Tuesday, September 24, 2013

CP221 Fred, depression, and one of its triggers

CP 221 Fred, depression, and one of its triggers.
This week I received an email from a colleague whom I greatly respect. In his email there was the following line:
“If only we could see ourselves as God sees us. Sadness, depression, low self-esteem, worry, fear, would all be a thing of the past.”
I can understand the faith conviction behind the thought. But is it true? Do you think that statement is true? Lord, let it be true. I want it to be true. I wish it was true. If only!
Why am I not ‘grasping the promise’? I’ll share my take on this. Over many years I have endured episodes of depression. In fact, I slipped into a short-term depression just two weeks ago. (More of that down the page.) Sometimes I am suddenly overwhelmed with sadness and heaviness. Things get dark. Bouts of melancholy have been with me through most of my life. However, I’ve no reason to lose hope. Why?
What saves me is that I know, in that deep place where I know what I know, that I am a child of my heavenly Father. I know I am ‘in Christ’. Any hope I have begins from being embraced in my Father’s love. That embrace is his Calvary gift to you and to me. It does not mean, however, that the sadness and depression just miraculously disappear. As I said above, “If only!”
I’m sure of this one thing. I am esteemed by my Father because I am ‘in Christ’. It is what Alexander McGrath calls ‘Christ-esteem’. When depression episodes recur, as they seem inevitably to do, I am free, within that Christ-esteem, to confront those threatening emotions. I refuse to let them define my life. It’s not easy, ever. But faith determines my identity, not my emotions.
The emotions don’t just go away because I wish them away. They continue to pop up, unbidden. The triggers are often hidden. Their flaring is a reminder that there’s still homework to do. The Spirit of Christ isn’t finished with me yet. Maybe one day the ‘fly-in, fly-out’ heaviness will be gone. In the meantime I’ll let my people be free to acknowledge when they feel miserable or alienated or disconnected or anxious. I don’t want them feeling they have to put up a good front because they are Christians.
One other thing. It has been in the times of my groaning that I’ve most grown.
One of its triggers?
Mostly I can figure out the trigger for depressive sadness after it happens. Almost always it’s something internal. Rarely it’s external to me. Yet that is what happened when I read the September 2013 issue of The Lutheran. I’ll admit straight away that it is an angry, frustrated sadness. Why so?
How is it possible that the official teacher of Liturgy and Worship in this Church can pen an article on ‘The Prayer of the Church’ and not once mention ‘Our Father in Heaven’ or ‘The Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit? Not once. Can you believe that? What on earth is he teaching the students preparing for the Public Ministry, the future pastors of the church, let alone its people? The word “God” appears 5 times. Fair enough? No, no, no, no! Why no?
For one thing, that term for the divine is understood in different ways by all the faiths of the world. (For example, 5%, or 1 in 20, of the people who live in my suburb are Muslims. What they understand of ‘God’ is entirely other to what we followers of Jesus Christ know. My suburb also includes JW’s, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, pantheists, atheists and lots of others.) Our external witness is supposed to be specific about the Messiah Lord Jesus who reveals the one true God as a Heavenly gracious Father. Whatever else, that is not one whit clear in the teaching.
The other, much more crucial thing, for the building up of our people, is that the author deals with prayer doctrinally, liturgically. There is zip in there about our being in Christ Jesus, and/or that we are now in a personal, intimate relationship with God as our Father. Do you know, in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus speaks of, and teaches about, His (and our) Father in heaven more than 40 times, including the instruction, “Pray like this, ‘Our Father in heaven…’” In John’s Gospel His relationship with His Father in heaven, which is a template for our relationship with the Holy One, is referred to more than 100 times! Remember? “…whatever you ask the Father in my name”? But our teacher gives us a sterile 5 “Gods”.
Demtel! But there’s more!
I wonder if you get my sad anger? There is more to it. In that edition of The Lutheran, which has 18 major articles, there are fully 10 articles which do not even mention God, Father, Lord, Christ, Jesus, at all. I’m utterly gobsmacked by that. The Holy One doesn’t rate a mention. Surely that can’t be? In another article ‘God’ gets a run in just the last sentence.
But there is more and worse. ‘Christ’ appears in just three articles. ‘Jesus’ appears in a different three. And as far as I can see, the Holy Spirit was somewhere else at the time it was put together.
Bottom line? It might be called The Lutheran but it isn’t new covenant biblical or Lutheran.
PS I’ll be launching an appeal for financial support as soon as I’m sacked.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go Fred! You won't be sacked by Good Shepherd as long as your aging congregation stands! Sad for your pain & depression, glad that it turns you to Christ!

1:14 PM  
Anonymous verna said...

You can work anywhere that ordinary people are searching for The Light, The Bread, The DOor, The Shepherd, THe Way, Truth, Life, THe Resurrection and The Vine. And I agree about the names we use for GOD (not any sort of god but GOD). We are New Testament followers / believers and witness to the one and only Jesus.

1:48 PM  

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