I don't know if this site has anything like a Depression & Religion (or spirituality as this is intended to be) forum, so I am posting here until/unless someone redirects me.
Several weeks ago I embarked on a journey in the 12 step programs, beginning with Emotions Anonymous and now also participating in AA (becasue there are more meetings and why not).
6 Weeks in, being convinced that this is the only way of living that can ever be sane for me (and having had some uplift and progress already although with immense difficulty, wading in like a man trying to run in quicksand), I wrote (or complied) the following meditation today, becasue I needed to. I share it here in case it speaks to someone else.
Engaging in the program and trying to learn how to 'do' the right things while trying not to think my way to resolving my own insanity (since after all, it is my best thinking that brought me to this state), reminded me of a couple things that loomed large for me growing up, but that I had largely discarded as naive sentimentality of religion in favor of only sometimes being able to hold in view a more disembodied and amorphous ideal of 'love'.
Relatedly then, though in no particular order:
We lionized Jim Elliott, the most famous four American evangelical missionaries who went to minister to the Auca tribe indigenous to the jungle near Quito, Ecuador in the 50s. Not much was known about the the Auca except that their name meant 'savage' in the Quichua language and they were considered violent and dangerous to outsiders. They spent months dropping food and other items to show friendship and establish trust before making contact and engaging in months of close interaction and fellowship with the people. And then the tribe killed them all without provocation or explanation. Years later Eliott's wife went back and continued working with the people and wrote about it (missions runs in our family and still years later, my favorite Aunt would go and serve as a missionary in Quito for about 5 years).
Before he died, Elliott wrote in his journal, a phrase that I had engraved on a little desk placard for a lot of years: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." He was paraphrasing Mark 8:36, 'For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? and Luke 9:24 - 'For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.'
These seemed like transcendent ideals worth living for and I tried to (though who really can fully or for long?).
We had another small framed placard in our upstairs bathroom. A soldier serving in the Confederate Army it seems caught a glimpse of God’s intentions before dying on the field of battle. This note was found folded on his body on the battlefield of Gettysburg. I didn't like this one as much (still don't most of the time to be honest) - too much actual devastation and not as idyllic I suppose - I thought you
A Civil War Soldier's Prayer
(Praying for the Wrong Things)
I am, among all men, most richly blessed. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.I asked for health, that I might do great things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
C.S. Lewis, whose books I had read most of before college, wrote that “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” John Piper took a lot more pages to say the same thing in his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, which is devoted to the implications of his premise that the Westminster Shorter Catechism (which I don't know the significance of) should be changed from:
The chief end of man is to glorify God
enjoy him forever.
The chief end of man is to glorify God
enjoying him forever.
Brennan Manning (the Catholic author, mystic and alcoholic who lost everything, regained much and died earlier this year) wrote in the opening to his best book, the The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out, “When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for alcohol.”
I just needed to share something as a meditation on the paradox I find infinitely mysterious of what it could possibly mean to be determined to surrender...to a higher power or anything else for that matter.