduated from Friends University as an (Evangelical Quaker) pastor during the summertime. Her children spent the summers with relatives. In the Quaker tradition, women have always been allowed to be pastors. We believe that my uncle Ron is enjoying a wonderful reunion in heaven. Yet, I know my family is not the only family that is experiencing grief and loss during this time.
As a person living with a mental illness, my relationship with God has not been a smooth one. I will tell you that taking my medication is an act of obedience for me. Daily, I struggle with depression. When I was drawing the Jackal picture, however, I believe God put this scripture verse on my heart.
Isaiah 43:19-21 – New Revised Standard Version: Verse 19 — I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Verse 20 — The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people. Verse 21 — The people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.org) taught me as a person that wrestles with a mental illness to “speak from my lived experience.” When I have done so, family, friends and even strangers have called me courageous and even inspirational. Thank you for listening to my lived experiences that are different than your own.
I would also like to say thank you for those people in my life willing to “start the conversation” about what is a very divisive issue in our culture today. Only through my mental illness did I experience discrimination. To be candid, the “lived experience” stories I am hearing break my heart. As a Christ follower, I know that his heart is also broken.
What grieves God’s heart
I believe what grieves God’s heart is how his word is being bandied about by everyone to defend existing positions versus obeying it. As Matthew 5:24 says (in The New Revised Standard Version), “leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
I do believe that the creator of the universe wants to tenderize our hearts so he can do a new thing. I think he wants to use all of us together to think about positive constructive change in our culture. I do not believe that God is removing his blessing from this nation.
We are living in tumultuous times. My daily prayer is for reconciliation. What that looks like on a practical, tangible, level I do not yet know. I do believe I am called to pray and listen to my brothers and sisters whose lived experiences are different than my own. As a NAMI friend said to me recently, “We just need to begin talking to each other.”
God bless America.
Danei Edelen is president for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Brown County Ohio affiliate. NAMI Brown County Ohio provides support groups for individuals and their families living with mental illness. Find it on Facebook at @NAMIBrownCountyOhio. During COVID-19, we meet virtually through Zoom on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. For more information on NAMI Brown County Ohio, call 937-378-3504 ext. 102 or email bcnami@bcmhas.