IMG_0179

Sanity?

“And just as loving what is good is SANCTITY, or the health of the will, so seeing what is there is SANITY, or the health of the intellect.” Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity

I give myself for beauty, goodness,

That which from so deep within

Does cause to rise up overflowing 

Life so poignant, without end. 

.

We saw so long through glass, though darkly,

Can I nothing comprehend?

The scales from this mind’s eye are falling:

Truth is just around the bend! 

.

My work is Yours; I can do nothing!

Tried and tried and fell apart! 

Now I am planted by still waters:

Rooted, stalwart, humbled heart. 

.

This mind it seeks to conquer all things,

Know of every quark and moss;

Yet knowing all, we lack the meaning:

To be led unto the cross.

.

And rising up from Calv’ry’s mountain,

Shedding shackles, come anew!

Not simply knowing for my own sake:

For your sons and daughters all,

.

Whether great or whether small,

My mind, my heart, I give my all.

IMG_2263

Pride, Love, Weakness

Pride, Love, Weakness: A Theological Reflection and Experiment 

Love is Hard

I want to love people. I want to love my family, friends, fiancé, and many others beyond these. I assume you share this desire, even if you are unsure of what love is. However, if I, like you, have such a desire, why is it that most of the time my desires, projects and aspirations come before and above those I want to love, truncating and demeaning the connections between myself and those I love? Why is it that we consider love difficult? If love were not so seemingly fleeting and unobtainable it would not be so incredibly valuable to us, just as if it were not so powerful. But it is almost impossible to grasp, and it is so powerful. 

The problem for us is this: to love is to boldly display weakness. But I do not enjoy seeing, much less proclaiming, my weaknesses: my arrogance, my failures to prioritize, the lust ingrained in me and you from culture, my struggle with depression, and my feelings of isolation, to recite a few from the litany of my brokenness.  

How do I know this is true? Here is how I have reflected on it recently.

The more I attempt to love my now fiancé M, the more I find out that I am not very good at loving. I have consistently let pet projects come first in our relationship. These projects are important, and I am passionate about what I spend my time on. What I am writing right now is part of one of those projects. I hope what I do changes the world, and I know it changes me. But it still gets in the way, and its goodness is tempered by that fact. If my projects are good, then they are now good in spite of me. 

The more I have tried to love her, the more I have realized how often my mind wanders when we are together; how often I am looking at my phone and not at her; how often I am appreciating the profundity of what someone has written or of my own thoughts rather than appreciating her while I have these moments with her; how often I am doing my own thing when there are things we could be doing together which accomplish better goals; how often I keep what has been transforming me to myself rather than share it with her; how often I keep my pains and problems to myself rather than share them with her and find healing by Christianly co-bearing the weight of our lives, which are filled with emotional suffering too much for either of us to carry without being ripped asunder or quietly imploding. The closer I come to love, the farther I seem to recede from it, like walking to a mountain in the flat desert of New Mexico or Arizona which seems a few miles hence but which is in actuality 100 miles away. 

It appears that in loving her, I have revealed to myself my failures to a far greater extent than I would have done apart from loving her. I am a monument to years of failure of action and intention. 

To love is to display weakness. But I don’t like weakness, and neither do you. 

This has resulted in a world of resumé relationships. You know me by what I have accomplished, or at least by what I say I have accomplished. We are known by our trophies, or by what we believe are our trophies. 

It gets worse. 

These weaknesses do not stay contained, as love and weakness are revealed in relationship, and are thus always to some extent public. To forsake love and relationships is foolishness and impossibility even for the most prideful and self-confident among us. To love is to display weakness. The more we love the more we realize our inability to do the good we want to do. However, ever-persistent Pride must deny weakness, and thus inhibits our living as love. Pride and love cannot coexist; whether my pride extends outwards so that I lord my accomplishments over other people, or my pride internalizes as it so often does in depression so that I become obsessed with myself and my suffering, “which is worse than yours.”  

