Sunday, December 27, 2009

Depression and God

Does that sound like a stupid title?
Sitting here on my green pilly office chair, leaning a little forward so the shiatsu balls that were so awesome when i was pregnant but now seem a kind of torture won't inflict themselves on me, keeping one foot on the floor so that when Uly pushes my chair or arm i won't spin out of control, i'm trying to write as honestly as i can.

because i think this is maybe important to my own experience of religion, and i'm going out on a limb here, i bet i'm not the only one who has a/ had these experiences and b/had these thoughts. But i've never seen them in print, never heard them fall from another's lips.

Then again, we don't talk about depression much, do we?

I don't want to depress you with where i'm at, and unless i'm desperately trying to hold on, i will keep it to myself.

In fact, i talk so little about it that i don't notice the slide until i'm in scary territory.

But God has met me in my wrestling with depression, and i guess i'll start here.

This might be more than one post.

But for now, two pictures.

I walk up to my big strong husband, T, and lean into his chest. He stands there. Not putting his arms around me, just letting me lay my head there on his warm chest, put my arms around him.
I know he loves me. So why isn't he putting his arms around me, too?

Another picture:

I come downstairs for my workout, which T is in charge of planning and coaching me through. He's at the computer, downloading music into a playlist from, trying to make sure there's some i love, some he loves.

He picks one new song neither of us has ever heard - says "It's the top downloaded single right now". It's the music of optimism, hope, youth, possibility.

After the workout, i work at the computer, playing it over and over.

That night, after we have everything all packed up to go to my sister's for Christmas, i ask him if i can download the whole album (7.99 for the album, 1.29 for the single, seems like good math).

We download it overnight since we are both so beat, and the next morning, he loads it onto my ipod for me, and when the drive gets long, i put on the headphones, and listen, and start to cry.

The words are :

I can finally see,
That you're right there beside me,
I am my not own,
For I have been made new,
Please don't let me go,
I desperately need you,

(Adam Young)

I've been slowly sliding down, and i don't know how to stop it. I feel like if i close my eyes to the truth of what the world is, i will live a life that is meaningless and that accomplishes nothing. Because living, eating, breathing, reading artifice leads to a shallow life that is in the end revealed as completely hollow. Like a gingerbread house, we can decorate our lives with icing and candies and keep adding things that only get stale, hard, and rot our teeth.

and i want to live a life that nourishes, that heals, that makes the world a better place. I want a life that is fresh, that brings health, life like a loaf of bread, something to share, something homely and every day and life giving.

I struggle sometimes with feeling so helpless.

And this is the truth of it. As dark as the world seems at times, at other times, it seems we live in a vista of incredible opportunity, invention, beauty, almost supernatural beauty through technology, increasingly available to all. It seems that no child has ever been as beautiful as mine, no husband as thoroughly good, no life as whole and well put together. When i'm there, the Bible verse i claim is Psalm 16:6

6 The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

And the truth is, that that vision is true.

This is also true. That when i read Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan, or even Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace, i saw the heart of man laid bare, and it was something beneath contempt. It made me panic inside to see such depravity, such a heartless, dead eyed cruelty, baseless, meaningless hatred, careless genocide and the tenuous grip that even blood has on us.

It made me despair of living in this world, and despondent thinking of the world my children must inherit that is already too hard, cold, dirty and irreparable for them to be able to overcome.

And my friends, this is a true vision as well.

so it's not a case of "You're depressed, you don't have the right view of the world". It's more a sense of utter desperation, where i am looking for clues to God's nature in view of the depravity of man.

We are made in His image, aren't we?

These are things i find:

Child led families in Africa. A tiny child scoots, dusty and barely clad, to a well, with an even tinier babe clinging to them. We are made to nurture each other. That is the image of God.

Beauty in nature. A few weeks now, by Sunday i can't wait to RUN out of the church building. I need to see beauty and order and perfection. We drive out toward Jasper, maybe 45 minutes, maybe more, maybe less, depending on what looks interesting. We find a place to park, and unpack the littles, some chocolate bars and water bottles. I bring my ergo to carry baby, and T brings his backpack for a bigger toddler, and we bring our camera.

Far from other people, or anything manmade, i feel a weight lift from my chest. My children can run and explore, without my hypervigilance. I know they are safe here. And it's like a bath in warm water to be surrounded with beauty, wholeness, something untainted and natural and good.

Beauty in music - the mathematical precision of all music. The way emotion can be channelled like water through the shallow ditches my children dig in the summer, to divert a little of the river's flow through their own mazes. Bad music has an opposite effect, the pointlessness of effort in the face of the absence of the infinite.

Makes me feel alone in the universe, abandoned.

Warm water. Sex. New growth outside. Little babies. Colors in the sky in the morning and evening. Stars like love letters reminding me of His love for me. Huge yellow moon, low on the horizon. Beautiful art. Beginning readers, the first time they read through a story and midway realize that this is easy, this is something they can do. They smile, and speed up, and it comes out smoother and there is a glow at the end of the story/poem. Architecture that required a lot of math, and materials that will not degrade and poison the environment. Tide pools. West coast beaches. Piles of white, soft diapers. Line drying clothes, kissing every collar, so that person will be smooched by me, unbeknownst. Journals, lined and beautifully covered. Antique furniture. antique ideas, books, pamphlets that show a desire for what i love, hundreds of years before i was even a thought or possibility. Improvement. I can learn and grow, and my littles ones can, and even our elected officials occasionally do, too.

But i do hang on, waiting for God to reach out and put His arms around me, and this is my secret - Sometimes He does. And sometimes He stands there and lets me take comfort just in His presence. This week it's a song that reminds me that whatever the larger questions are, the things i can't handle, the things i can't affect except incidentally, as one tiny pebble in an avalanche, He is with me. I matter to Him. He knows how desperately i need Him. He knows my heart is failing, is faltering. I am not the strong woman i would like to be, sleeves rolled up, ultimately practical, pragmatic. I just can't be. I am buffeted by my own strong impressions, passions, bowled over by beauty, drunk on desire for something more, and cast down by the truths i know and wish i didn't.

And instead of telling me all the answers, whispering all His secrets in my ear, He stands close, and tells me "Here i am. I am with you. Always". And if i can trust Him to be with me, i can trust Him to be at work, somehow, in the situations that keep me awake, crying, waiting for the light.

I can walk with Him out of where I've found myself.


  1. This is beautiful and poetic Steph. My Dad said (maybe a year ago) that his constant prayer if for JOY! I find that joy is my constant craving too. There seems to be so little to be had.

    Paige said this week that she had got together with six young women and five of them were taking drugs for depression.

    My soul waits for the Lord
    In the hope of His promise
    In the hope of His promise
    Deliverance will come
    My soul waits for the Lord
    Through the night till the morning
    Like a night watchman waiting
    For the coming of the dawn

    Joy...if I remember correctly, oozes up from somewhere feels like a the crown of a dandelion squeezing through a crack in the pavement...

    You are wise to take comfort in nature.

  2. Steph - I have no idea why I hadn't stumbled on this blog before... but I got it off Jen's sidebar.

    And so much of what you write strikes a deep chord in me. So, so much.

    I hear you. I've been there. I have to *fight* to stay out. But more importantly, HE hears you. He sees, He knows... He will fight for you...