Sunday, April 8, 2012

Does Jesus live here?

Romans is reminding me about that great divide between being forgiven and being perfect.

I am no longer dominated by my sinful nature but I still have lapses into selfishness or greed or envy or impatience. At what point does the amount of sin outweigh the Spirit living in me and freeing me?

Perhaps I'm too pedantic and literal in my approach?

It's not measured by my mistakes. It's not weighing up my strengths. There's no movable cut-off point or comparative marking.

Just yes or no to this question.

Does Jesus live here? (~points to chest~)

Do I see actions in my life that are prompted by Jesus? Do I listen to him as he guides me, teaches me and pushes me from within? Do I spend time with him? Do I take every opportunity to know him and to nurture his spirit in me?

Jesus can only live in me if I give him space in my life.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)
Romans 8:9

Saturday, April 7, 2012

We need someone to carry the pain

It's a day to ponder suffering, with a crown of thorns and a whip laid on a table saying CRUCIFY HIM!

And I'm trying to understand that a man can see his father tortured and executed, while his hands cannot escape the grip of their captors. How he must have fought to free them. That his tearing guilt is for failing. And surviving.

He goes back, he tries to help. He cannot keep away from the place that wants to kill him. He cannot surrender. His sleeplessness torments him. His gut-turning memories are more real than now. He's there, rather than here in the room.

It feels flat and strange as I turn it in my mind. And I think I'd find it hard not to giggle because I do that when I can't believe what's happening. I concentrate on symptoms because the story is too terrifying to let it be the focus of  my attention. I'm protecting myself. I make a plan to hear more and let this installment slowly absorb into me, at a manageable pace.

His story is just a sock in my load of washing. I heard it at one-thirty and there's another by three. I fold it and lay it on the orderly pile. Ready to be placed in the drawer, because compartmentalising is the way. And I'm just putting away the stories that I listen to. There's millions more. How many of the seven billion stories contain pain?

Could one man carry all that pain? that guilt? all those stories? Perhaps that why he cried out, forsaken.

I have to shut drawers and pack carefully for my listening, otherwise I would disintegrate. Perhaps you do it, too. We're surviving, aren't we?

Sometimes we need to stop. Ponder the suffering. Then we can really see what this world is about. That we need someone to carry the pain. And it's not humanly possible.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Men get depressed

She's never called it depression before. I know it's taken me years to say it.

Last week she said he's depressed and I nodded because my soul gets stretched like that too. Depressed husbands make themselves push through. They twist their heart darkness into any other possible shape. They call it frustration or they label themselves "the melancholy type" or they just constrict to the necessary, hiding in bed but barely sleeping. They don't say "I'm depressed" very often.

Some have such rigorous self standards that they face a mountain of daily disappointment. Some wrestle with inadequacy bred into their bones and they doubt every urge or idea. Doubt paralyses them, and risking new notions fills them with terror. Fear that they cannot admit or perhaps cannot see.

Grace is the only solution. But depression conceals grace because it is born of self-criticism and failure. Failure to be what we long for, failure to see another's love for us.

So we talk about counselling and 'strategies' for self-care and the last thing he needs is strategies. He's all strategied up and he's worn out because it's another way to 'do the right thing' and be a good husband or father or person. His fear is of giving his all to God and finding nothing left for himself. That God would steal his soul if he offered it.

Someone else fears that God has nothing good to do through him. The fear robs him of passion and motivation. It leaves him misunderstood, dissatisfied and frustrated with himself. Another friend thinks others don't really like him and that man's wife reflects that she's 'a bit of an annoying person'.

It maddens me, this blindness. That we measure ourselves along such human scales, and our inadequacies become an obsession. Arrogance and pride can be about our achievements. But self- criticism is a type of pride too.

I see us all carrying self-critical burdens and they sap the life from us. God wants us to be free of this. Maybe freedom would come from seeing them more clearly and being willing to give them up. Willing to stop defining ourselves with them. To stop letting our imperfections be the barrier to God using us.

Let's turn the measuring around. Stop applying it to ourselves. Put it up against God, measure the life of Jesus. Start looking for achievement and adequacy where we're guaranteed to find it. Give up the flurry to be good enough. Accept ourselves, not to excuse failures but to stop the distracting internal war.

God is not stealing our souls, he's renewing them. We'll never find ourselves empty or soul-bereft trusting him. He's doing more than we can imagine in us (and through us), if we'll let him.

*NB. I write this, not knowing your particular experience of depression or self-criticism. Please forgive me if this does not ring true for you. I'm just reflecting on some things I've been thinking lately. This is not an exhaustive treatise on depression.