Because I neither want to see my weaknesses nor share them, I hinder my ability to love. And because we cannot see our weaknesses clearly on our own, this means that we not only need others to reveal our weaknesses, but we need others to help us overcome these weaknesses. It is love to help someone see his or her weakness, as it is love which calls us to stand day by day with them in support and encouragement (and more often than we’d like, rebuke), bringing to each other both reality and hope. In a world where there is so little love, it is great courage to open ourselves to others so that we might begin to find healing and true strength, true love. But in a world where there is so little love, there are very few of us living in reality and even fewer of us with hope, and only a remnant that, when faced with reality, still have a sure hope. The Christian hope intensifies when faced with reality. By diving into the reality of the cross, of Christ’s death, we find ourselves closer to hope, to resurrection. There is no resurrection, no hope, without the harsh reality of the cross. 

Abuse, Goodness, Doctrine

To take someone’s ability to love is the utmost sin, a word I do not often use but which applies here as a partial definition of sin: to cause yourself or others to lose an ability or desire to love. However, abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, spiritual—all of which can be equally damning and damaging), is often a learned behavior. And so when all finger pointing is done and all juries have come to their verdicts, we are still left with two broken people, abuser and abused, both of whom are not properly able to love because their displays of weakness, which are so varied, are hated by themselves—and often by others. At the end of the day the abuser and the abused so often hate themselves and who they have become, intentionally or not; love cannot come out of this, but it desperately needs to come into it. Community is necessary for love to grow. But we are all guilty of abusing community, abusing ourselves and abusing each other for the sake of making ourselves glorious; we paint ourselves pretty, not realizing that it is no use painting a rotting house which is ready to fall apart. 

In the midst of a loving community, good teaching, also, is necessary for love to happen. Love which is not truthful nor leads to truth and reality is not love at all. This low and humbling serving of one another is unbearable to our pride, but absolutely fundamental to moving ourselves and each other, and our world itself, toward working well and equally fundamental to being healthy people. Thus truth, doctrine, proper hermeneutics (good methods of understanding) and creative pedagogy (teaching methods) are all essential not only to being skilled people, but good, healthy and loving people. I foremost want to be a good man, a reliable man, and a man able to love well and to stand up under pressure, all because of the strength of the community with which I have been surrounded; this to me is much more important than being a successful, famous, intelligent or skilled man, able to make money. 

While we need skilled workers so that our building stand strong, we as workers must also be good people; a good man wants to be skillful in his work for the sake of others, but a man who is not good will eventually cut corners if he is able to make himself look good. A bad man builds well so that he might be glorified, but soon he finds that he is able to get the same glory by painting a house which does not stand so well; he is always testing the limits of what he can get away with and still accomplish his goals. The financial crash of 2008 is more than enough proof of this. The good man and woman have no need to test these limits, because doing the best job and creating good community are their goals. Being good people goes hand in hand with being people able to give and experience love. We cannot deceive ourselves by picking and choosing our virtues; they are one complete package. Christianity teaches a God who is himself love, justice, patience, truth, mercy, grace, etc, but these only act in accordance with one another in a single, total Character. Our kindness cannot go beyond truth, and our justice cannot work outside of love and mercy. 

Why, then, is doctrine important? It teaches us foremost what Love has done for us, who we are in love, how we can find the power to love, how to love well, and how to help others towards the path of Love. These are the greatest questions and challenges of our lives; a source of joy and of despair. Love changes the broken into the whole in the best way possible and with the best end result. 

Ultimately, Christian doctrines are not random and arbitrary teachings and rules (unless taught apart from the whole, as so often happens), but teachings toward the end and goal of the radical recreation of all things, people, and cosmos, in the name and power of Love, namely, that of God Himself: Father, Son and Spirit: the First Love who seeks the broken, Love Displayed and Conquering who showed that weakness leads to strength, and Empowering Love who teaches us through experience, wisdom and action. 

An Experiment in Living in Weakness

As I have put together these thoughts over the last few weeks, I have had an opportunity to begin putting them in action in a difficult way. Those who have read my blog know that depression has been a significant part of my life and will continue to be all of my life. I have been on medication quite successfully for almost two years. The medication along with counseling and a great community was instrumental in helping me get back on my feet after my collapse two years ago. 

