April 14, 2017

The Waters Are Bitter

I just finished typing up Vol. 22 of my journal, the one I kept during the fall semester of my senior year at Pitt (2009). I had always thought of my depression as happening after that, later during the winter. And to some extent that's true; the peak of the depression was from about November/December to February. But in the months leading up to that, it's really obvious that things were heading in that direction. I was in a boring relationship and didn't know how to deal with it. I lusted after someone else, cut that down in favor of my boyfriend, avoided conflict left and right, saw friends only rarely, worried about everything, didn't know how to speak up for what I needed, couldn't figure out what to do after college, and on and on and on.

With all of that going on (including some repressed anger about my dad's illness and my attempt at becoming Catholic during freshman year), it was a perfect storm and no wonder that I spiraled down so far after that. I was living on the edge, and not in an exciting way, but in a way that kept me from taking risks and trusting myself. I looked everywhere external for validation and didn't find it. No wonder I was depressed. No wonder.

In retrospect, it's tempting to rage about the way I used to be: "Of course that was going to happen! You didn't see it coming? Why not? Wasn't it blatantly clear and super-obvious? Why didn't you just say what you wanted and to hell with the rest?" Because it is so obvious to me now. I've been trying for years to face conflicts rather than avoiding them. I'm more direct, and I'm more self-aware.

But this is all thanks to God working in my life, not to self-recrimination and hindsight and blame. It is through God's grace and mercy that I know enough to see what's really going on. And in God's grace and mercy there's no room for blame. There's tenderness, sympathy, love, and compassion, as much for the person I am now as for the person I was then. There's gentleness and room to breathe. Calling my earlier self an idiot would show very clearly that I hadn't actually moved on at all from those thought-patterns that I clung to years ago.

And that makes me angry. What's the point of progress if not to make me morally superior? What's the point of God if not to confirm what I already think? I definitely don't want to be called into greater love and tolerance. If I accepted those things, it would mean I wasn't terrible before, and I wouldn't be perfect in comparison now.

God, shed your light on me. I'm scared and vindictive. I want to be right, not wrong. I want to sail past discomfort on the seas of redemption. But that is not Your way. You call me into fellowship through a refining fire.

I hate feeling like this -- impotent, chastened. I cast myself into Your flames with my whole will. Take this cup from me -- but only if it be Thy will. If not, let me drink deep and taste of the bitter waters of salvation. Those waters are bitter, but they're far less bitter than the waters of holding-tight and blame. Those will never quench my thirst. Only by giving everything up to God, by self-emptying, can we be filled.

I hate it. I hate this. Every fiber in my body screams, "Enough! Take me back to the depression!" Because I've convinced myself that only in those iron chambers can I find familiarity and love.

In this Holy Week, Jesus, please talk to me if you're ever going to. Help me do as you did in the Garden at Gethsemane. All of my self rebels except the will; let God grow this from a kernel of faith to a tall tree, proud and strong. Let me take hope in your Crucifixion and Resurrection. Let me come through your Passion to the fire of eternal love.

Please also bless my friends and family. Let my bitterness water the trees that are trying to grow. If I can't love them, you can love them instead. Help me move past the kernel of self-hate and shame.

Jesus, God, I trust in you. Help my unbelief. Amen.

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