Good morning. My name is Nathan Marrs, and as an incoming deacon, I wanted to share about couple of different times in my life.
My first real job after college was working in a psychiatric hospital. I worked on an all-male unit with patients who often experienced severe psychoses. So they might hear voices that were not their own or see things that were not really there or wholeheartedly believe things that were just not true.
In the past, many of those men had experienced such severe symptoms that they had engaged in some terrible and sometimes violent crimes. Due to their illnesses, they did not go to a correctional institution. Instead they joined us at the hospital.
For me, this same psychiatric hospital was the place that truly helped to expand my understanding of God’s grace.
Like many of us at Highland, I came from a more Fundamentalist background – to the point of going to a small Christian college. Part of my outlook on life was this arrogant idea that if we just studied enough, then there would be no limit to what we could know. With this knowledge, we could have a clear, concrete way to view and engage the world around us.
But then I got a job… at the psych hospital. And I started working with both patients and coworkers from all different backgrounds, different upbringings, different pasts.
It quickly became apparent that, as different as we sometimes were, we were all just people trying to get by. At the very least, it all felt like we were all Children of God. And again, I got the sense that God’s unconditional and transforming grace was much bigger than I had imagined.
So I remember feeling this tension between wanting others to get on board with my theological thinking and then thinking that perhaps my ideas about God just weren’t big enough.
Now if I’m being honest, it wasn’t just the job that started this intellectual and also very emotional change. It was a hundred different things that were chipping away at my black-and-white worldview – new relationships, new experiences, my own journey with grief and loss, and an openness to new ways of theological reflection.
It’s been a long time since I worked at the psych hospital. For the past seven years, I have been working as a chaplain, mostly with older adults – a population that I love dearly.
My wife Jackie and our two sons, Owen and Weston, have been members here for a few years now. My hope is that as a deacon, I can continue to grow and encourage others to grow in our community of faith.