Recently, however, I have been trying to move away from the medication. This has proved difficult, and my depression has been moving back in at an accelerating pace, taking up its old room in my life like an old friend you never wanted to know. I read a blog last week by Makoto Fujimura in which he wrote, “What proof will we [Christians] be to the world, if we can explain away what we do in pragmatic terms? No, in this Present Darkness, we must raise up the next generations of miracles.” From that I thought, “What proof will I be of the power of God to create love and community, if I can always explain that it was the medication that saved me and made me whole? If God’s strength is seen in my weakness, as Paul writes, and if God created me with my weaknesses, as God told Moses, then is there an opportunity for my life to be a miracle? Can I find friends whom I can truly call brothers in Christ, who will help me rely on God for strength through this?” 

My depression is not a little thing; it seeks to devour me. But we are so inculcated with the idea that autonomy is actually healthy that I fear no born-American knows what family and community can be, what faith can be. I certainly do not know. 

But I want to know. 

For me, Christ, the incarnation of love himself, is worth trusting my life to, even if this means I must take a step out in faith beyond what I will be able to explain to others in any pragmatic terms. Life is not about survival, however, and if survival is our basis for action then no love nor art will ever be shown nor created. 

Beauty both rises above and runs into the literal and ideological bullets of this world and seeks to show the world who God is and what God’s future of recreation looks like, even at the cost of comfortable, American survival. 

This does not mean I will refuse medication if I truly need it, and I might truly need it. This does not mean I think medication for psychological illnesses is somehow wrong or evil; it was crucial for my health and I never found it to detract from or negatively change who I was, though in some cases it can. Psychology is a wonderful field that helps us understand each other, even and especially though we may think so differently. 

This is not what is good for people in general, but what I believe is good for me right now.

What it does mean is that I think that God can be glorified through my weakness, and in God being glorified, I will discover more about community, friendship, commitment, love and faith that I ever have before. I will find that having others who support each other will mean I can find courage to step out farther and farther. And what this world needs is not another pragmatist, but someone willing to seek peace amidst hate and bombs, to show love to the hateful who no one wants to love, to give my time, life and money to those who need it, and to speak for those whose voices are not heard. I do not mean this in petty, small ways. Can I truly confess to knowing the greatest and most powerful truths, and yet not be willing to give my life for them?

If there is nothing so beautiful in this world that it is worth giving my life to, then there is no beauty at all. 

This, the beauty, truth and love, is the hope I have in Christ, to transcend the need for comfort and mere survival and hopefully to inspire others to come along with me as my brothers and sisters. Things aren’t getting better. War is getting worse. Racism and hatred are becoming staples of people’s lives. If we leave behind those we deem too broken to love, the abuser or the abused, then what room should there ever be for us in the Kingdom of God? God loved us when we hated and rejected him and allowed himself to be brutally murdered and humiliated for our sakes: we, who have hurt this world, ourselves and each other, all His creations. This, at least, is my choice. And by God’s grace and the love from and for others, and by proclaiming my weakness and great need, I will continue to walk this path. And I will never be able to say I did it on my own. And day by day, pragmatism and survival-instinct will not control my destiny. 

What do you say? Have you found the beauty worth living, and dying, for? 

Would you like to? 

And so I met with some friends last week to find out if they, too, longed to be brothers. I am not betting my life upon them, but I am betting it on God in His mercy, that he will reveal those in whom I can find the grace I need to sustain me when my mind and heart are railing against me to give up and turn in. Depression has long called me to give my life to it. But, by God’s grace, that will not be my path. Their response was overwhelming. It appears that God used this brokenness in my life in order to give us something we were all seeking and which we had not found. By making a commitment, we are finding a unity and strength in friendship which is proving to be amazing all on its own. But more on that later. 

For now, let us see what God shall do. 

Dark Boots: A Slam Poem 

This is a poem I wrote for an Eikon event at DTS yesterday evening, which I read to a wonderful audience. Here is the text of what I wrote! It comes in part from a statement in a book I cannot now remember, though I’ve tried, where the author basically asserts that everyone in the world wants everyone else to love the same things in the same way, or to “worship the same God(s).” If you enjoy something, you want others to enjoy it to (that’s CS Lewis). And their enjoying it makes it all the better, but their rejection makes you uncertain of yourself. That insecurity can lead to a lot of personal and relational problems. 

