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1514613 tn?1385092718

Determined to surrender - a meditation

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.
2 Responses
2217782 tn?1394363972
You should watch/read Eat Pray Love. It helped me see another perspective on spirituality. I have never had a bond with the christian god which we are taught about in school. I simply didnt believe. And i have learned get values and morals without the bible or church. Eat Pray Love explains that god dwells within us all. For the author, it was a higher power which spoke to her in crisis. The funniest thing? This higher power had HER voice. People practice spirituality in many way. I found practicing minfulness helped me be more connected with my spirituality.
I still dont believe in a god. I believe in nature, in the universe and its need for balance. And i feel very connected to it all.
Of course everyone is different and so i could sound like a complete hippy spouting a load of rubbish. I believe people take what they need from religion, whichever one it may be. Everyones experience is different, but all are perfectly fine when not done in extremes.
1514613 tn?1385092718

Thanks for the thoughtful reply which I enjoyed reading and reflecting on.  
Since my reading list is pretty long at present (and I'm a slow reader, especially with 2 toddlers), I put the film in my netflix queue - and thanks.

The comment that the higher power had HER voice is a very interesting one.  The 12 Step process teaches that there is a higher power, but I am not it.  I think I have been almost full circle with this one, from being taught and believing as a kid in a personal being who wanted a primacy of actual relationship (what a lovely thought), to atheism, wherein the explanation for a person's 'god' coincidentally having their voice and thoughts was so blindingly obvious - because it is one in the same as an exercise in wish fulfillment and rationalization.  To something a little different now, believing in an actual higher power, distinct from me, but that admittedly, remains forever, somewhat ineffable and undefined.  I just knew enough about my own weaknesses and neuroses to know that whatever god was, he wasn't just the same as my voice (this is my reflection, not meant as any argument for anything).  I know that whatever ‘god’ is, it has to do with love and acceptance and peace and selflessness, and so I gravitate toward things that get me closer to these (geez, when did I start sounding like a new age beatnik?  ).

I think what makes sense and works for me in a pragmatic sort of way about the actual language of the 12 steps is that a ‘god of my understanding’ is really the only kind of god anyone can ever have (how could you really have a god not of your understanding – by definition, you would not believe it).  And a ‘higher power’ is easy to accept and have confidence in, since on a continuum, it could include anything from a family, a community, a support network, to a spiritual being or essence, , the universe – and there’s no reason any of these need any precise definition that excludes or marginalizes the others – and perhaps this is one form of the connectedness of which you speak.

Yes, certainly, the idea that all values and morals are derived from the Christian Bible is absurd (though apart from some authoritative god it is exceedingly difficult to see from else where objective or absolute moral STANDARDS could be derived).  I sometimes envy people who did not grow up in organized religion because I feel they have less baggage to peel away later in life as they mature.

For me I guess, one of the reasons that mere connectedness with nature/the universe, etc. has never been enough, is that I tend to see the universe as a nameless, faceless expanse which no matter how much I anthropomorphize it, it does not care.  Some of this is depression speaking; but some is just the reality of the nature of a universe as we understand it.  Frogs don't fly; universes don't care.  It's the nature of things.

I have read and practiced with mindfulness and other forms of meditation and think they are good things.  But like U2, even with these, I discover they are not enough and I still haven't found what I'm looking for.  

Thanks again.  I appreciated reading your thoughts here.  Have a blessed week.
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