Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Learning to Live With A Heart

It seems that most of the members of our informal "Weblog Fellowship" are
depressed. Down in the dumps, wondering if there's any good to be done,
fearing the future, wondering if they're any good at all. It being that
I've always considered the other members of this group to be much stronger
than myself, this has come as a surprise.

I also thought depression, at least for a follower of Jesus, was a passing
phase. Once it's cured, it's gone for good. But here are some long-standing
followers slogging through the slough of despond.

I guess I should have known. John Bunyan wouldn't have written about that
famous slough if he hadn't observed it.

One point in this is that I'm not alone. I sort of figured that I'd be
worth presenting to the world once God had patched up the worst of the
damage I inflicted on myself. Then I find all these others whom I've
learned to respect still working it out.

Being the troubleshooter that I am, naturally I got to thinking about why
this should be. Christians are all the time saying how broken we all are,
but there's little thought given to practical consequences of being broken.

One consequence is that we learn to live with being broken. That's the
norm. A heart that's barely working, and covered up with necessary
defenses. A mind burdened with all kinds of daily fears and problems, and
anticipating a solitary life that can't be assuaged with the usual human
relationships. We just accept all of this as part of the landscape.

And then by some miracle God gets our attention and we jump the track to
his way. New track, old heart. Mostly dead heart. God pours his life into
it and it feels very strange. That old heart starts to come to life under
the Holy Spirit's ministrations. A living heart feels much more than a dead
one, which is, in my mind, a very good reason for being depressed. How am I
supposed to live with this? If I could have done it I wouldn't have heaped
up the walls and concrete.

We see problems and they hurt. We see the world's agony and we hurt. We
become victims of our fallen world and we hurt. We learn doubt and fear
from the day we're born and the changes God wreaks in us just plain hurt.
Psychologic pins and needles as what was dead returns to life.

There's depression... and there's depression. One kind comes, I think, from
hopelessness. Why bother living when no choice I make has any effect on how
I feel or what I can do? No matter how I try the same limits apply. Learn
to live with it. Until the Holy Spirit moves in, and then the old limits no
longer apply. Hope flames high.

Then the pain comes in. Creaky psyche meets God's new world and runs,
quailing before the perceived challenge. It's too much!

Of course it's too much. God spreads his strong hands and promises to hold
me steady. It still hurts as circulation returns to the stone. Without the
Holy Spirit it would be unthinkable, but his kindness brings on pain, a
pain of learning. This pain is different from the old hopelessness, but it
may not seem to in the midst of the chaos. After all, who cares if one
tiger's claws are half an inch shorter than the other's? Perception is all.

In this case it's a lie. What's perceived is different from what is.
Instead of the grinding monotony of no future, somewhere beyond the pain
there really is a place for us. God promised. He says he will make us
whole. He will awaken me. Waking up hurts.

When all is quiet I can feel the difference. Maybe it's the Holy Spirit
whispering to me and holding me in his arms. The future really does look
just about as bleak; I'm not used to invisible friends who promise comfort.
It's easy for me to dismiss his ministry as an illusion. Memory is short,
especially when faced with another cliff-edge path that I must walk.
"He took care of me the last time, but maybe today he's had enough."

God promised never to leave us nor forsake us. Jesus said that his burden
is light and his yoke easy. It seems an odd path to go on, working on
depression, but it's the way I'm being led. I believe there is power in an
unburdened soul and the only way to find out is to try it. Life as an
experiment. And it seems to be less strange than I thought, although it's
rarely discussed in churches.

God is working on this great tapestry (thank you, Craig, for this idea) and
each of us needs to shine with our own color. Woe to the church that tries
to make everyone the same color and shape. If there is power in united
followers of Jesus it will come from a whole lot of strong individuals.

O Father God, who knows what's best for us,
thank you for your example. Jesus is whole, and
shows us fractured humans what a human being can be.
Whole love, whole heart.
Thank you for sending him to show us the way,
and thank you for working to make us whole,
pain and all.
Although I'd just as soon quit the pain
it seems to be the only way to grow out of the shell
I made.
Thank you for your life that you pour into us.
Help us, please, to take it up
and let it shine
in all your lovely planned crystalline colors.
Help us keep taking the next step, following you
into your colorful kingdom.
And help me look at you
instead of my own bleak future.
Thank you for your wonderful Teacher and Word,
without whom life would be truly bleak,
not just the appearance.

2005 January 25

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