In Christ, we find a secure identity based on a love that is permanent and unchanging, unconditional. Only a unity based on Christ, then, is truly lasting, healthy, and holy. But frequently, in our efforts to obtain the praise of others and thus validate our own loves and selves, we compromise Christ for other things less than good. Everyone wants a type of unity and validation of self-worth, but each goes about this process in incredibly unhealthy ways, which lead to much of the damage we see in the world at large and also in the Christian Church. 

This poem explores the ways we humans seek identity and unity (a New Testament command for those who follow Christ) in ways healthy and unhealthy. It points out the ways we get mired in a perspective which does not lend us a full and clear view of what these patterns of behavior are doing to ourselves and others. 

This poem is entitled: dark boots

dark boots march, clud and shump through marsh, mud and thump out of the

blazing sun itself.

Sharp silhouettes lunge at the edge of sight, encroaching,

approaching in rhythm, 

Unity herself marching with them

…faster…

A singeing sprint where there will be no abating,

evil gathering and concentrating into the glinting point of a spear

to strike fear until we are rent hair to heel

by the enemy,

the adversaries of humility, 

defriending and defrauding the destitute, the prostitute,

the weak, needy, left hanged and bleeding 

upon the cross of Rome, Progress or ISIS,

in the name of power, purity and stability in crisis; 

out of the faces of the master races, denominations, and trickle-down vices:

What is it to be like this?

Like what?

Like one who respects not change and differences,

who feeds not the homeless and feels such distances 

between himself 

and his dependent hindrances? 

Like what?

Like one who refrains from engaging the other, another creation of God,

drawn down into darkness of self, left limp in the sod,

and suffocated with clods of dirt, self-accumulated money and things

and the pride of life self-begotten, self-wrought, my praises to sing? 

Like this? 

Unity calls and marches in dark boots;

Will it be through Christ?

Or compromise to platitudes of

“Just believe in yourself”

“It’ll be okay”

“You’ve got a career, don’t let that baby get in the way” 

We’re captured by others,

captivated by one and another,

by the other within and without,

yet fear one another and shun the other culture;

Maybe we are scared of the other in our sisters and brothers

because the other we fear the most

and understand least

is ourselves. 

Instead of being arrested by each other for the creations we are,

we arrest each other with:

impossible expectations, those scars with which we mar,

Hollywood affectations, till our lives are ripped apart,

Hollow adulations for plastic surgery of the heart 

Bourgeois protestations that loving the poor is just so hard!

So I wait for the rapture to take my problems so far, 

Separate me and them–so I can be perfectly set apart;

Suburban heaven and hell now ferments, 

where oneness comes through sameness

and not accepting the lame lest

we be adulterated adulterers, adult vultures raising the poor to the pyre

to set fire to differences; instances of blessed responsibility 

I push away; assert my innocency, washing stained hands below the picture of Jesus, 

white and wealthy who blesses and then leaves us

alone. 

I’m grieved for us.

The hermeneutic of power 

withers as a flower in the summer under the heat of the Word,

dead petals of false truth peddled commercially—top hits mean profit’s incurred. 

Unity calls and marches in dark boots;

Will it be through Christ?

Or compromise to sexual and verbal abuse,

And a polluted, dying world? Hand your children the noose. 

Under the headship of Christ

neither you nor me

but the beginnings of we

I see in the church…

…until he stopped to lurch toward the vain,

and she stopped to complain of the church

as a stained, boring dirge

that should just die

because it doesn’t look like her idea perfect.

Jusqu’ici, tout va bien,

just you and me on the lawn 

on the hill

and the city burns, and we take in the smell,

vicarious vicars content with the picture of

Discontent breeding; when they burn the bridges and boats

How deep will we dig our moat? 

The unity of the world threatens at the gate each day 

to make of people the United Slaves, deluded into digging our own graves

by means of greed, that pervasive lack of a love which bears beyond need

In the name of Christ.

