Sarah Griffith Lund was a close friend of mine when we were at Trinity University together.
I was shy, but Sarah brought me out of my shell.
Her tool? Questions.
“Why did you do that?” she might ask, with absolutely no hint of “I wouldn’t have done that” behind the question. She genuinely wanted to know. It was easy to sit down with Sarah and talk, and not realize that two hours had flown by.
Sarah was a generous listener, but from time to time she did open up about her own life, revealing her struggles with weight, or her puzzlement over the diverse expressions of faith she sampled in different campus ministries. She talked about her desire to keep life simple by staying disconnected from her father, who was mentally ill. (He would sometimes call her to chat, but would end up ranting about Lyndon LaRouche instead.)
But mostly Sarah asked questions. She made me feel like I was the most important person in the room. I think she had that effect on everyone.
So I wasn’t surprised when Sarah said she was applying to seminary. What a perfect vocation for someone who likes to ask questions, I thought. I read Sarah’s application letter for Princeton Seminary and offered a few suggestions for polishing it up. She got in to Princeton, and eventually was ordained as a pastor in the Disciples of Christ denomination. We lost touch after college.
Seven years later, in 2006, I was living in Washington DC. Sarah tracked me down to invite me to her wedding in Florida. I was thrilled to re-connect by phone, but wasn’t able to go to the wedding. I was still banking up my paid time off at work after nine weeks’ maternity leave the previous fall.
Then in 2012, Sarah found me again, this time through the magic of Facebook. She was writing a book! She asked if I would edit some sample chapters Chalice Press had requested. They liked her memoir proposal and were looking to include her book in their new imprint, The Young Clergy Women Project.
My Turn to Be Curious
I printed out the files Sarah sent. As I read, I handled each page with care. Sarah had told me a little about her growing-up years, but there was much I didn’t know. I turned over each 8.5 x 11″ page on my reading stand, and I listened. I tried to hear Sarah’s voice as I remembered it from our late-night talks in college.
After Sarah signed her contract with Chalice Press she began sending the full manuscript my way, a chapter at a time. Now it was my turn to be curious. In emails and manuscript queries, a kind of back-and-forth emerged.
I asked questions. What event or prior knowledge precipitated this action or that narrative choice? What assumptions are buried inside this paragraph, and how can we bring them out? “Why did you do that?” (no judgement attached). It was an honor to be the one asking this time around.
Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church is about the role mental illness in the family, specifically bipolar disorder, played in forging Sarah’s faith and outlook on life. The book is intended for all readers interested in these topics, as well as for church leaders and other helping professionals.
I’m so happy for Sarah and excited about the important message she shares in her book. We are planning to get together in October for our 15-year reunion at Trinity. Sarah will be the guest preacher at Trinity’s Margarite B. Parker Chapel on October 12.
Click on the book cover image to order your copy from Chalice Press.
Read more about Sarah’s journey on her blog.