Ordinary Time 3/Epiphany 3 – Tuesday”
Feast of St. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople, teacher (d. 407)
[ now playing? ] Passion – A Generation United For His Renown
I mentioned this in my entry yesterday on “The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. iMonk keeps giving me books to add to my reading list. Except that this one is now off my reading list now and I wish this was around earlier on in my Christian walk when I was going through minor depression over that year and a half. This is an open and frank account of the hell that Matt Rogers went through after going to a missions conference called Urbana (btw, Urbana is still one helluva missions conference to go to if you are in the USA) and strong Calvinistic preaching that followed afterwards. It took a lot of counseling and walking around in the dark before he got anywhere near to leaving the depressive haze that clouded his mind for a good four to five years of his life.
Depression is sometimes a taboo subject amongst Christians, but it does happen and it is real. It isn’t all made up in the mind as some Christians believe (I know some who are of that opinion who have told me that to my face during my period of minor depression which made things worse for me). There are real consequences if and when Christians dismiss another brother or sister in Christ’s life in that pit of self-hatred, disgust and even losing God. At the very best, the person comes out of it with a renewed faith (after a lot of struggle internally, like I did) or at the very worst, it all ends with them in a body bag off to a morgue before being laid in a coffin to be buried in the ground or cremated.
The combination of what felt like rejection to me at the time along with a somewhat cliche’d struggle between free will and predestination in my mind (and the accompanying theological reflections and critiquing) did lead to some depressive indications in me at the time. While it was primarily the romantic rejection (and summary thoughts that no gal would ever reciprocate love back to me; that still remains in my thought processes mind you) that got to me more than the free will vs. predestination debate, I did for a time agonize over whether or not I was one of the “elect” and those were dark days and nights, two to three months at most (which is about 20% of my time in minor depression).
Another thing that did get to me was all that injustice in the world. While it wasn’t that movie “Life Is Beautiful” that got to me (like it did for Matt), it was reading about the Middle East, parts of Africa and people starving in so many places in the world that kept me wondering “God, if you are merciful and all-powerful, why don’t you just end it all instead of letting schmucks like me wonder why you don’t do anything about it?” And apart from that, “We can’t all be right about doctrine and the Church. Some of us have to be wrong. Right?”
The one thing I did lack in comparison with Matt was strong Calvinistic teaching at church (which is about right given that I was, and still am, going to a Methodist church). But a lot of that time, like Matt, I didn’t really want to be there. I didn’t want to song lead, or lead Sunday worship, or help in leading the youth fellowship. I didn’t want to put on a happy face externally while on the inside I had a scowl and sadness that felt like a bottomless pit. But out of a sense of duty (which I at times resented), I sucked it up and kept doing what needed to be done. In a sense, that was helpful to me in keeping me busy from my thoughts. But it still didn’t stop the feelings of self-loathing, doubt in God’s mercy and wanting to end it all at all other times and places. I remember some nights driving back home from youth wanting to just drive over the side of the bridge that went over the Logan River. And hoping that my car would just sink. Fast.
The one thing that I should have done was to actually go and see a doctor when the suicidal thoughts kept recurring more often but mercifully, I left my dark haze in early 2007 after it started in late 2005. I still revisit that dark, dark forest every now and again, but this time around, the search for the “right Church” (and “right theology/doctrine”) that began in 2005 when I began spending time at St. Stephen’s regularly and then All Saints Anglican and St. John’s began to solidify and help me cope with my brief relapses.
As much as I love Methodism, contemporary Methodism does not (in my experience at least) have that same sacramental life that those parts of the church with a more “catholic” emphasis have. So I’m now an Anglo-Catholic Anglican in actuality. And it has been the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, that has been at the very heart of my sacramental life ever since mid-2007. It has also been joined by the Divine Office (even if it is a very abbreviated form some days). And it has been that encounter with Christ at each and every Eucharist that I have participated in and each Hour of the Divine Office prayed (and sometimes recited in a haze) that I have begun to recognize that the broken, weak, wounded and shattered self that I am is inexplicably and extravagantly loved by the divine Lord who was also broken, weak, wounded and shattered on a cross some two thousand years ago (give or take a few years). And while Anglo-Catholicism isn’t perfect, and neither is evangelical Methodism, the combined strengths of both will always remain a part of who I am in my walk with God whether I walk through the valley of the shadow of death or not.
The book above comes highly recommended for anyone out there in the church who believes that depression isn’t real. If you are a “happy-clappy” Christian, this book may disturb you. Even challenge you. But you (and others in the church who know that depression is real) will come out better for reading it. For being able to then take a closer look at others around you, to pay a little bit more attention to how they really are and to show a little empathy and sympathy to their plight and current situation in life.
+ bf 2307hrs