And so,

Unity calls and marches in dark boots;

Will it be through Christ?

Or dehumanizing troops with trucks of women and children grouped

And sold to be slaves? Did you go to the auction in Houston today? 

The dark boots march, promising an increased salary,

infesting our truth through the cracks we leave open to the world

and closed to Calvary,

barely ajar, so that we can find

“A little happiness for myself”,

and not stuck inside with ourselves and repetition;

Instead stuck with the tension of who to trust:

When Christians can’t be reconciled we dig deeper into us

against the world alone, church apart from church, 

we begin to rust, 

forsaking responsibility for 

the us versus 

the “just me and Jesus,”

Seeking an individualized sanctity 

that will leave us blanketing the sins of forsaken unity 

because, well, I’m not being persecuted physically.

Unity calls and marches in dark boots;

Will it be through Christ?

Or will we soothe the youth with the abdication 

Of honest evaluation and parental care, giving way to

Teenage tribulation and regret too great to bear?

Is loving you a matter of Christ or compromise? 

What do I give up? Where do I give in? 

A humble servant, but rejecting all sin and perversion,

not to the point of aversion of the new and distinct

because God, who tore down walls, would have us stop and think about our differences

before we put up white-picket fences, and see through new lenses

at the same thing we’ve looked at for a lifetime,

before our holy message is hidden because couldn’t get along.

When do I crack? Where do I flex?

What do I hold to? And what comes next?

What is this new life? What is the new body?

What is it to be one? How do I react to all of these

questions and differences of opinion: 

To the sign of the cross at the end of a prayer?

To a prayer to Mary and the saints all layered? 

To the icons at the altar, to the breaking of leavened bread,

When Christians are dying on crosses and from shots to the head?

When I see the children there, and see where they bled:

The muslim boy who became a bomb in a demonic stampede;

The atheist child who commits suicide after he asks and pleads

his parents for answers, his friends for some comfort

while the world says that hopelessness is just that one port

we all get stuck at? 

Grow up son, get good grades, be a man self-made

and ignoring others, using people for fodder 

for business or bombs, either way, lambs to slaughter

for the sake of power, the god of the hour;

Unity calls and marches in dark boots;

Will it be through Christ? Or compromise to business suits

and terrorists? 

When I refuse to love you, to speak to you,

I become the unclean

The man who uses people for his own means

and ends

Instead of persevering for the sake of the God who Sends

his people to the world, till this age comes to end

And Christ returns, and ask about our investments.

Will we be left to fail the assessment

instead of being iridescent and incessant with our faith

that the God who Lives calls all for His own Sake

and their salvation?

Unity calls and marches in dark boots;

Will it be through Christ? Or compromise to a ruse

and issues more important

than the God who sent his Son

to give new life to the orphan?

Unity calls and marches in dark boots;

Will it be through Christ?

Or something better and new? 

With every second we choose:

Unity calls and marches in dark boots;

Will it be through Christ? 

Collapse: A poem on the war of life, depression, dreams and hope.

Hi friends! A poem I recently wrote entitled “Collapse.” is published exclusively on DTS Eikon’s Tumblr page at http://dtseikon.tumblr.com/

Go over there and check out everything on it! There is poetry, spoken word, and videos of songs performed at a special night put on by Eikon by and for the students of Dallas Theological Seminary. Eikon is a great group trying to promote all mediums of arts in Christian settings and far beyond.  

Come back and let me know what you thought! 

GFlatt

IMG_0146-1

We (Don’t) Know How

We know how to feel every blow, and roll

With the punches now, glance off the ice and snow

Roll down the knoll to the cold soil, stand and feel the wind blow

.

We learned how to love as we go, and know

That sometimes you gotta fight, until it turns out alright

Not in spite of the world but in sight of the end, when it’s all light.

.

I held myself together so long, but then pieces sloughed right off;

But you were there to sweep me up and then I knew a greater love.

When it hurts the most you begin to see for the first time.

.

This song doesn’t flow like it should, it rocks and rolls–

Skips too fast like a frightened doe; oh but how you love me so,

Even though I might do better but I don’t.

