Some days I feel rather in control of my life.
Take Monday for example. I laughed a lot on that day. I gathered wood and built a tree house in a video game. I drank a perfect medium roast hazelnut coffee with just a splash of cream. I read C.S. Lewis and St. Paul. I prayed to God, cleaned the house and folded laundry. I cooked seven organic eggs with two tablespoons of butter and six pieces of bacon. I drank a vegetable smoothie, took multivitamins, fish oils, nootropics and probiotics. I stretched as many muscles as I could and I focused on slow, deep breathing. Wonderful. I was in control. I had a routine. A structure. A plan. And I took action to bring it all to fruition. I had my T’s crossed, I’s dotted, food weighed and supplements portioned.
And yet I know and control nothing.
Come 5:30ish pm, shortly before a friend that I love was scheduled to arrive, I sat down on the bed mid-conversation with my wife and it happened. Out of nowhere I felt the pit in my stomach grow. The color of the day was gone, replaced by the grey of the looming storm. For half an hour I cried uncontrollably while my wife laid beside me reminding me of her love. She gently questioned me trying to figure out what exactly was happening. There were no answers, for either of us.
I have absolutely no idea why that happened.
Maybe I’ll have an answer someday as to what is going on with my brain. But I might not. This whole experience has got me thinking, what is the relationship between responsibility and chemistry? Where do they meet? Surely I am responsible for how I live my life and treat my body, but to what degree is my body responsible for how it treats me?
If my emotional state can be so overwhelmingly influenced by whatever is going on upstairs, then what else can be? What about my reasoning? Logic? Self-talk? When I am suddenly consumed with thoughts of self-hatred, self-harm, isolation, abandonment, shame, guilt, etc, where is that coming from? Am I to blame? The question remains, where does my responsibility meet my chemistry?
I know they meet somewhere, but I don’t know where. Do I need to?
There is an evil, abusive, self-righteous teaching that infiltrated the church some time ago that rears its ugly head from time to time. It goes something like this, “If only you had more faith, God would heal you.” The reason I hate this kind of thing so much is because it puts sovereign control in the hands of an infinitely broken man.
Side note for those of you that say “but wait, the bible says “because of your faith you are healed”‘.. God also makes it abundantly clear that faith comes from him. The point is he is in control. The healings are gifts because we do nothing to deserve them.
So what then?
All I can do is continue loving God and doing my best to do everything he has laid before me. I can serve my wife, listen to my doctor, lift weights, punch bags, eat clean and sleep well. Earn money, spend money. Make babies, raise babies. Write sermons, preach sermons. And then I’m going to die. What if somewhere in there I am no longer depressed? Is it because I deserved it? Is it because I defeated Satan? Is it because I did some other thing a well-meaning christian commanded me to do? And what If the depression leaves with my heart beat? Have I failed? Will I be reprimanded?
All I know is I will extol the Lord whether or not my neurotransmitters get their act together.
And I think that is the right response (but hey, I’m open to correction). Because contrary to what many loving people want me to think, I’m not sure I can “beat” this thing inside me. I think I am to live with it. Perhaps it will just go away one day, and if that is beating it, so be it. And no, I haven’t resigned myself to living with it, I’m merely contemplating possibilities. Perhaps my perspective is tainted by pessimism or some such thing, but I see a great reward in learning to love God when the only relief from this constant attack on all I am is to retreat to him. Does he not consider himself our “Refuge”? A refuge is somewhere you go when you are under attack. And good Lord am I under attack. So hey, maybe things are going according to plan?
This got pretty long-winded. Oops.