It felt as though every nerve in my body was popping. Imagine large strong hands slowly applying pressure while breaking a family-size package of uncooked, dry spaghetti. I was the spaghetti. Breaking down one piece at a time.
This is how Juanita Rasmus begins the wise, frank, and witty account of what she later called "The Crash" and what her counselor labeled "a major depressive episode." This experience landed Juanita, a busy pastor, mother, and community leader, in bed. In addition to exhaustion and depression, on the spiritual front she experienced a dark night of the soul. When everything in her life finally came to a stop, she found that she had to learn to be—with herself and with God—all over again.
Pastor Juanita writes from her life with kind attention to the life of the reader. She offers both practical and spiritual insights but never pat answers. If you are longing for a trustworthy companion through dark days, this book is here for you. Each chapter includes life-giving spiritual practices to help you discover your own new ways of being.
"Learning to Be is the book many of us have been waiting for. Juanita's transparency and authenticity come through on every page. This is a book that not only gives you the tools for learning to be, but also learning to heal and thrive. You will cry, laugh, and appreciate the value of learning to love yourself fully and embrace the love of God deeply. More than once I found myself reading and saying, 'Yes that's me too. Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone, thank you for using your own story and the lessons learned to offer the rest of us a roadmap.' In Learning to Be you will be affirmed on the journey to be authentically you, whole and healed."
"Every perfectionist should read this book, every Southern 'good girl,' every person who has ever felt empty. 'The reality is, many of us stand in a circle with stones in hand all too often,' says Pastor Rasmus. Then she convinces us, her readers, to set down our stones."
"Juanita and I have been friends for many years. I admire her preaching and teaching gifts, and value her generous contribution as a member of our Renovaré ministry team. Juanita describes herself as a type A personality. This is indeed true . . . although triple A might be a little more accurate description! Her 'crash,' as she describes her major depressive episode, was exactly that in every sense—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I say all this to underscore for you the importance of Learning to Be. This is a book of genuine substance dealing with the most heart-wrenching needs of the human soul. Learning to Be is an essential resource for every person seeking to navigate life in contemporary culture. I recommend it highly."
"Carl Rodgers wrote, 'That which is most personal is most universal.' Learning to Be by Juanita Rasmus is a book of autobiographical vulnerability about her 'crash' with a depressive mood disorder. In her candid reflection she creates a psycho/spiritual worldview that is a resource for us all. This is a must-read for all who seek to find a faith that is both practical and functional, a nonsentimental spirituality."
"We live in the two worlds of doing and being. Juanita's 'crash' was perhaps a clash of these two worlds. This book is a bold record of how she handled 'the crash.' Her lull allowed her to not only slow down but to go deep inside where literary giant Alice Walker says that we find God. Once deep inside, Juanita embraced and reflected on spiritual disciplines that provided a healing path for her. Her examples and stories facilitate a path for our own growth and invite us to not only embrace spiritual disciplines but to celebrate them so that ultimately we can learn to write our own ode to something or someone as our spiritual exercise."
"A real learning to be book. Beginning with her experience of depression, the author offers us a rich guide to helpful resources and Christian practice that will enable readers to grow and to appreciate more deeply who they really are. An excellent guide for a dark time."
"From the moment I began Juanita's very personal and beautifully written story, I could not put it down. She speaks deep truth on every page as she recounts what caused her 'crash,' and how she found her true identity as the beloved child of God she is. This book describes a life-giving journey—a journey to authentic freedom—that all of us need to hear."
"With grace and courage, Juanita Rasmus invites the reader to follow her journey from what she calls 'the crash'—her own dark night of the soul—through her valley of facing her own shadow, self-doubt, perfectionism, depression, and fear, to the encounter with her true self. Not as an exhibitionist but as an authentic seeker, Juanita beams the light of hope on our own valleys and midlife crises as well as on the possibilities and processes of rebirth, recovery, restoration, and transformation. Juanita's story is a story of faith at work, walking the talk, persistence, and patience. By telling her story, Juanita shows us that it is possible to walk through our own valleys, not getting stuck in them but allowing God to use the raw and rough edges of our lives for good."
"We have always misunderstood and misrepresented mental health, especially in women. Juanita's book reads as a real conversational model to engage health in a very meaningful way. Juanita's inward journey reflects her ability to rely upon and use the spiritual teachings and strong religious foundation that are core to her life. These are two key elements of any in-depth journey into the discovery of one's true self. Juanita also provides guidance and direction in approaching the journey to self, sharing her own journey in such a way that anyone using the book can feel accompanied and lovingly supported. I loved this book and felt embraced by the gift of a friend sharing her spiritual journey."
"Each of us will experience pain and loss throughout our lives, and the names that we designate for the ways in which we may suffer are many. We can only hope that those who endure the descent possess both the desire to share their story and the words to communicate the details of their depths. With an arduously earned presence born, in part, through a personal commitment to hold the hands of those in need as they struggle and seek to understand a new reality, Pastor Juanita Rasmus possesses both the story and the words. Throughout her book, the reader joins with her to laugh and marvel, to wonder and contemplate, to pause and recognize the fragility of our lives. Stories from those who have sustained the dark night serve as a reminder and guide rail as we all confront dark nights of our own. I feel thankful that her voice and story now rest in the recesses of my heart, for I know I will call upon them one day."
"Pastor Juanita Rasmus has written a winsome, raw, and powerful narrative about her unique story—her own mental health crash. And yet even as it is her story, it is one that will resonate with all of us, especially in these times as we have been pushed to breaking. Learning to Be should be read by anyone who struggles to know how God and community matter when life is hard, really all of us. I was changed by reading this book."
"Over the years, I've witnessed Juanita navigate the highs and lows of marriage, motherhood, ministry, and womanhood. I've seen her journey from the self-professed 'good girl' to a leader who wholeheartedly seeks God with a level of authenticity, transparency, and grace that is unmatched. And in this book, she inspires us to do the same. In Learning to Be, Juanita invites us into one of the most intimate and revealing spaces of her life, which was her battle with depression. . . . I can't imagine another person I'd want to usher me through such an intimate and raw journey."
Foreword: Tina Knowles Lawson
1 The Stress of Living in a Do-Do-Do World
2 Who Am I?
INTERLUDE: AN ODE TO THE PRODIGAL BROTHER
3 The Hollow Bunny Rules
4 Perfectionism and the Good Girl
INTERLUDE: A FAMILY’S DILEMMA—REFLECTIONS OF RYAN AND RUDY
5 Could I Just Hit Bottom Already?
6 Finding My Being
INTERLUDE: DOING . . . DOING . . . DONE!
7 Getting Free of My Notions
8 What’s Anger Got to Do with It?
INTERLUDE: DEPRESSION’S WARNING SIGNS
9 Letting Go of Judgment
10 Claiming a New Identity
11 Have-to Versus Want-To
INTERLUDE: HIKING A MOUNTAIN
13 Silence: The Place of Being
14 It’s the Thoughts That Count
15 Doing . . . Doing . . . Undone
16 It’s All Grace