Let’s get in this boat and we will row.

.

Let’s go find the world and make it beautiful:

Heal the wounds and then in the lull

We will sing God is merciful, who brought us is this far

.

Take off the mask and lay it down.

What is love but you and me? What is love but unity 

In the face of adversity and the overwhelming hoards of destiny?  

Shedding shackles and we shall be free to seek the refuge of the stormy seas!

.

I’ve learned hard how to let go, but it’s not that time

Now it’s time to burn so bright; leave the shadows for the morning light

In perfect semblance of Jesus Christ,

So I know that we have arrived

When I’m alive and no longer blind,

When I’m alive and no longer mind.

.

.

.

Thanks for reading! These are the lyrics to a song I wrote last week. Like/Share/Comment at will! 

IMG_0119

Is Depression Evil? On the Dark Side of the Coin

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riving thing he’s made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under a man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.

––Christian Wiman, “Every Riven Thing”, in Every Riven Thing, 2010.

Joy’s trick is to supply
Dry lips with what can cool and slake,
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache
Nothing can satisfy.

––From Richard Wilbur, “Hamlen Brook”, 1987, in Collected Poems: 1943-2003, 2004.

Try to remember this: what you project
Is what you perceive; what you perceive
With any passion, be it love or terror,
May take on whims and powers of its own.

––From Richard Wilbur, “Walking to Sleep” 1969, ibid.

I Love My Depression

I love my depression. That is a lie; but I am past wholly loathing its existence, or at least I have been for some months now. God knows human moods are always a pendulum swing away from extreme—as inescapable and inevitable as they are temporary. Depression comes and it goes, sometimes like a slow, bone-dry summer in Texas, unending and unendurable, except that it is (or must be), and sometimes like the mild fortnight of Fall in the same state of my childhood onward.

Read those poems again. They are meant to be weighty, so let their burdens sink down upon you. You are unsure whether God belonging “to every riven thing he’s made” is comforting or altogether unsettling. Or whether Joy is something to long for or to dread. Or whether we should live lives full of emotion or be always a little guarded.

It’s both. It’s both. It’s both.

It’s both?

There is a sense of frustration that inevitably arises within us when someone answers a question with, “Yes and no,” but also a sense that such an answer is probably the truth. Truth, when we dig down into it, will resist to the end our attempts to place it on one side or the other, to assign it a label, a box, a denomination, a division; indeed, it even resists and transcends our attempts to claim that there are in fact two sides at all, instead of a million, or none. Yes, there are definite characteristics of truth; to deny that is to deny the possibility of any reasonableness or meaning whatsoever and is thus self-defeating. The truth is absolute. And yet that absolute is seen shining at the bottom of a deep pool full of swirling, iridescent life and shadows of action that both assure and obscure its existence.

But I am waxing poetical.

In his documentary on Bipolar Disorder, Stephen Fry, who himself suffers from the disorder, asks others he interviews something along the lines of, “If you had a big red button, and if you pushed that button you could get rid of your illness, would you push that button?” Surprisingly, many people, though not all, answer No.

No?

I will let you discover their personal reasons for yourself (see link at the end). Anyone who has struggled with mental illness has asked themselves this question, or at least has been asked. For me, a young man who struggles both with depression and with that equally distressing calling called Art (not to mention my Seminary calling), there is a growing sense in which I would not be so quick to seek a depression-ectomy.

Two Sides of a Coin

Why would I not want to get rid of it? Because depression is not a self-contained thing. Much like any other way in which we express and understand ourselves, whether in joyful rapture and endless chatter or through tears and silence, or a mix of both, depression is a mode in which we can live. And like these other modes, much of what creates our moods or comportments toward the world and life is external, and sometimes uncontrollably random. On some days, we may just as soon sneeze from allergies as suddenly be happy because of circumstance. Other days, these ways of acting (joy, fear, alertness) can arise from what we know, what we believe, our faith or lack of it, our sense of hope or dearth of meaning.

This ability to change moods comes not from some sort of evil capriciousness, but from a sensitivity, sometimes an over-sensitivity, to our lives: our inward life (spiritual life, emotional life, intellectual life, etc), our interactions with others, our interactions with important events and with the mundane and ritual, our interactions with God. Along with our natural sensitivities, we have ready-worn paths which were trod in our brains before our birth, which channel our energies in specific directions and which may both make sense to us and altogether surprise us, or (you know it’s coming) both.

These paths in large part define who we are, either through our acceptance of or resistance to them. I know that the more sensitive I am to myself and what is around me, the more apt I am to become depressed. It is as if in order to experience life most fully, I must be willing to risk more.

But there is another sense in which my depression is one side of a coin and hope is the other; sensitivity is what turns the coin from perspective to perspective and the coin itself is creativity, in the most general sense of the term. Everyone is creative: making something new out of what existed before. And here I abide, perched upon the thin edge of this coin, feeling it sway and twist under my feet as I open myself to what’s around me, feeling at times the threatening wind of fear come up to tempt me to shut down; but to shut down is the same thing as to fall headlong into the dark side of this coin, into depression. To live I must, well, live. Keep going. Keep risking. Keep believing.

We abide in this strange time flux, the crucifixion of Christ on the one hand and the resurrection on the other. At the crucifixion we hold our breath with the onlookers, unsure whether our suffering, as His suffering, is total defeat or if there is some greater victory to be achieved through it. We look for assurance; there is none. We can neither give into doubt nor give into hope and are torn asunder by the friction and tension that vibrates our bones and yet are simultaneously excited by it, as that same deep pool of truth is shaken and we catch another glimpse of meaning and understanding, or at least of empathy for the sufferer, that is, the human. Other times we find ourselves buried and enclosed, wholly numb to everything and helpless to loose the bindings which constrict us. I lived for years here. And then we come unexpectedly and all of a sudden to the resurrection, where we, with Christ, have overcome and we find our faith and hope embodied, fleshed out, moving around––our ideas, once so vague, now live and breathe and astound us as we feel their realness. It is human life to feel all of these, to a greater and lesser extent, as we move through life, living one season to another, Spring to Summer to Fall to Winter to Spring again just when we had almost given up.

To say hope and depression are two sides of my coin is to say this: I am acutely and constantly aware of the struggle between despair and hope, between faith in God and doubt in everything, between feeling and apathy, between powerfulness and powerlessness, and all of the other truths which appear to us at times as two distinct things, but which are all, in reality, instrumental to the human life. Each side, the hope and the terror, fill out the vague and embody the truth; indeed, shadow is necessary in any painting to give a sense of depth and reality, of truth. A painting may just as well be too light as too dark and thereby lose its realness.

I would not give up my depression because by it I have been brought and am being brought to a fuller understanding of the human, of the contingent, as Wiman would say. It teaches me that all humans are right now in this state of contingency and that through accepting our contingency we are more apt to see each other for what we are, both powerful and creative and in total desperation and need––all simultaneously. It is in realization of our need where we come to experience the joy of others, and of God; it is in the creative pursuit where we learn to lean on God and others as we risk much in order to live much. It is in the acceptance of human contingency, the acceptance as perfect guide that moment Christ himself hung in contingency at the mercy of God the Father, that we have a uniting hope of moving from crucifixion to resurrection; all that is left for the transition is to give up all false hope of total power over ourselves and over our ability to change us and everything around us. The neural pathways of our minds were trod before we were born, leaving us in contingency, leaving us human.

But human is not so bad a place to be.

God used depression to teach me humanity, and it is in this understanding of humanity I find the material to create, to explore, to risk.

And I would not trade that for the world.

Comment below and let me know if you agree and if you too struggle with mental illness!

G.Flatt

For More Information:
1. Stephen Fry, The Secret Life of Manic Depression, on Youtube: http://youtu.be/rGDl6-lyfMY
2. An Interview with Christian Wiman, https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/interview-christian-wiman ; also read his book on poetry, faith and doubt: My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer.
3. My past blogs, “When Catching A Cold Becomes Your Fault” and “Mental Health Awareness and Art: From a Depression Addict.”